Sunday, June 30, 2013

Virtuous Virtualization

Hmm. How about that. The PeppermintOS project has a twitter account. That reminded me of the old days when I was shopping Linux distributions. Back then, I had a spare machine that I could experiment on while keeping my production machine untouched.

I don't have that machine anymore, but will probably have a spare sometime soon. In the meantime, I have something that might work just as well while shopping Linux distributions: Virtualbox.

Virtualbox is a free virtualization kit that makes it easy for me to test an operating system. Virtualbox was originally built by Sun Microsystems, Inc, and is now owned by Oracle. Virtualbox will run on most major operating systems, Mac, Linux and PC. On Ubuntu, it's in the repositories, so you won't have to hunt around for it on Oracle's site, but you're welcome to if you want to.

I hadn't experimented with Peppermint Linux in a long time, so I thought I'd try it out again. I clicked on the link to their website on their twitter page and found the 32-bit ISO to download. With my nifty-fast 50Mbs connection, I downloaded the CD in about 2 minutes. All 700MB of it.

PeppermintOS is a derivative of Linux Mint, and Mint is a derivative of Ubuntu and Ubuntu is a derivative of Debian. It's a long lineage, but the distinctions between them are clear once you see the desktop. Each has their own design and programming philosophy, too. That's one aspect of the Linux community that I like: There's something for everyone.

After having seen PeppermintOS, I'm not that impressed. I've been using Gnome-shell on my Ubuntu machine now for more than a year and I really like it. PeppermintOS is just more of the menu driven user interface that we had with Windows. I'm so done with that.

Nevertheless, I was able to review PeppermintOS without having to install it on my main hard drive. Instead, I could just load it into a virtual machine. First, I create a new virtual machine in Virtualbox. Then I can configure the new virtual machine to boot from a "CD", a file on my hard drive that can be read like a CD by a virtual machine.

Once loaded, I can install the operating system on the virtual hard drive for testing. If I don't like it, no big deal. I can just delete the virtual machine and try another one.

If I need to use Windows, I just set it up as a virtual machine. This way, I only use Windows when I need to, and I'm not wasting too much space to do it. Then when I'm not using it, I can just shut it down and continue on with my business on Linux. But here is the best part. Let's say you don't want to lose all of your settings and you like your Windows machine the way it is. No problem. Just copy the virtual machine files to the new hardware and load up Virtualbox. You may run into some activation issues, but all of your settings will be there.

Another nice feature of a virtual machine is that you can setup a snapshot of the virtual machine that will put your machine back to original condition. So if it gets hosed by a virus, just revert to a snapshot that was taken prior to being hit by a virus.

I hope you enjoy this article on virtualization. I know it's not that easy to understand, but don't fret. If you don't understand something, post a comment and I'll reply with a gentle answer to your question.
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