A hybrid PC system emulator that uses both software emulation and hardware virtualisation techniques to emulate/virtualise a PC compatible computer.
It was available in two versions, a proprietary version published by Oracle that is delivered for Microsoft Windows, Solaris, Mac OSX and Linux and an open source version called VirtualBox OSE that lacks a few features but is available on a wider number of platforms, there is no difference between the main executable of the two versions in practice, but since version four of VBox the propriety portion of the program is delivered as a part of the Guest Additions rather than of the main install package.
Because it is free and mostly open source so available on a number of platforms, VirtualBox is popular with OS/2 users both as a host system to run operating systems like Windows and Linux on and thus get access to the software catalogues for those systems on OS/2 machines, but and also as for users that prefer to run OS/2 as a task under other operating systems although in that user case scenario VMware is more popular with corporate and business users for a variety of reasons.
Similarly to Virtual PC, VirtualBox uses Guest Additions to simplify interaction between the guest operating system and its host, Guest Additions are simply drivers, system extensions and/or applications for the guest OS that interact with VirtualBox or the host OS that allow them to use features such as
- Mouse pointer integration
- Shared folders
- Copy/Paste between host and guest
- Drag and drop objects between host and guest
- Graphics acceleration and 3D pass through
At this point in time Oracle only ships Guest Additions for Microsoft Windows and OS/2, drag'n'drop. 3D pass-through and shared folders are not supported with the OS/2 versions, these limitations a mildly surprising giving that they are based on the Virtual PC additions and originally written by the same company (Innotek). Guest Addition exist for Mac OS X as well but are only activated on actual Apple Macintosh hardware for licensing reasons.
In general VirtualBox is a PC system emulator. If your objective in using it is primarily to run OS/2 on a PC running Mac OS X or MS Windows you may want to take a look at Microsoft's Virtual PC, VMware or Parallels Desktop.
- You will sometimes run into install issues with systems that will actually run with some tweaking but not actually install, some versions of QNX and eComStation v1.x are notable for this for instance. VBox is quite flexible in regards to disk images and can work with or convert a number of alien hard disk image formats allowing us a couple of ways around this including:
- Install the OS on real hardware and transfer the partition into an image file using DFSee.
- Install them OS on Virtual PC or VMware and transfer the hard disk image over to VBox, it will work natively with Virtua PC and VMware image formats.
- There is no serial port virtualisation, only pass through to real serial ports via the Superchip or USB, this does not make serial port debugging on a single PC impossible, just that you will have to assign VirtualBox a serial port and use a crossover cable to hook that port up physically to another serial port on your PC.
- On some AMD based Windows systems VirtualBox refuses to run if Hyper-V has been installed or activated even though it is not running at the time, this is a VBox problem rather than a Microsoft problems as other systems like VMware manage to get around this.
- For VBox to work with OS/2 you will have to have a processor with virtualisation extensions, that means most Intel processors made after 2006 with the exception of the Atom line and embedded processors and all AMD 64 bit capable processors bar the first generation. This also means that the AMD-V/Intel VT-x feature must be turned on in the settings notebook.
- The OS/2 video driver that is part of the Guest Additions requires GENGRADD to be installed. You might run into problems if you install the VBox extensions on top of SNAP, so make sure that you choose GenGRADD.
- For installing eComStation 1 and 1.1 on VirtualBox you may need to disable Nested Paging in the "System>Acceleration" tab on the settings pane. It is usually OK to enable Nested Paging again after the systems have been installed.
- If you want to run a widescreen resolution under VBox-gengradd you may have to run the command VBoxManage setextradata to get a custom resolution and in a worst case scenario edit the \OS2\MONITOR.DIF to gain the modes you require.
- If you read the installation instructions for the OS/2 addition you will notice that they ask you to install the extensions exe in a startup.cmd file that does exist on OS/2 but not on eCS, this is not a problem, you can start the extension either from your startup folder or you can create a new startup.cmd in the root of your bootup drive and add the line there, just remember to put the command EXIT to the end of the file.
- Mac users of VBox have reported that eComStation will not install with a HPFS boot partition and that you will have to boot from BJFS.
- If you are running an old version of VBox (such as the old OS/2 one), nested paging MUST be turned off to run some OS/2 versions as guests, this setting is on the System page in the setting notebook, PAE/NX is slightly more difficult, some 3.1.x versions of VBox will not allow eCS to install if this is on, since you will never make actual use of this under eCS unless you are testing experimental OS/2 bootloaders, it is best turned off, but the default setting is on and in most cases will not matter.
- DOS & 16 bit Windows versions
- There are no Guest Additions available for DOS or any 16 bit Windows version, you might just as well run your DOS/Win 16 bit programs from an OS/2 guest or host. You can copy and paste between guest Windows and DOS sessions and the host.
- On top of that VBox has some problems running DOS and Windows 3.x, any version of DOS has a tendency to show screen corruption.
- 2005-04-12: 1.0.37
- 2006-02-03: 1.1.2
- 2006-11-14: 1.2.2
- 2007-01-15: 1.3.2 - first free version
- 2007-06-06: 1.4
- 2007-09-03: 1.5.0 - OS/2 Warp guest additions
- 2008-02-19: 1.5.6
- Sun Microsystems - Sun xVM VirtualBox
- 2008-04-30: 1.6.0 - Solaris and Mac OS X host support
- 2008-09-02: 1.6.6
- 2008-09-04: 2.0.0 - Clipboard integration for OS/2 Guests
- 2009-10-20: 2.0.12
- 2008-12-17: 2.1.0 - Support for hardware virtualization on Mac OS X hosts
- 2009-02-16: 2.1.4
- 2009-04-08: 2.2.0 - OVF (Open Virtualization Format) appliance import and export
- 2009-05-29: 2.2.4
- 2009-06-30: 3.0.0 - Guest SMP with up to 32 virtual CPUs
- 2009-11-30: 3.1.0 - Teleportation (live migration)
- Oracle VM VirtualBox
- 2010-03-18: 3.0.14
- 2010-03-25: 3.1.8
- 2010-05-18: 3.2.0 - Memory ballooning
- 2015-05-19: 3.2.28
- 2015-11-11: 4.0.36
- 2015-11-11: 4.1.44
- 2015-11-11: 4.2.36
- 2016-04-19: 4.3.38 - last version supporting Windows XP host systems
- 2017-04-28: 5.0.40
- 2017-07-18: 5.1.24
- VirtualBox homepage
- VirtualBox forums
- Paul Smedley's VirtualBox port
- VirtualBox source repository
- Instructions on how to install OS/2 Warp 4 on VirtualBox
- Herwig Bauernfeind: VirtualBox 5.0 for OS/2 - A presentation from Warpstock Europe 2016
The binaries for VirtualBox before version 4.0 are released under the proprietary VirtualBox Personal Use and Evaluation License (PUEL). This license still applies nowadays if you download the Extension Pack binaries. The VirtualBox OSE (before version 4.0) was open source software released under the GPL v2. As of VirtualBox 4.0 all packages are released under the terms of the GPL version 2.