Mental Ward

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My Virtual Outlook

I've been working hard on making my Dell Studio XPS my new main work machine. It's outfitted with Vista 64-bit, 8GB RAM and an Intel Core 2 Duo P8700 processor. I had to enable virtualization in my BIOS (which begs the question -- why isn't it enabled by default? I don't know, but I'm going to be asking Intel soon), and it's ready to go.

Other than having to reinstall the OS, the biggest issue I've had is with Cisco's VPN client -- you know, the one Cisco never wants to update. Quite simply, there is no 64-bit client version of the VPN (and why should there be? It's not like anyone has 64-bit clients these days. Yes, that was sarcasm). And although many of my 32-bit applications have worked just fine on my 64-bit OS, the VPN refuses to install.

Since I like and use Outlook, this presented a problem. My solution was to go virtual. I downloaded the free VirtualBox, which installed easily. I then created a VM with 512MB RAM and 15GB virtual hard drive -- also a snap with VirtualBox.

Next, I loaded 32-bit Windows XP SP2 in the VM, then installed Outlook (the Office 2003 version). One of the really nice aspects of VirtualBox is that NAT translation is enabled by default, meaning that outside-the-VM connectivity happens automatically, without messing with any settings.

After a reboot, I held my breath and tried the VPN, then opened Outlook. After a few small hiccups, I had my Outlook open, and everything worked perfectly. I've been running it for about five days now, without issue.

VirtualBox couldn't be simpler to set up and get going with. It does what I need it to do, and doesn't try to do too much. What a great little product. I know it's a Type 2 hypervisor (i.e. hosted by the OS), but it runs XP very fast for me, and uses almost no CPU and about 28MB RAM, according to Windows Task Manager. In other words, almost negligible system impact. I'm delighted.

On the other hand, would it kill Cisco to update its VPN client? I'm not sure why they've orphaned it, but making users (and, I'm sure, many IT departments) do these ridiculous workarounds is extremely aggravating. Get in the game, Cisco, and assign an engineer or two to deal with this situation -- I imagine you have the resources.

Posted by Keith Ward on 05/12/2009 at 12:48 PM


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