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7 Uses for a Virtual Machine

7 Uses for a Virtual Machine

VMWare has announced the release of VMWare Server 1.0 for FREE. Formerly known as GSX server, this product allows you to take a reasonably powerful server (say a box with two processors and 4 GB of memory) and lets you serve up virtual machines. Virtual machines, by the way, are best thought of as little instances of a computer, acting as if it’s a whole computer with network IP and everything, running on a bigger box. So, you can load the software, build virtual machines, and those machines (software) will act like they’re full-fledged computers in their own right.

This isn’t dual-booting or partitioning. You can access these all at the same time. (The more running at one time, the slower things will eventually get). You can network them together with a virtual network switch.

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Who cares? Too techy! Stick with me, kids.

Uses for Virtual Machines

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  • Try new operating systems– Want to try out Ubuntu? Put together a VM (shorthand for virtual machine) and build Ubuntu on it. Suddenly, you can launch and try dozens of operating systems without much hassle.
  • Test your software– Are you the next 37Signals? You can use VMs to try your software or web app or even site design on a variety of boxes by just building virtual machines and running the tests there. Because the “machines” boil down to a couple of files, the cool thing is, you can copy them, you can back them up. You can burn them to a DVD and ship a fully configured system to someone across the globe.
  • Set up an office quickly– Imagine you’re gearing up for a political campaign, or you’re going to build a retail store in a new town. You need an office with a mail server, a print server, a file server, and some desktop systems. You could have your people on the ground go buy a server from the local computer store (or ship one, whatever), and ship them the DVD with your images on it (or a hard drive). About a half hour later, you could have everything configured and running. Imagine emergency management logistics with this in place?
  • Small Biz disaster recovery– This isn’t highly recommended, but it’d work if you’re bootstrapping. Say you’re hosting a few webservers with your amazing app on them. Your house gets hit by lightning. Your site is off the air. Now, imagine that scenario but you’ve got virtual backups of the latest build and configuration ready to install and deploy wherever else you’ve got a point of presence. Poof. You’re online again.
  • Build kid boxes– Build Edubuntu (a kid flavored Ubuntu) on a virtual machine for the kids (the specs I mention above are for heavy users, but you could get away with a lot less if you only ran ONE VM). If (when) things go sour from one too many “tweaks,” just drop the VM and restore from your pristine copy. Talk about easy. You can get them back on the net in under 10 minutes.
  • Backup your system– When you get ready to move from XP to Vista, you can use VMWare to make a backup of your old system. If things go horribly sour, you could have the VM version up and running in short order. By the way, you can have TWO servers, and have a copy of the VM on both. This would give you even more business continuity, should something happen to the server.
  • Save Legacy Systems– Offices and data centers often have an old box around that just can’t be mucked with. There’s additional software you can use to do what’s called a P2V switch, a physical-to-virtual conversion, where the old box’s “image” gets copied onto the virtual machine files, and thus, gives you a hopefully-operational clone of the old grandpa box in the corner.

This is on the techier end of life hacking, I admit, but you might be able to glean some ideas from this that translate to what you’re doing in your own world. And believe me, virtual machines do make your life easier, if you have to work with lots of moving parts. I use the big daddy version of this software in our enterprise systems, and it’s a lifesaver.

And not for nothing, the people who WORK for VMWare (owned by EMC), and who represent them in sales and in customer service, are really nice and helpful. The community around the product is really good. The documentation and forum support is good. This is a robust software you can really put to some good uses.

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Download Squad is where I saw this first, so I’ll give them the link. VMWare.com is where you get this software, but read Download Squad’s thoughts first:

VMWare Server 1.0 Now Free – [via Download Squad]

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–Chris Brogan has 16 years experience in telecommunications and wireless technologies. He attempts to forget about it from time to time by writing for Lifehack.org, and also at [chrisbrogan.com]. For whatever reason, he wants to be a podcaster when he grows up, and does that kind of stuff out of Grasshopper Factory.

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Last Updated on July 8, 2020

What Everyone Is Wrong About Achieving Inbox Zero

What Everyone Is Wrong About Achieving Inbox Zero

Ah, Inbox Zero. An achievement that so many of us long for. It’s elusive. It’s a productivity benchmark. It’s an ongoing battle.

It’s also unnecessary.

Don’t get me wrong, the way Inbox Zero was initially termed is incredibly valuable. Merlin Mann coined the phrase years ago and what he has defined it as goes well beyond the term itself.[1]

Yet people have created their own definition of Inbox Zero. They’re not using it with the intent that Mann suggested. Instead, it’s become about having nothing left in immediate view. It’s become about getting your email inbox to zero messages or having an empty inbox on your desk that was once filled with papers. It’s become about removing visual clutter.

But it’s not about that. Not at all.

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Here’s what inbox zero actually is, as defined by Mann:

“It’s about how to reclaim your email, your atten­tion, and your life. That “zero?” It’s not how many mes­sages are in your inbox–it’s how much of your own brain is in that inbox. Especially when you don’t want it to be. That’s it.” – Merlin Mann

The Fake Inbox Zero

The sense of fulfillment one gets from clearing out everything in your inbox is temporary at best, disappointing at worst. Often we find that we’re shooting for Inbox Zero just so that we can say that we’ve got “everything done that needed to be done”. That’s simply not the case.

Certainly, by removing all of your things that sit in your inbox means that they are either taken care of or are well on their way to being taken care of. The old saying “out of sight, out of mind” is often applied to clearing out your inbox. But unless you’ve actually done something with the stuff, it’s either not worth having in your inbox in the first place or is still sitting in your “mental inbox”.

You have to do something with the stuff, and for many people, that is a hard thing to do. That’s why Inbox Zero – as defined by Mann – is not achieved as often as many people would like to believe. It’s this “watered down” concept of Inbox Zero that is completed instead. You’ve got no email in your inbox and you’ve got no paper on your desk’s inbox. So that must mean you’re at Inbox Zero.

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Until the next email arrives or the next document comes your way. Then you work to get rid of those as quickly as possible so that you can get back to Inbox Zero: The Lesser again. If it’s something that can be dealt with quickly, then you get there. But if they require more time, then soon you’ve got more stuff in your inboxes. So you switch up tasks to get to the things that don’t require as much time or attention so that you can get closer to this stripped down variation of Inbox Zero.

However, until you deal with the bigger items, you don’t quite get there. Some people feel as if they’ve let themselves (or others) down if they don’t get there. And that, quite frankly, is silly. That’s why this particular version of Inbox Zero doesn’t work.

The Ultimate Way to Get to Inbox Zero

So what’s the ultimate way to get to Inbox Zero?

Have zero inboxes.

The inbox is meant to be a stop along the way to your final destination. It’s the place where stuff sits until you’re ready to put it in the place where it sits until you’re ready to deal with it.

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So why not skip the inbox altogether? Why not put it in the place where it sits until you’re ready to deal with it? Because that requires immediate action. It means you need to give the item some thought and attention.

You need to step back and look at it rather than file it. That’s why we have a catch-all inbox, both for email and for analog items. It allows us to only look at these things when we’re ready to do so.

The funny thing is that we can decide when we’re ready to without actually looking at the inbox beforehand. We can look at things on our own watch rather than when we are alerted to or feel the need to.

There is no reason why you need an inbox at all to store things for longer than it sits there before you see it. None. It’s a choice. And the choice you should be making is how to deal with things when you first see them, rather than when to deal with things you haven’t looked at yet.

Stop Faking It

Seeing things in your inboxes is simply using your sight. Looking at things in your inbox when you first see them is using insight.

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Stop checking email more than twice per day. Turn off your alerts. Put your desk’s inbox somewhere that it can be accessed by others and only accessed by you when you’re ready to deal with what’s in it. Don’t put it on your desk – that’s productivity poison.

If you want to get to Inbox Zero — the real Inbox Zero — then get rid of those stops along the way. You’ll find that by doing that, you’ll be getting more of the stuff you really want done finished much faster, rather than see them moving along at the speed of not much more than zero.

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Featured photo credit: Web Hosting via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Merlin Mann: Inbox Zero

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