Using Virtual Box

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In my last post I introduced you to virtual machines. In this post I will show you how to set up Virtual Box from Oracle. You must first download the latest copy from www.virtualbox.org. Be sure to download the correct download for your particular type of machine. I will be performing the demo on Windows so thats the copy Im downloading.

Donwload link for Virtualbox

Once the download is complete run the installation program. After installation run the program from the start menu or desktop icon. You’ll get a menu like the one below:

On the upper left hand corner select the New button to create a new virtual machine. As you can see from the screen shot I arleady have three virtual machines that I can choose to run. When you click on the New botton the New Virtual machine wizard starts.

In this example I’ll be setting up this new virtual machine to run Server 2008. So I’l type Server 2008 for the name of the virtual machine. On the Version drop down list I selected Windows 2008. Then click next. You will get the Memory size dialog box. Virtual box will suggest appropriate amount of RAM to be dedicated to this virtual machine. The memory will be allocated to running the virtual machine on your computer
Click next to continue. The virtual hard disk dialog box will prompt you to create or use an existing virtual hard disk file. In this example will create a new virtual hard disk file. 
Click Create to continue
You will be prompted to decide what file type to use. This is because you with the second and third choices, you can take the file and use in other virtual machine programs like VMWare or Hyper-V. Select the default and click Next to continue.
In this dialog box you are prompted to choose Dynamically allocated or fixed size. Read the description above and choose the dynamically allocated. Click Next to continue.
In this dialog box, you are prompted for hard disk file name, and maximum hard disk file size. Accept the default of 25 and click Create to continue.
Your new virtual machine is created and ready to run. All that is left to do is configure the virtual machine to boot from a CD ISO file. A CD ISO file is what you would download from Microsoft or other OS vendor and use to burn a DVD. In this case you can use the ISO file directly in Virtual Box.  Highlight and click the new virtual machine then click settings on the menu
Select storage on the left column, then under storage click the empty IDE controller. Click the CD icon on the far right to choose the ISO file to boot the virtual machine with.
Select the ISO file and click open
The ISO file is selected. Click OK to close the dialog box.You are now ready to start the virual machine the will install Windows Server 2008 just like any other computer would. Click start on the menu bar
Your virtual machine starts from the ISO file. From here on the installation is standard. Just follow the on-screen prompts. Actual installation of the OS can be seen here

Using Virtual Machines

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Have you ever wanted to try out, or test another Operating System and did not want to attempt it on your computer because you where afraid to damage your existing setup? Or you did not want to have to buy a whole new computer just to play with? Enter Virtual machines.

What is a Virtual machine?
A Virtual machine is progam that lets you virtualize a computer. Virtual box is an example of Virtual machine software you can use to run Operating systems within your existing Operating system. For example, if you have Windows 7 on your computer, you can install Virtual Box, run it, and Install Server 2008 in the Virtual Box.

There are several makers of virtual machine software in the market. The most common maker is VMWare Inc. maker of VMWare Workstation and other virtual machine software packages such as vSphere. VMWare mostly focuses on Virtual machine software for IT datacenters, and is expensive. However there are other programs that you can download  that give all the funtionality without the cost. Examples are Virtual PC from Microsoft, and Virtual Box from Oracle. You can download Virtual Box from www.virtualbox.org, and it’s FREE!

Virtual Box running Windows Server 2008

The OS in the virtual box will funtion in the same way it would on a physical computer because the virtual machine software makes the OS believe it is a real machine. That means that with this virtual machine you can do all the same things you would do on a real computer. Saving files, running programs, surfing the web, checking email, the works!

What makes this solution so appealing, is that you do not need to tear apart your hard drive, by partitioning it or by adding another hard drive just to test other Operating systems. You simply install Virtual Box, run it, and install your Operating system in it. And once your done you simply delete the virtual machine and that’s the end of that. It would be like deleting a word document when you don’t need it anymore.

This was quite a revelation when I first heard about it. The idea that you can run a virtual pc within a pc, just blew my mind! And now, I use virtual machines everywhere. I have virtual machine software installed on just about all computers I have. It’s a great way to test software that you are not sure of. Let’s say a friend hands you a program he says is really cool, and you’re thinking, “Yeah right, like the last program you gave me that infected my computer for a week”. With the virtual machine, you could just install the program in the virtual machine. If it does have a problem, you can just delete the virtual machine along with the malware. And if you made a backup of the virtual machine before you tried your friends program on it, all you’d have to do is restore it from backup, and voila! Your VM(virtual machine) is back just like before. No harm, no faul.

Now, is that cool, or what!

I wanted to introduce you to the idea of virtualization on this post. I will be posting new material on each of the virtual machine packages with sample Operating Systems so you can follow along. So stay tuned!

Remote control your Windows Computer with Remote Desktop Protocol

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Think you need to get these programs from the internet such as goto meeting, logmein, or team viewer? You don’t, provided that you are running a professional version of Windows or Ultimate. These editions of Windows come equiped with Remote Desktop Server software that allows you to connect to them from any computer or device in the world that has the Remote Desktop Client on it. The program uses RDP protocol and uses port 3389 for communication. So you will need to configure your firewall to allow that communication.

First, enable remote control by going to remote settings and enabling Remote Desktop. Then select “Allow connection from computers running any version of remote deskop(less secure). I prefer to use this setting because you can use any mobile device, or older copy of Windows to connect.

On your router you will need to create an exception for RDP. In this example I used the routing page to create the exception. Other routers will have the setting in a Port Forwarding page.

Also you will need to create a Windows Firewall exception.
Once this is done you can connect to Windows Desktop from another computer or device using the Remote Desktop Client which is installed on all editions of Windows XP and higher. You can also download a client for your mobile device.
If you are connecting to your desktop from the internet you will need to know your ISP assigned IP address, or use Dynamic DNS to resolve the IP address. Using Remote Destktop is safer than those other programs because they envolve only the two computers in question, your client, and your server.

Prevent contaminating your PC by using standard user accounts

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Most users go directly into their PC without a second thought about security. And while Microsoft will do its best to safeguard against malware, it can’t protect everything. There is a simple method that prevent most of accidental contaminations by email and web sites, and that is by creating a standard user account. A standard user account is one without administrative privilege. On the control panel go to create users and create a standard user account. Then logoff and login with the standard user account. Because the standard user account does not have administrative privilege, the OS will prevent rouge programs from making changes to your PC. This will keep most malware out of your PC, with some minor inconvenience when you actually want to make modifications. At which point you will have to logout and login with an administrator account that has privileges to make changes to the OS. Since most users computing is limited to checking email and facebook pages, this should not be to bothersome. Keep in mind that if you share your PC with other users, those users should have their own non-administrative standard account as well.