It’s not a box but it is virtual. This virtualisation software allows you to run a complete operating system on a virtual PC on the your real physical machine. It’s like running a Live CD but you get to install it and run it like a real PC. What’s a Live CD, you ask? It’s (usually) a Linux/BSD/*nix distribution that allows you to run/test/play with an operating system without installing it on your computer. It runs completely in memory and doesn’t touch your hard drive. Now running an operating system off a CD and in memory is not going to give you a true to life experience and there will be delays as you wait for the CD to spin again to load another file. This is where virtual box comes in.
This software allows you to create a virtual PC. It does this by assigning a portion of your hard drive as a virtual hard drive and allocates a portion of your computer’s memory to act as memory for the virtual PC. It can also set up a CD/DVD drive, floppy drive, networking and sound. You can then run or install your Live CD by mounting the real CD drive and accessing the Live CD. Once the system is up and running then, more often than not, you can install it from the desktop. Other options are to download an ISO image of the flavour of the month and telling the virtual PC to boot from that.
I currently have Linux Mint 3.1, Linux Mint 4.0 XCFE, DSL, Puppy, Vector, Open-Free-PC-BSD (not working), Zenwalk 4.8, Zenwalk 5.0 (not working – problem installing LILO), Ubuntu Server 6.10 (dev mail server) and Sabayon 3.4 installed. I am trying to get a copy of Windows ME installed as well but with little success. I have a spare 250GB hard drive that holds all the virtual disk images and 2GB RAM so there is plenty to go round. A dual core e4300 provides the processing power. This is all running in Ubuntu Desktop 7.10 (with Gnome, KDE, XCFE, IceWM and Fluxbox options).
To install virtual box:
$ sudo apt-get install virtualbox
Another option is VMware which is available through the Ubuntu Comercial repository (add or enable this in your sources.list file). You’ll need to register with VMware to get a key code. It works just the same as Virtual Box. For some reason PCBSD, DesktopBSD and WindowsME run perfectly in VMware with VMwaretools installed but not in Virtual Box. Something I’ll have to look into…