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VirtualBox 3.0: An easy way to mix and match operating systems

July 9, 2009 06:00 AM ET

With this new version, VirtualBox has added a couple of really nice features. To begin with, VirtualBox now supports OpenGL 2.0, the popular open 3D graphics environment that's often used in Linux and Windows' Direct3D 8/9. This means that it's now possible to run Windows with all your favorite games on a virtual box.

VirtualBox also offers, for the first time, SMP (symmetric multiprocessing) support, which lets you assign guest operating systems with up to 16 virtual CPUs. This means when you run guest operating systems on PCs or servers with compatible CPUs or processors with more than one core, you'll see faster and more stable virtual machines.

Its overall performance was also better than that of previous versions, in particular, on systems using Intel's VT-x or Advanced Micro Devices' AMD-V technologies for virtualization on the x86 platform. This proved especially useful when moving from the guest to the host operating system (and vice-versa), with one quick mouse move. On a well set-up system, you might never know that you were actually working with two different operating systems because there's no noticeable transition as you switch from the host to the guest and back again.

What needs to be fixed? Well, the 3D support is still so new that the paint's still wet to the touch. In other words, every now and again I ran into a graphics glitch with Guild Wars, my personal favorite Windows game. But that's about it. In addition, it would be nice if all of VirtualBox's goodies were available in an open-source version.

Final verdict: If you already use virtualization applications like Parallels on your Mac or VMware Workstation on your Windows system, you owe it to yourself to try VirtualBox. Compared to the competition, VirtualBox is much easier to use, and with its SMP support, faster and more stable than VMware or Parallels.

If you've never tried virtualization, now is the time and VirtualBox is the program. It's never been easier and VirtualBox has never been better.

Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols has been writing about technology and the business of technology since CP/M-80 was cutting edge and 300bit/sec. was a fast Internet connection -- and we liked it! He can be reached at sjvn@vna1.com.

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