Tech Line

VM Portability to the Max

Here's a VM that you can run anywhere without any installation.

Lately, I have been hearing a lot of "Wouldn't it be cool if you can run a VM on another system without having to install the VMware Player or Virtual PC?" Of course, my thought was, "Yes!" Recently, Harley Stagner, the technical editor for my book, Virtualization: From the Desktop to the Enterprise (Apress), turned me on to the QEMU Emulator.

The QEMU Emulator can allow you to run a virtual machine without having to install any software. If you'd like to try it out, download Damn Small Linux-embedded. From the download site, select one of the links from the mirror list. After you're redirected to a mirror site, click on the "current" folder and then select the dsl-embedded zip file. If you want to bypass the navigation, click here to download the latest dsl-embedded zip file.

Once you've downloaded the file, you will need to extract it using a tool such as WinZip. Fully extracted, the files take up 109 MB of disk space, so the extracted VM is small enough to fit on a 128MB USB drive. Now to run the DSL VM, just go to the extracted file location and double-click on the dsl-windows.bat file. The VM will boot up and you're on your way.

Once booted up, you will see that several applications are available, including the Firefox web browser and an Rdesktop client. Figure 1 shows an example of FireFox running inside of QEMU.


[Click on image for larger view.]

Figure 1. Here, Firefox is running inside of QEMU.

With DSL running inside of the QEMU Emulator, you have a fully portable VM that you can run off of a CD or USB drive. Since it's a complete live environment, nothing is saved by default. So you can run the DSL VM, browse the Web using Firefox, and when you're done you just close the VM window. When you restart the VM, you will see that none of your previous browsing history is saved. Since the DSL-Embedded image also includes remote desktop and VNC clients, you will also now have a go-anywhere remote management application as well.

If you're an avid VMware user like me, you will notice the difference in performance between DSL on QEMU and running the DSL VM Appliance using VMware Player. If you're looking for optimal performance and have access to install the VMware Player on a system, then I still recommend the VMware Player. But if you're using a system in which you do not have full administrative access, then running a DSL VM on QEMU might be just what you're looking for.

About the Author

Chris Wolf is a Microsoft MVP for Windows --Virtual Machine and is a MCSE, MCT, and CCNA. He's a Senior Analyst for Burton Group who specializes in the areas of virtualization solutions, high availability, storage and enterprise management. Chris is the author of Virtualization: From the Desktop to the Enterprise (Apress), Troubleshooting Microsoft Technologies (Addison Wesley), and a contributor to the Windows Server 2003 Deployment Kit (Microsoft Press).learningstore-20/">Troubleshooting Microsoft Technologies (Addison Wesley) and a contributor to the Windows Server 2003 Deployment Kit (Microsoft Press).

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