DevExpress Newsletter 16: Message from the CTO

02 December 2009

Reprinting my Message from the CTO from the sixteenth newsletter so that you may comment on my thoughts.

Virtualizing your experiments

At PDC this year, I wanted to show off some of the new things we have in v2009.3, but at the time I was setting up my laptop there was only a beta available. Rush-released that very morning, in fact, so I wasn't hopeful it would last beyond the day. No matter, no problem, I just installed it in a virtual machine.

Virtual machines have changed the lives of developers everywhere. Need a pristine PC? Just clone the pristine virtual machine you have ready for that purpose (mine has Windows 7 plus Visual Studio 2008 freshly installed, all updated) and boot it. Need to test some alpha build and you're worried about it affecting your usual environment? Boot up another clone. Once you're done with your experiments, you can just throw the virtual machine away.

Back in the day, I used to have a spare physical PC and a copy of Norton Ghost. I'd create a pristine OS install, Ghost it, and then play merry havoc on the PC with dodgy software. Once I'd done, I'd reimage the pristine install from the Ghost image. But, compared with a VM, it took a long time to get to the "good" state.

Since there are several hypervisors around, you have no excuse. I use VMWare Workstation, but there's also Virtual PC and VirtualBox, both free, and on the Mac there's Parallels and VMWare Fusion. Once you have a hypervisor, all that's required is plenty of disk space to hold the virtual disks (these will be 20GB or so in size).

So protect yourself with a VM and experiment with abandon.

Actually, virtualization is slowly being accepted by the non-programming masses too. For example, with the top-of-the-range Windows 7 package, you can download a specialized virtualization app that only works with Windows XP. I wonder how soon before all we do is run software in virtual machines, and our host OS is just a hypervisor.

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