Virtual Machines

Yesterday I had a customer that was still using a version of GoldMine 5.5 Standard Edition (GMSE 5.5) and they had purchased the upgrade to the current version, which at the time of this writing is GoldMine Premium Edition 2013.1.

In order to upgrade from GoldMine SE 5.5  to GMPE 2013.1 you first need to upgrade to GMSE 5.7  then to GMSE 6.7 and  then you can rehost to GMPE 9.0 and then finally to GMPE 2013.1. In order to do the initial upgrades those need to be done on a Windows XP machine and the customer did not have a Windows XP machine available. I had to install a Virtual Machine with Windows XP on it, in our office, transfer his GMSE 5.5 to our office via FTP and perform the upgrade to GMSE 5.7 and then to 6.7 in our office and then transfer the upgraded version back to his office. From there the upgrade was completed.

What Is a Virtual Machine?

A virtual machine is a software computer that, like a physical computer, runs an operating system and applications. The virtual machine is comprised of a set of specification and configuration files and is backed by the physical resources of a host. Every virtual machine has virtual devices that provide the same functionality as physical hardware and have additional benefits in terms of portability, manageability, and security.

Virtual machines allow you to run one operating system emulated within another operating system. Your primary OS can be Windows 7 64-bit, for example, but with enough memory and processing power, you can run Ubuntu and OS X or Windows XP side-by-side within it.

Here we highlight the five most popular Virtual Machines.

VirtualBox (Windows/Mac/Linux, Free)

VirtualBox has a loyal following thanks to a combination of a free-as-in-beer price tag, cross-platform support, and a huge number of features that make running and maintaining virtual machines a breeze. Virtual machine descriptions and parameters are stored entirely in plain-text XML files for easy portability and easy folder sharing. Its “Guest Additions” feature, available for Windows, Linux, and Solaris virtual machines, makes VirtualBox user friendly, allowing you to install software on the virtual machine that grants extra privileges to the host machine for tasks like sharing files, sharing drives and peripherals, and more.

Parallels (Windows/Mac/Linux, $79.99)

Although best known for the Mac version of their virtual machine software, Parallels also runs virtualization on Windows and Linux. The Parallels software boasts a direct link, thanks to optimization on Intel and AMD chips, to the host computer’s hardware with selective focus—when you jump into the virtual machine to work the host machine automatically relinquishes processing power to it. Parallels also offers clipboard sharing and synchronization, shared folders, and transparent printer and peripheral support.

VMware (Windows/Linux, Basic: Free, Premium: $189)

VMware for desktop users comes in two primary flavors: VMware Player and VMware Workstation. VMware Player is a free solution aimed at casual users who need to create and run virtual machines but don’t need advanced enterprise-level solutions. VMware Workstation includes all the features of VMWare Player—easy virtual machine creation, hardware optimization, driver-less guest OS printing—and adds in the ability to clone machines, take multiple snapshots of the guest OS, and a replay changes made to the guest OS for testing software and recording the results within the virtual machine.

QEMU (Linux, Free)

QEMU is a powerful virtualization tool for Linux machines built upon the back of the KVM system (Kernel-based Virtual Machine). QEMU executes guest code directly on the host hardware, can emulate machines across hardware types with dynamic translation, and supports auto-resizing virtual disks. Where QEMU really shines, especially among those who like the push the limits of virtualization and take their virtual machines with them, is running on hosts without administrative privileges. Unlike nearly every emulator out there QEMU does not require admin access to run, making it a perfect candidate for building thumb-drive based portable virtual machines.

Windows Virtual PC (Windows, Free)

Compared to the other any-OS-under-the-sun virtual machine applications in this week’s Hive Five, Windows Virtual PC is a tame offering. Windows Virtual PC exists solely to emulate other—usually earlier—versions of Windows. If you need to run an app that only works under Windows XP or test software for backwards compatibility with Vista, Windows Virtual Machine has you covered. It’s limited, true, but for people working in a strictly Windows environment—and most of the world still is—it gets the job done. Note: Virtual PC is availabls as Virtual PC 2004, Virtual PC 2007, and Windows Virtual PC, use this host and guest OS compatibility chart to figure out which one fits your needs.