Dupe Windows drive images in VirtualBox


VirtualBox is a pretty good virtual machine system from Sun Microsystems that has several key benefits:

  • It's free, whereas most others are commercial and can cost a chunk of change,
  • It's multiplatform, so a company can standardize on it across all of their supported systems.

It seems to be pretty capable in regards to running client operating systems - it has a menu which lets it automatically configure itself for a wide variety of Windows releases, UNIX distributions, etc.

The only minor problem I've found is in regards to how it handles disk images - the virtual disk files it creates to store the client operating system. The problem is that you can't just duplicate the file from your file manager or command line, because it identifies each disk file with a unique identifier that obviously doesn't change when you manually copy it. Instead it comes with a command which will do the duplication for you, only it's hidden in OSX.

So, if you need to duplicate a drive image in VirtualBox on your Mac OSX machine, you would run a command like so (all on one line):

/Applications/VirtualBox.app/Contents/MacOS/VBoxManage clonevdi Windows_XP_IE_6.vdi Windows_XP_IE_7.vdi

Ta-daa! All done.

Crossover Mac + Outlook 2003 - neat idea, very unstable


Microsoft's Outlook 2003 has been the defacto standard for business-level communications for several years, especially for businesses that use Microsoft's Exchange system (which is most of them). For anyone using a Mac the options were limited to either basic IMAP access, which doesn't support all of the stored address books, calendars, etc, or Microsoft's Entourage application which is promoted as a reasonable equivalent. There are two key problems with Entourage, however:

  1. It doesn't support many of the "Public folder" data sharing mechanisms, so you can't use shared calendars, tasks, etc that are stored in Public Folders, only messages.
  2. It is unstable:
    • I can fairly consistently crash it just by writing a message and hitting down down arrow (!)
    • it randomly gets the server connection messed up - you leave it running overnight, come back in the next morning to see "unable to connect to the server", at which point it fails to connect to the server no matter what you do, and requires a magical combination of star alignment and crossing of limbs to get it working again.

A new option entered the arena lately - directly running Outlook using Codeweaver's Crossover Mac application, which provides an emulation layer to run some Windows software directly on your Intel-based Mac (or Linux box). With the brand new release of Crossover Mac (comparable to Crossover Office version 6 for Linux) they finally added official support for Microsoft Office 2003 including Outlook 2003, so at work when my Entourage decided to implode I politely asked for it to be bought for me. Half an hour later I was sitting down to install it.
Crossover Mac has the potential to be a really great program, it is just currently hampered by a few issues:

  • Lack of specific documentation. Several people on their forums say that they have Outlook running without any problems but nobody has said exactly what release they're using, exactly what extras were used (you need IE6 installed for it to work fully), what the installation options were for the software, etc.
  • Instability. CXMac has locked up on me a few times when it was attempting to "reboot" (not a physical reboot, it's all within the emulation layer).

After wasting half a day on it I still don't have Outlook 2003 running correctly: one install stopped working after I installed IE6, one refused to start Outlook at all, on another I installed IE6 first only to have Outlook not display HTML emails at all (but it is at least running my mailing list filters to keep my inbox clean).
Tomorrow I'm going to try out Outlook XP/2002, to see if it is any more reliable, but so far I'm rather disappointed.

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