I discovered “Portable Ubuntu for Windows” by accident. It was linked in an odd thread on the Ubuntu Forums :
Can’t run native Linux applications in XP, PLEASE HELP. (See post # 45 )
The home page is here : Portable Ubuntu for Windows (sourceforge)
No, this is not dual booting Ubuntu from a flash drive, it is portable virtualization the runs in user space (no administrative access required).
Portable Ubuntu for Windows is CoLinux with an Ubuntu 8.04 (desktop) image and Xming. Colinux is bare metal (low overhead, no fancy gui or management tools) virtualization for Windows. Xming is a X server for windows (cygwin would be an alternate X server).
OK, I am familiar with CoLinux as I had taken it for a spin a few years ago. Time to take a second look at CoLinux and see what, if any progress had been made.
Portable Ubuntu, once the archive is decompressed, takes about 2 Gb of space on your hard drive / Flash drive.
The improvements are (in no particular order) :
The biggest improvement, IMO, is that Colinux and Xming are portable as advertised. They are distributed as a set of binaries and DO NOT require either installation onto the Windows host or administrative access.
Networking is obtained via NAT but does not require a TAP or change your Windows Network configuration. Again the Networking is all run in “user space” and does not require administrative access on Windows. iptables works well on the guest if you wish to firewall the guest. Ping does not work on the guest.
The Ubuntu guest runs on 256 Mb RAM. Despite this small amount of RAM it actually runs quite fast (from hard drive, slower if you run it from a flash drive). You could add swap disk if you wish (I have not done this yet).
The Ubuntu image can be increased in size from the Windows command line.
Integration between guest and host is outstanding. First there is a shared clipboard (on Xming) and copy-paste between host and guest works well, although in most applications you have to use the menu to copy and paste as the keyboard and mouse short cuts often fail. Sound integration also works out of the box and I was able to stream audio (radio stations) using audacious in Ubuntu and the sound was quite good on the Windows host.
Last file sharing is a snap. The Windows C:\ drive is mounted in the Ubuntu guest. No need for samba, NFS, ssh, ftp, etc to share files between host an guest. I was able to open documents on the Windows host, edit them, and save the changes with both gedit and Abiword (OpenOffice is NOT included on the Ubuntu image).
Conclusion: As you can see, I was impressed with the improvements in CoLinux since the last time I took it for a spin. Portable Ubuntu for Windows is a Open Source option which allows bare metal virtualization on Windows without requiring either installation onto the Windows host or administrative access.