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USB, Clipboard, And Troubleshooting

How To: Windows XP Mode In...Ubuntu Linux?
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Can I Copy and Paste?

Back in the early days of desktop virtualization, the guest OS was completely separated from the host. Let's say you need to complete a Web-based research project and input the data into an Excel-only spreadsheet. If you were on Linux years ago and tried to virtualize, you would need to do your research from within the VM (probably in IE) in order to use the copy and paste functions. The alternative was to manually type all of the research data you found Linux-based Web browser into Excel running in the VM. Neither option is appealing.

If you run all your apps from within a VM, what's the point? Why not run that OS natively? Alternatively, why make more work for yourself by throwing out the nearly thirty year-old advent of cut and paste?

With VirtualBox, we've already seen how the keyboard and mouse automatically bind and unbind themselves to the guest OS without the need for special keyboard commands. But how about cut, copy, and paste features? In the past, you would most likely be out of luck (or have had to jump through hoops to get something working). Fortuneately, VirtualBox has reached the point where these staple functions are built-in. Go ahead and give it a try. Copy something from the Web in your Linux-based browser and paste it into Internet Explorer in Windows, or vice versa.


What about my USB Devices?

On page two, we added ourselves to the vboxusers user group. We did this in order to use USB devices via Windows XP. However, the same USB device cannot be used by the guest and the host OS at the same time. Therefore, we need to specify which devices we want to show up in the guest OS. Go ahead and open up XP's VM settings. Make sure XP is shut down, highlight the VM in the VirtualBox main window, and select Settings from the navigation bar. When the Settings window appears, choose USB in the left pane. Under USB Device Filters, click on the Add Filter From Device icon (it's the little USB plug with a green plus sign). A list of your currently plugged-in USB devices will pop up with check boxes next to each. Simply check the device you want the XP guest OS to use and then click OK. For the example in my screenshots, I plugged in two USB sticks (128MB and 4GB), a Canon digital camera, and an HP printer, as well as my Logitech mouse and Altec Lansing speakers, which are always plugged in.

Keep in mind that Mouse Integration from page six will handle USB mice, so there is no need to add a filter for that device. The same holds true for USB speakers, since you are using the audio driver from the host OS and it needs the speakers, not the guest OS. Remember that any device you add a filter for will not be usable in the host OS until the VM is shut down or the filter is removed. I selected one of the USB sticks and the HP printer.

Special digital camera software, PDAs, iTunes? No problem. Just add a filter for the devices you want Windows to use and the next time that you start XP, they will be connected. Note that any device you use in the XP VM will need to be configured just as you would with any PC running XP natively.

Can You Hear Me Now?

One of the most common issues that people have with VirtualBox is garbled, or a total lack of, audio playback. Fortunately, this is relatively easy to troubleshoot. If you noticed sound issues when finalizing the XP installation or afterward, you need to go back to the Settings for the Windows XP VM. In the VirtualBox main window, highlight the XP VM, then click on the Settings button in the navigation bar.

Click on the Audio page in the left pane. Make sure that the check box next to Enable Audio is checked. If it was already checked and you still have no audio, try another driver in the Host Audio Driver field. Boot up XP and test for sound. If necessary, repeat the process. Eventually one of these drivers should work for you.

The Audio Controller field refers to the sound controller on your motherboard or on an installed card. If your sound is still not working properly, check the corresponding hardware manuals to be sure which controller you have.

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