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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 May 14, 2019

8 Replacements for Google Notebook

8 Replacements for Google Notebook

Exploring alternatives to Google Notebook? There are more than a few ‘notebooks’ available online these days, although choosing the right one will likely depend on just what you use Google Notebook for.

  1. Zoho Notebook
    If you want to stick with something as close to Google Notebook as possible, Zoho Notebook may just be your best bet. The user interface has some significant changes, but in general, Zoho Notebook has pretty similar features. There is even a Firefox plugin that allows you to highlight content and drop it into your Notebook. You can go a bit further, though, dropping in any spreadsheets or documents you have in Zoho, as well as some applications and all websites — to the point that you can control a desktop remotely if you pare it with something like Zoho Meeting.
  2. Evernote
    The features that Evernote brings to the table are pretty great. In addition to allowing you to capture parts of a website, Evernote has a desktop search tool mobil versions (iPhone and Windows Mobile). It even has an API, if you’ve got any features in mind not currently available. Evernote offers 40 MB for free accounts — if you’ll need more, the premium version is priced at $5 per month or $45 per year. Encryption, size and whether you’ll see ads seem to be the main differences between the free and premium versions.
  3. Net Notes
    If the major allure for Google Notebooks lays in the Firefox extension, Net Notes might be a good alternative. It’s a Firefox extension that allows you to save notes on websites in your bookmarks. You can toggle the Net Notes sidebar and access your notes as you browse. You can also tag websites. Net Notes works with Mozilla Weave if you need to access your notes from multiple computers.
  4. i-Lighter
    You can highlight and save information from any website while you’re browsing with i-Lighter. You can also add notes to your i-Lighted information, as well as email it or send the information to be posted to your blog or Twitter account. Your notes are saved in a notebook on your computer — but they’re also synchronized to the iLighter website. You can log in to the site from any computer.
  5. Clipmarks
    For those browsers interested in sharing what they find with others, Clipmarks provides a tool to select clips of text, images and video and share them with friends. You can easily syndicate your finds to a whole list of sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Digg. You can also easily review your past clips and use them as references through Clipmarks’ website.
  6. UberNote
    If you can think of a way to send notes to UberNote, it can handle it. You can clip material while browsing, email, IM, text message or even visit the UberNote sites to add notes to the information you have saved. You can organize your notes, tag them and even add checkboxes if you want to turn a note into some sort of task list. You can drag and drop information between notes in order to manage them.
  7. iLeonardo
    iLeonardo treats research as a social concern. You can create a notebook on iLeonardo on a particular topic, collecting information online. You can also access other people’s notebooks. It may not necessarily take the place of Google Notebook — I’m pretty sure my notes on some subjects are cryptic — but it’s a pretty cool tool. You can keep notebooks private if you like the interface but don’t want to share a particular project. iLeonardo does allow you to follow fellow notetakers and receive the information they find on a particular topic.
  8. Zotero
    Another Firefox extension, Zotero started life as a citation management tool targeted towards academic researchers. However, it offers notetaking tools, as well as a way to save files to your notebook. If you do a lot of writing in Microsoft Word or Open Office, Zotero might be the tool for you — it’s integrated with both word processing software to allow you to easily move your notes over, as well as several blogging options. Zotero’s interface is also available in more than 30 languages.

I’ve been relying on Google Notebook as a catch-all for blog post ideas — being able to just highlight information and save it is a great tool for a blogger.

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In replacing it, though, I’m starting to lean towards Evernote. I’ve found it handles pretty much everything I want, especially with the voice recording feature. I’m planning to keep trying things out for a while yet — I’m sticking with Google Notebook until the Firefox extension quits working — and if you have any recommendations that I missed when I put together this list, I’d love to hear them — just leave a comment!

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