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Q&A: New VirtualBox Beginner's Guide Published - A Word with the Author

I recently had the pleasure to speak with Alfonso V. Romero, the author of a new book covering the VirtualBox virtualization technology titled - VirtualBox 3.1 - Beginner's Guide: Deploy and manage a cost-effective virtual environment using VirtualBox.

VirtualBox has had an interesting history as it moved from Innotek to Sun Microsystems and finally landing with Oracle.  The open source x86 virtualization product has a following, and has reached more than 26 million downloads.  So, perhaps, it is time for someone to write a book about this virtualization platform.  And that's what Romero did, writing a really informative and easy to follow beginner's guide for Packt Publishing.

Here's what Romero had to say during the interview: 

VMblog:  To start things off, can you give VMblog readers a quick synopsis about yourself and your background?

Romero:  Well, I've been involved with computers and software developing since back in the days of the original IBM PC, when machine language was the way to go if you wanted to do something cool. So you can say I've been around for a while now, and hopefully will try to keep hanging around for as long as I can! I've worked as a software consultant for several clients, and lately I've been promoting VirtualBox as a virtual development environment for C# or Java web & console apps, and also as a way to have two or more virtual servers in one physical computer, to take full advantage of today's PCs.

VMblog:  For years, you couldn't find a book out there that covered virtualization technology.  There just wasn't a market for it.  Now, there are so many books out there right now, arguably too many, that cover VMware technologies.  What made you write about VirtualBox?  And more specifically, why now?

Romero:  I started working with VMware several years ago on a project I was developing for one of my clients. The problem I never got to solve with VMware was that it required so much power to get things done, and when I discovered VirtualBox a couple of years ago (the first release I used was 2.1.X), I was amazed at the things it could do without the need for a top-of-the-line PC!  At that time I needed to simulate a network environment with a web server, a database server and a development machine. And VirtualBox fulfilled my needs perfectly! So I immediately dumped VMware and started playing with VirtualBox, creating virtual machines all over the place. Then came VirtualBox 3.0.X and the most amazing thing happened to me: you could even play games with the experimental 3D hardware acceleration feature! So basically, I decided to write about VirtualBox because I was so happy using it that I wanted to share my big discovery with the rest of the world, and I sadly discovered that there weren't any books about this amazing little piece of software, so I needed to do something about it right away.

VMblog:  And if you don't mind me asking, what inspired you to write this book? 

Romero:  The first full-fledged book I ever wrote was about a cool Blog server called Apache Roller, and Packt Publishing gave me the opportunity I was waiting for. James Lumsden was one of the first Packt editors I talked with, and he introduced me to the Beginner's Guides series. Then I got inspired by David Barnes' blog (another editor from Packt) and thanks to him I wrote a small eBook titled 6x5 VirtualBox free eBook. At that time it turned out Packt was looking for an author to write the VirtualBox Beginner's Guide book. I was about to finish writing my Apache Roller book and thought, "What the heck! Let's go for this opportunity!"  So I wrote an email and a few days later I was writing chapter 1! It was a very inspiring moment because the timing was perfect!

VMblog:  Your book was very easy to read and follow, and it had a really good flow from chapter to chapter. When you came up with the idea to write this book, who were you writing it for?  What was your target audience in mind?

Romero:  I'm glad you liked it.  The first time I thought of writing this book I didn't have a concise idea about the ideal audience, but after writing the Apache Roller Beginner's Guide, I definitely wanted to stick with the beginner's approach, along with some advanced stuff like the headless server exercise from chapter 8. I wanted to focus on people that needed to work with Linux and Windows most of the time, and people wanting to test drive Linux without having to mess up their main computer with a double-boot system configuration, for example. In the end I realized this book would be useful for database administrators, too.

VMblog:  Virtualization has come a long way over these last few years. In your experience, what are some of the reasons why more people are now starting to join the bandwagon?

Romero:  Well, for starters you can really squeeze all of the power out of your machine! For example, before VirtualBox I had to use two or three computers to develop a complex web application, because I didn't want to mess up my developing machine with a web server and a database server, and most of the time I needed to work with Linux and Windows. So virtual machines were one of the best things that helped me save a lot of time and money as a software developer. Also, I've seen a lot of people benefit from the fact that you can test several Linux distributions, along with Windows XP/Vista or even Windows 7 without having to deal with separate physical machines, and that's a really cool way of saving a lot of time and effort!

VMblog:  With the dominance of VMware products in the virtualization market today, why do you think people should consider implementing VirtualBox? What does it have to offer that makes it a wise choice for consumers?

Romero:  One of the key aspects I love about VirtualBox is its incredibly small footprint, along with the fact that it's free for personal use. And if you want to implement VirtualBox in your work environment, it only costs about $60 USD, compared to the $189 USD VMware Desktop version. And now that Oracle is behind VirtualBox, I'm pretty sure that things will look better than ever!

VMblog:  Great point!  So what affect do you think Oracle will have on VirtualBox now that it owns the technology?  They recently announced a new version, the first under the Oracle brand.  Can it start taking away market share?

Romero:  Definitely, due to the fact that Oracle is one of the strongest companies in the IT arena. In fact, I think the development team is working faster and releasing more versions of VirtualBox than before. So I wouldn't be surprised if VirtualBox started to gain some decent market share in a nearby future.

VMblog:  If you had to name one thing that makes VirtualBox stand out from the competition, what would it be?  Tell us about it.

Romero:  It's FREE and tiny, but extremely powerful. And I have never had any performance problems or data loss, so you can say it's solid as a rock!

VMblog:  Did you learn anything new about virualization or VirtualBox in particular while writing this book that you didn't already know before you started the project? And if so, what was it?

Romero:  You bet I did! When I started writing the first chapter I was worried thinking if I'd be able to fill a 400-page book with valuable information, but at the end I had to cut off a lot of stuff that I learned through the process. For example, before writing the networking chapter I only used the Bridged mode for my virtual machines, and then I discovered that most of my projects could benefit from using other networking modes, too!

VMblog:  Any final thoughts that you'd like to leave the readers with?

Romero:  I really hope they'll enjoy reading the book as much as I enjoyed writing it! And I would be happy to hear comments, opinions and anything in their mind that could  help us write better books in the near future!

VMblog:  Are there any Web sites or places that you suggest people go to find out more information about the book?

Romero:  The ultimate place where you can find the most up to date information about the VirtualBox book is Packt's website, at http://www.packtpub.com/

The direct link to the book is https://www.packtpub.com/virtualbox-3-1-beginners-guide/book

There'a also a direct link on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/VirtualBox-3-1-Beginners-Alfonso-Romero/dp/1847199143/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1277873419&sr=8-1  

You can also visit my blog at http://alromero.posterous.com/

And last, but not least, you can send any questions or comments to questions@packtpub.com and we'll get back to you as soon as possible!

Thanks again to Alfonso Romero for taking time out to speak with me about his latest book covering the Oracle VirtualBox virtualization platform.  I invite others to check it out and read it as well if you are interested in or already using the technology.

Published Thursday, July 01, 2010 4:30 AM by David Marshall
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