This is going to be the hot topic of 2006. Virtualisation (he writes, doggedly employing a British spelling which won’t do him any good on Google) is a technology that creates a complete ‘virtual’ computer as an application on your existing computer. Within that virtual machine you can run a complete operating system and applications, which may or may not be the same as the one you’re running on the machine itself.

It’s been around for a very long time, but things are moving very fast at present. VMware, the leaders in this space, have started making more and more of their (excellent) products freely available. Microsoft’s Virtual Server is also now free. Much of this is probably driven by the high regard in which Xen is held, an Open Source virtualisation technology created by a research group at the Cambridge University Computer Lab (a group I used to be part of, a very long time ago…)

There’s no shortage of rumours that Apple are also getting into this space – in fact, I think it may have been a key part of the move to Intel processors. And hot on the heels of the various announcements about official and unofficial ways to dual-boot Macs into Windows comes the announcement of Parallels Workstation, a Mac virtual machine product that lets you do the same without rebooting…

I’ll have to try this, partly because I think it would just be too wacky to run Wordperfect 5.1 for DOS on my Mac… I’m actually more interested in running virtual Ubuntu Linux machines than I am Windows ones, having just been around the world carrying two laptops so I had a Linux box on which to demo Ndiyo systems.

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Virtualisation is quite funny – 60s tech suddenly today’s hot thing. I currently run vmware on my Thinkpad, and it makes my life so much easier. Work requires that I run outlook, office, and corporate VPN software, so I have to use XP, but for most practical aspects of my job (hacking code, writing papers, etc.) I want Linux (another Ubuntu user here).

I say I want Linux, but what I really want is Mac OS X, but I’m not a member of the set of lucky people with MacBook Pros 🙂 It pained me greatly when I moved to my current job and had to forsake my iBook for a Thinkpad (I work with the people that only just now make CPUs for Macs, so at the time it was a bit of a faux pas 😉

(posting here rather than the follow-up for the sake of relevance, so shoot me 😉

Isn’t this basically how Smalltalk works anyway? You get an image which is self-contained and pretends it’s a standalone machine.

I’ve been thinking of playing with Self, which seems to work in much the same way.

You get a vision of a screen-full of little virtual machines, all merrily messaging each other and doing their own thing each in the best way they know 😉

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