If you’re a fan of VirtualBox you’ll definitely want to grab the new 4.0 update; it comes packed with an extension manager, a fresh and user-friendly GUI, live virtual machine previews, and more. Check out our screenshot tour for a closer look.
Simplified and Enhanced GUI
The new interface is a significant improvement over the old one. Previously information about your virtual machines was packed into a two-tab interface on the right hand side of the main window. The information was there but it wasn’t very well organized. Now information is more clearly organized and divided into groups like General, System, Display, Storage, Audio, Network, and two handy section at the bottom to see what USB devices and shared folders are linked to the virtual machine.
By far the greatest improvement in the overview section, however, is the introduction of the live preview. In the screenshot above you’re seeing my Snow Leopard desktop, in the virtual machine, at the moment I took the screenshot. You can adjust the update rate between every half second all the way up to every ten seconds (or disable it all together).
VirtualBox Is Now Extensible
Although the pickings might be slim—the update just came out, after all—VirtualBox is now extensible. The first extension pack is an official one from Oracle and includes extensions to support USB 2.0 devices, VirtualBox RDP, and PXE boot for Intel cards. Given VirtualBox’s enormous popularity, expect to see a flood of extensions offering all manner of custom tweaks and enhancements.
Note: We experienced a very odd but repeatable error when downloading and installing the extension pack. If we downloaded it on any computer using Google Chrome the installation of the extension pack would error out with the error: RTZipGzipDecompressIoStream failed: VERR_ZIP_BAD_HEADER. This error only occurred when the extension pack was downloaded in Chrome. Switching to Firefox or Opera yielded a smooth installation. If you run into the same error, just switch browsers temporarily.
Easy Virtual Machine Manipulation
Historically, moving virtual machines around involved a bit of know how. You had to edit XML files, tweak settings, make sure you put files in just the right spot, and other technicalities that could lead the exporting and importing process astray. In VirtualBox 4.0 the export/import process is dead simple. As of this update VirtualBox now supports Open Virtualization Format Archive so all your exports are neatly packaged in a single file—ready for backup or transport to another machine. VirtualBox also supports importing of disks beyond the VMDK format, making it a cinch to import other virtual disks.
In addition to the major improvements: enhanced GUI, extensibility, and easy virtual machine importing and exporting, there’s a slew of changes under the hood. Machine deletion is now more thorough, when you delete a machine everything goes with it—including all snapshots, saved states, and even (if you toggle the setting on) attached disk images. 32-bit guest operating systems can now access more than 2GB of RAM and there are quite a few bug fixes and new hardware support packages that mop up some problems with Intel audio hardware and other vendor compatibility issues. Check out the full change log here for more information or visit the link below to grab a copy of VirtualBox 4.0
Jason Fitzpatrick is warranty-voiding DIYer and all around geek. When he's not documenting mods and hacks he's doing his best to make sure a generation of college students graduate knowing they should put their pants on one leg at a time and go on to greatness, just like Bruce Dickinson. You can follow him on Google+ if you'd like.
- Published 12/23/10