Thursday, January 29, 2009

Virtual Surfing with New SaniWeb®

I am writing this blog from inside a virtual machine (also known as a PC emulator or fake computer). I (re)installed Microsoft Virtual PC 2007 on my newly recovered Windows XP PC that was previously riddled with viruses.

This virtual machine has Windows 2000 (which I installed manually) on it. After spending a couple hours installing service packs, I copied the virtual disk drive (also emulated and not accessible by my main OS) onto my backup drive. When I need a new install, I just copy the backup file onto my main drive and I am good to go with a fresh new Windows 2000 install.

I put the latest Firefox and Thunderbird on the machine and it will be my new Internet safety zone. If it gets a virus, I just delete the virtual machine and copy the blank one. My Thunderbird profile is running in a folder which is shared between my real PC and the virtual one. If I get a web virus, it attacks the virtual machine. If I open a bad email attachment, it also attacks the virtual machine. If that happens, just delete, copy a new one, and start over. I likey.

I am keeping a copy of Firefox on the main machine so I can watch Hulu and Netflix only. It will be running with an extension called No Script which gives me power over which sites and which scripts are allowed to run. The home pages for both Internet Explorer and Firefox on the real PC will have home pages that warn in large letters not to surf and they will have links to the Virtual Machine (this is for family and guests who need to borrow my computer). Internet Explorer will be locked down and scripts will be disabled (unless I need to change them for Windows Updates). If I can prevent downloads from these real PC browsers, I will do that too.

Since I already paid them money, PrevX is my antiviral tool (and I will probably put Avira or AVG on the virtual PC).

I chose Microsoft Virtual PC 2007 because I already have an OS/2 virtual machine (ah, the memories!) and it is free. Ironically, Microsoft even wrote some software to make OS/2 interact with the real PC (shared clipboards and mouse tricks)...and to think they were bitter competitors just a decade or so ago. Even without DirectX installed yet it runs YouTube quite well. I know there are more options, but this works for me.

So, SaniWeb® isn't quite as easy as using a paper towel to clean up messes and it wasn't achieved easily, but I think it will keep my stuff protected and serve me well. Okay, my metaphors are getting mixed...time to sign off. :D


Obvious Plant said...

Wow, Snab. Totally awesome setup. I've love your blog totally.

catpsi said...

meaning no disrespect, but this arrangement seems so convuluted... werent you running some version of linux a while back? heck now you can even run ubuntu linux installed on the same partition and in the same file system as Windows - why not run Firefox & Thunderbird from there? look:

Don Snabulus said...


meaning no disrespect

[The Tick Voice]None comprehended.[/The Tick Voice]

Wubi does appear simpler, but I like having the OS/2 partition and I now have an Ubuntu partition in addition to Windows. Also, while Linux is certainly more secure than Windows, it is not completely secure. Things can still happen (which is why my first Ubuntu update installed 245 of them). With my current setup, I can just save my bookmarks.html, delete, and copy in the backup folder without missing a beat.

The Linux machine you were referring to was on a different, older, and slower PC which is now a file/backup server.

You don't have to answer this if you don't want, but do I know you?

catpsi said...

sure, you know me! i ran a site called "Eugene Torrents" that you linked to for awhile (it's gone now, but i see some creeps acquired the domain name for whatever creepy purposes they might have).

re: your ubuntu partition, did you put the /home on a separate partition from the system? if not, you should do that next time - if anything goes wrong (post-update for example) you can just do a re-install (or "archive & install in os x parlance) and go right back into your account without losing any (or most) of your customizations/data.

if you didn't do this, with some effort you might be able to do so after the fact... i googled up which might be of assistance there, although it doesn't seem to go into non-destructive re-partiontioning in any detail (at least at a quick glance, i gather).

i hope that helps, i hear you about your beloved os/2 VM, hehe ... perhaps you can take an image of it and save it for use with VirtualBox (once you get rid of Windows completely one day... ;-P )... sorry i don't get back here often enough for a good background on your latest events. cheers

catpsi said...

one more thing i thought to mention is the "Foxmarks" Firefox extension, which would let you auto-sync your bookmarks to another computer (allowing you to very simply sync them back again for restore purposes if you had a problem). you might check that out... see: or just - the advantage there would be that you wouldn't even have to worry about backing up your bookmarks.html assuming it's syncing to somewhere else you have access to).

Don Snabulus said...


Ah, I understand now. That is cool that you still happen by now and again. I liked the ET site.

I will keep in mind the Ubuntu hint. On my virtual machine, I just did a default install, but I will be using it mostly for testing Linux versions of all my great software ideas I never act upon.

I will download the FF sync extension. I have several instances that it would be nice to sync up.

Don Snabulus said...

I wubi'd.

catpsi said...

cool - i've never done it, although it'd be interesting to "wubi" as you say while running my vm of xp. are you intending to replace your own vm of xp and use this? the upside would be you wouldn't need virtual pc at all (presumably less overhead?).. with foxmarks, you instantly have your firefox up & running again, and of course could still use Thunderbird after migrating your mboxes over.

Don Snabulus said...

I cleared some HD and installed Wubi. I left everything else as is. The install was quite easy, and it is fast (my first time using Ubuntu on a dual core processor). However, it seemed, for some reason, glitchier than my actual Ubuntu on the older PC or my Ubuntu VM in this machine.

I think part of the cause might be that this PC is an ultra micro Sony Vaio UX w/ a PDA sized screen that only supports a couple non-standard resolutions. I was able to get it to run 1024x768 on my external monitor, but something was still amiss on the PDA monitor (which could not be disabled). Some times programs would not load...the system monitor would close itself when I chose the Processes tab...and some other stuff. It probably works fine on a standard PC or laptop, just not this Sony weirdo.

I am going to leave Wubi on there until surfing the forums lends an answer as to whether to keep it. Either way, I am fairly happy with my setup.

Thanks for the suggestions!