Liam twittered about VirtualBox a little while ago — not the first time I’d had a look at their page, but it’s been a while, so I went back. I’ve been a VMWare user for more than a decade myself. Always found it brilliant how I could take over a VM from one machine to another, and I have some VMs archived from 1998 or so, created on a Linux host at the time, that I can now still use on my Mac. I admit the need is rare, but the possibilities are great :-)

Anyway, so I thought let’s have a look at VirtualBox. After all there are enough things to hate about VMWare: they focus far too much on the Enterprise market, updates are slow to come, their support is non-existent (or rather, they expect you to pay money even to be allowed to send them bug reports… or something, I can’t claim I’ve ever really understood their crazy “support” model). If it wasn’t for enthusiasts in the company (like the guy who pushed Linux kernel support many years ago), I’m sure they would have had a much harder time remaining my virtualization system of choice for so long.

So, looked at VirtualBox. First impression: sounds great. Second impression: hm, first screenshot saying “NAT networking works”?? Well, I sure hope it does, since that is a pretty important feature. They are at 3.0.8 after all. Third impression: what the heck is wrong with their SKUs? There’s an Open Source version (OSE), which is probably the reason why they get lots of publicity. But the OSE version isn’t really distributed as such — you can get the source and build it yourself. Well, not something I want to do really. Also, as the Editions page states, there are certain Enterprise features that the OSE doesn’t have: for instance, USB support. What? Seriously? There are binary downloads for various platforms, which is cool. BUT they are distributed under a different license, the so-called PUEL, which stands for “VirtualBox Personal Use and Evaluation License”. Well. So what if I’m not a personal user? Hm, out of luck. Quoting from the Editions page:

If, instead, you wish to purchase licenses for enterprise use and/or enterprise support for VirtualBox, please do not hesitate to contact your Sun representative.

Well, I won’t do that. You want to sell me something, put up an online shop and list a price. Also, don’t do stupid things like call USB support an “Enterprise feature”. Oh, and finally Liam just tells me that the license terms of the PUEL used to be different and he wasn’t aware of its implications yet. Brilliant, so they change their license all of a sudden without telling people. Well… I guess it’s VMWare again. Competition is good for the market, they say, and I hope at least that much is true.

Update: Liam just tells me about item 6 in the Licensing FAQ, which seems to say that personal use includes many kinds of what normal people would call business use. Very good to know, so maybe I’ll give it another go (or actually get to the point of trying it out). I won’t apologize for getting this wrong, because the license text and naming is just plain stupid — but when I get around to giving it a closer look, I’ll post again.