Growing a VirtualBox disk with ZFS on it

I have a VirtualBox VM on a Windows host with a 32 GB disk. That disk is partitioned with GPT and has four partitions: a boot partition, a swap partition, a smallish UFS root partition, and a ZFS partition. I need more space in the latter, so let’s grow it.

Continue reading “Growing a VirtualBox disk with ZFS on it”

Backing up your VMs

A few weeks ago, I finally got my Drobo (a B800i with eight 2 TB disks) set up correctly so I can back up my Windows 7 computer to it. The only data I really care about on that computer are my VirtualBox VMs—so imagine my surprise when I discovered today that they weren’t being backed up! It turns out that with the default settings (“let Windows choose”), it does not back up your entire home directory, but only AppData, your desktop, your libraries, and a handful of other directories (including Downloads). Since VirtualBox stores VMs in a separate directory under your home directory rather than in AppData\Local or even My Documents, Windows Backup does not include them. If you want it to, you’ll have to either configure backups manually, or create a library that includes your VMs.

In the end, it doesn’t really matter, because backing up a VM’s disk image while it’s running is mostly pointless. Until now, I’ve been backing up my FreeBSD desktop by the simple expedient of rsync’ing ~des to a server with redundant storage; when I get around to it, I’ll set up a Bacula server backed by the Drobo.

The return of the FreeBSD desktop

I have a confession to make: I haven’t used FreeBSD as a desktop OS for years. The reason is twofold:

  1. Since 2005, my work has required me to run Linux (Debian and Ubuntu at Linpro, RedHat at the University of Oslo) and, briefly, Windows at Kongsberg Maritime. I eventually stopped using stationary computers, resorting instead to a (company-provided) laptop running either Ubuntu, or Windows with Ubuntu in VirtualBox.
  2. More importantly, around the time I started at Linpro, it became increasingly difficult to maintain a FreeBSD desktop. The modularization of and the increasing complexity of desktop environments mean that the number of packages required for a complete desktop system has grown from a bit over 100 to well over 600 (in addition to the kernel and base operating system, which is monolithic in FreeBSD). The FreeBSD ports system does not scale well, and the lack of a proper binary update procedure makes it almost impossible to keep that many packages up-to-date.

This is about to change. Continue reading “The return of the FreeBSD desktop”


It seems that over the last few months, SunOracle have finally fixed some of the most annoying bugs in VirtualBox:

  • Stale DNS info: fixed in 3.2.2, which was released a few days ago.
  • Keyboard: fixed, but I don’t know when. I just suddenly realized I hadn’t encountered that bug in a long time. Possibly related to this bug, which was fixed in 3.1.8.
  • Clock: fixed; not sure when, but probably in 3.1.4. There is a changelog entry that sounds about right, but no ticket.