The Raspberry Pi is great because it's a low cost way to test all sorts of crazy electronics ideas, but sometimes you might want to test before you test. Virtual machines are a great way to do so, and Grant Winney has a guide for setting one up using VirtualBox.
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Windows Vista only: Microsoft's Enterprise Desktop Virtualization (MED-V) tool, offered as a free public beta, creates a low-profile virtual machine that runs XP/2000 apps in their own environment, right on your desktop. It's not an app you can just install and fire away with, and you'll have to fill out a short survey at Microsoft's "Connect" area to get to the download (and, with a light sigh, install their File Transfer Manager to grab it), but once you're up and running, MED-V runs as a background app that launches XP/2000 applications from their own folder in your Start menu. It's a free beta right now, and the first full release is expected to drop in 1.0 form in the first half of 2009. We tried running MED-V on the Windows 7 beta at Lifehacker East, but it's pretty strict on launching only from Vista with SP1 installed. To get a better feel for what MED-V does and runs like, check out Microsoft's introductory video or demonstration. MED-V is a free download for Windows Vista systems with SP1 installed only. If you gave it a try with some of your Vista-resistant apps, tell us how it performed in the comments. Microsoft Enterprise Desktop Virtualization V1
If you run Windows and Mac apps side-by-side with Parallels, you may have been annoyed in the past that you can't use removable volumes (like USB drives) simultaneously in OS X and your Windows virtual machine. Web site Mac OS X Hints details how to remedy this problem with a simple solution: add a shared folder in Parallels that points to /Volumes. Not only will the new shared folder give you access to USB drives, but also your DVD drive and all other mounted volumes on your Mac—and you get it all without having to hassle with individually connecting and disconnecting drives from your virtual machine. I tried to duplicate this method in VMWare Fusion but wasn't able to select the /Volumes folder. Either way, the Parallels hack is smart and saves a ton of time.
You love working inside your Linux desktop, but at the most inconvenient times you've got to reboot into Windows—whether to open a tricky Office file, try out a Windows application, or even just play a quick game. However, with some free tools and a Windows installation disk, you can have Windows apps running right on your Linux desktop and sharing the same desktop files. It's relatively painless, it takes only a little bit longer than a Windows XP install, and it works just like virtualizing Windows on a Mac with Parallels Coherence—except it's free. Here's how to set up Windows inside VirtualBox, and then get Windows apps running seamlessly inside your desktop.
You've got your computer tweaked and streamlined so that every program, bookmark, and password you count on is at your disposal whenever you need it, but what happens when your computer crashes and suddenly all this data is gone? Sure, you've already automated your data backups, and that's invaluable for saving your documents, but that perfect system state is another thing. Weblog Freelance Folder describes how to create and save a virtual machine containing all of your must-have software, passwords, and other custom settings so that in the event of an unexpected crash, you've got a quick backup "production" system that still contains everything you need. It's not as good as a complete system backup and restore, but it's a helluva lot better than nothing—and it's free.
How To Use VMWare To Survive A Computer Crash