They chose a pretty clever way to run a virtual Linux environment. Based on CoLinux an image of Ubuntu “Hardy Heron” 8.04 gets started inside a virtual machine. The graphic interface interacts via a X-Server for Windows called Xming with the windows desktop. This way you’ve got a portable solution to run a Ubuntu Linux inside Windows without the need to install a single program on your computer.
The installation of Portable Ubuntu is quite easy. You’ve got to download a 450 MB large archive, extract it and run run_portable_ubuntu.bat to start the virtual machine. Seconds after you allows Portable Ubuntu to communicate with your system you’ll find a GNOME panel on the upper border of your screen.
Now you can work with Portable Ubuntu, like you would work on a “normal” Ubuntu. You can install language packs or additional software via the package management. Don’t forget to read – the quite small – documentation of Portable Ubuntu. The standard user is called pubuntu and has 123456 as password. You need this info to get administrative rights inside Portable Ubuntu.
To make thing short I summed up my experience with Portable Ubuntu:
- It’s very easy to access the drive C:\ from Portable Ubuntu. The drive is mounted by default on /mnt/C so you have instant access to your data.
- Portable Ubuntu integrates well into Windows. The “Linux windows” have the window-decorations of your windows desktop and Copy&Paste (only text) between a Linux application and a native windows programm is possible.
- It’s not possible to use administrative tools which use PolicyKit. The “unlock”-buttons are allways inactive, so you can’t raise the level of authorization. Because of that you can’t set the clock, manage users etc.
- I tried Portable Ubuntu on two machines. On one machine everything worked fine. I could easily start Portable Ubuntu and work with it. On the second machine I was able to boot the virtual machine, but the GNOME panel didn’t show up. I don’t know the reason for this, but I’m not sure if Portable Ubuntu runs on every machine.
- The graphical output is not very fast. Inside the included video you can see this pretty good, when I try to start Inkscape. The application is drawn tile by tile.
- Portable Ubuntu still needs administrative rights to run. I created within Windows XP a user with limited rights and tried to run Portable Ubuntu. Unfortunatelly nothing happens when you try to run the starter of the VM…
In other words: Portable Ubuntu is a nice way to show someone Ubuntu without rebooting the system or installing software. This way you can make your first steps on Ubuntu without the risk of ruining your system.
But if you look for a portable software to run a virtual Linux you should better use VirtualBox Portable. It runs faster and has the same feature like a “normal” installation of VirtualBox. But unfortunately there’s still no way to run a virtual Linux inside windows without administrative rights (QEMU without QEMU Accelerator is way too slow…)