Saturday, August 09, 2008

Linux User Group Gathering

Marwan, the co-founder of Bahrain Linux User Group (LUG) presented VirtualBox virtualization technologies in our monthly meeting held earlier today.

He started by explaining the nature of virtualization technologies and their common uses. In a nutshell, virtualization allows computer users to run an operating system, like windows XP, as a guest OS on another operating system, like Linux, which functions as a host OS.

Then he walked us through the VirtualBox installation process on Ubuntu Linux which was straight forward using a HowTo article on Ubuntu's website. The fun started when he booted a WindowsXP guest OS in Ubuntu working as a window, or a full screen, with full functionality including sharing files between the two OSes.

Then he detailed down several configuration setups in VirtualBox with heated discussion by the audience, me included, comparing it to vmware, which is another virtualization product, but proprietary.

The obvious uses of virtual machines go beyond having windows XP booted in Linux. I for one use vmware to boot a guest WinXP on a host WinXP, and sometimes Linux, to access my work network through VPN. VPN clients connect a PC virtually to another network which most of the time shields the PC from internet access so when you are on the VPN, you can't access the net except through the VPN connection which may be slower compared to you local PC's internet access. Using a Guest OS VPNed in another network doesn't affect your host's internet connectivity.

Another use is for testing application that you may not want to run on your PC. A lot of security researchers use virtual machines to test security vulnerabilities and malware without affecting their PCs and local networks.

Developers also use virtualization to experiment with code on different platforms without the need to have multiple PCs or servers each running a different OS.

There are also tons of corporate uses of virtualization that I'll hopefully detail down in a separate post.

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