Thursday, June 21, 2007
Posted by Jon Westfall in "DEVELOPER" @ 07:16 AM
Microsoft Virtual PC, if you’re not familiar with it, is a tool that allows you to create multiple virtual PCs running on top of a physical PC. The technology has been around for awhile, however it really won me over while watching presenters use it to demo products on Microsoft’s “Ready To Launch” event in December 2005. Virtual PC started its life as a regular “pay” product, but now is free (along with it’s server-side cousin, Virtual Server). This means anyone can go download it from Microsoft and build their own Virtual PCs. Virtual PCs build up just like regular PCs (With a few quirks). I began by installing Windows XP into a Virtual PC image and then began adding all of the tools I needed for all of the platforms I work with. These tools included WAMP server, IIS, Visual Studio, Office 2003, CodeCharge Studio, NSIS, Windows Mobile 6 SDKs, and a bunch of smaller tools that I can’t live without (e.g., PuTTY, Notepad++, Filezilla, etc..). The installation took awhile, but in the end, I have a workstation I can boot up from any of my machines and one development environment from which I can actually “rapidly” build from.
There are a few caveats to this method that you should be aware of. First, Virtual PC images take up the same amount of space that regular PCs require – albeit in one large virtual hard drive file. My VHD file is easily over 10 GB, which can make it interesting to try to “move” around (I usually copy it to an external hard drive and use file splitting software to back it up to DVDs). Also, Virtual PCs do not support (at this time) USB pass through (so you can’t hook a USB device up to your virtual PC). However, if you’re just a causal developer annoyed at having to re-install countless apps on your systems, this may be the ticket for you. Keep your regular workstations clean and develop away rapidly and “virtually”!
Jon Westfall is a contributing editor for Pocket PC Thoughts, a somewhat-competent developer, and a psychologist by training. His writings (including weird blog posts and such) are gathered together on JonWestfall.Com