Setting up virtualization for my father…

I have to say, I wasn’t quite expecting me to be on the personal use virtualization bandwagon… at least, not so soon, and not where family is concerned. Granted, we use VMware fairly heavily at the office, but I didn’t expect to start making it available for a family member.

Perhaps I should explain a little. For the past several years, my father has been addicted to a PC game called Re-Volt. It’s a racing game with RC vehicles, and the RC vehicles have toy weapons they can use. Almost every single night, Dad would be at his laptop, playing Re-Volt. However, a few months back the video chipset on his laptop corrupted itself, making it almost impossible to use. With few other options, Dad picked up a new laptop. The problem was that the new laptop runs Windows Vista, so Dad couldn’t get Re-Volt to work properly. In addition, a few other applications of Dad’s wouldn’t run. He wasn’t happy, but he eventually learned to deal with it.

Or at least, he did until this past Friday, when Jennifer and I were at Dave & Buster’s. While there, we encountered a Re-Volt arcade machine, which I took a picture of and emailed to my folks. Unfortunately, that only set off Dad wanting to play the game again. I sighed, and over the weekend I looked into installing it on his laptop. I couldn’t get it to work, so I decided to look into the next best thing: virtualization.

Fortunately, virtualizing XP is relatively easy, as I have a spare license of Windows XP Home Edition on hand. The big question became, “What software do I use?” I could have always used VMware, but I didn’t know whether VMware Player supported 3D accelerated graphics or not, and I wanted to keep to a free solution. I looked at Microsoft’s Virtual PC, but it didn’t support 3D accelerated graphics at all. So, I decided to go with Sun’s xVM VirtualBox, which I know has support for 3D accelerated graphics.

Actually, in retrospect, it’s kind of a good thing Dad decided not to go with Windows 7 after all. He mainly bought it for Windows XP Mode, and I know Re-Volt was one of the items he planned on using with it. Windows XP Mode works in such a way that 3D accelerated graphics don’t work with it either. I’m glad he didn’t find out about that one the hard way…

So, right now, I’ve got XP loaded onto the virtual machine and am doing updates to it, including DirectX and Microsoft Security Essentials. Of course, once this is done, the fun part will be copying the entire machine over to Dad’s laptop, installing VirtualBox on it, and teaching Dad how to use the damned thing. While I should be finished with the virtual machine by the end of the evening, I’ll probably wait until I’m back from New Orleans before I actually install it on his laptop. After all, I know he’ll end up having a ton of questions about it that I won’t want to answer while I’m on vacation.

In any event, like I said, this is the best solution I could come up with for his compatibility issue. I hadn’t thought I would ever need to set up virtual machines for the folks, but Dad wants his programs to run, so virtualization is the way to go. It should be amusing to see how it all works out in the end.