Tuesday Oct 15, 2013

What's New in VirtualBox 4.3?

VirtualBox.png

Great news: Oracle VM VirtualBox 4.3 is available from today!

Let's take a quick look at what's new:

New Platforms 

We're at that time of year when vendors are releasing new versions of their platforms, ready to be installed onto new hardware offerings for the upcoming holiday season. So welcome Mac OS X 10.9 ( "Mavericks" ), Microsoft Windows 8.1 and Windows Server 2012 R2, and all the new Linux distributions too. 

And so it is only natural that VirtualBox 4.3 should add support for these new platforms too.

But sometimes that is easier said than done. For example, some of the new platforms are designed for tablet, or laptop/tablet hybrid platforms and so use a multi-touch interface to navigate around the system. This all means that VirtualBox has to deliver a multi-touch virtual device that the guests can use, which is exactly what we did in 4.3.  So if you're looking to check out such a system, such as Windows 8(.1), remember to choose the correct pointing device:

multi-touch

Another similarity about the new platforms is the increased use of desktop "eye-candy", whether it is translucency, fade-in and out effects, or instant zoom. This means that we've had to improve our 3d acceleration support for guests such as Fedora, seen here on a Mac OS X 10.9 host, using a zoomed out view of running apps and a scaled workspace viewer on the right hand side:

Fedora 19

(Don't forget to update your Guest Additions to the 4.3 version to get this going.)

We also improved the multi-monitor support especially when you are using multiple virtual monitors with multiple physical displays in full screen mode.

Hypervisor improvements

Another significant, but largely invisible change in 4.3 concerns the hypervisor itself. We have significantly revamped the internals of VirtualBox as a platform for future performance enhancements. Today, this has mainly improved boot times of guests, but we'll be building upon this in forthcoming updates. 

Networking Improvements

In the Networking area we've got 3 bits of news:

  1. IPv4 AND IPv6 almost everywhere - Host-only, Internal, Bridged and our new NAT Network mode now all offer IPv6 to guests;
  2. IPv6 in VRDP - You can remotely connect to the consoles of your virtual machines via RDP over IPv6;
  3. New NAT Network mode - yet another way of configuring the network of your vm's...

Our existing NAT mode puts each guest vm on it's own private network. This is nice and easy and has served us very well over the years.

At the same time, many people use our Host-only networking to run multiple vm's on a private network that can talk to each other and also the host.

But what yet another group of people wanted was a private network where the guests could talk to each other but also to the internet too (or at least the network beyond the host). So this is what the new NAT Network mode offers. Diagrammatically, it looks like this:

Diagram

and the configuration dialog looks like this:

Dialogs

Hopefully you can see that this new NAT Network can be IPv6 or IPv4 and has an optional DHCP service. Also Port Forwarding is available to allow connections into the private network from the outside world.

Other Bells and Whistles

There are lots of other smaller improvements in 4.3 but 2 of my favorites are: 

Video Capture

4.3 comes with a built-in video capture facility to record the contents of your guest's screens. The resultant movie is stored in .webm format so can be played back by most movie players or even Google Chrome. 

Virtual Webcam

An extremely cool (but only experimental at this stage) feature is the VirtualBox virtual webcam device. This allows the guest to use the webcam of the host so that you can use Skype or Google Hangouts from within your guest. (Look for a separate blog on this feature)

What next?

In the time it has taken you to read this blog you could have downloaded 4.3 from the Oracle or community site to kick the tires yourself.

But there's still time, VirtualBox is only around 100Mb. Or if you were "born not to lead but to read" (apologies to Matt Groening), take a peek at the User Guide.

All in all, another solid release, one that we hope you'll enjoy discovering.

- FB 

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