Virtual machines in your browser

Updated: July 11, 2014

I must apologize upfront if the title of this article is not the most accurate one. But it will serve its purpose, as you will soon find out. Anyhow, I want to talk to you about running operating systems, other than your operating system, on top of your operating system. Normally, we call this virtualization.

But that's a broad term that covers all sorts of things. We have thin-app virtualization, we have bare-metal provisioning, we have dandy software like VirtualBox and VMware Player, and some hardcore candidates in the Linux space. Then, there's simulation, which is something else entirely. Emulators also deserve their honorable mention, and the typical examples would include DOSBox and PCSX2. Now, how about running operating systems in your browser?

Introducing JSLinux

You know the guy Fabrice Bellard, the lad who wrote QEMU? Well, he is the man behind this awesome little Linux emulator, running as a pure Javascript application. Fire up your favorite browser and enjoy the wonders of modern coding. It's a real Linux and all, with commands and whatnot.

JSLinux 1

JSLinux 2

Introducing Virtual x86

Another great little product. A little cruder than JSLinux, but with more features and options. Virtual x86 comes with several predefined profiles, including operating systems like KolibriOS, a generic Linux 2.6, FreeDOS, Windows 1.0, believe it or not, and some other interesting options.

Then you can setup your own system, with its own CD, floppy and hard disk image. You can also change the boot order, define the memory and video RAM, and finally, send commands and arguments to the system using a serial console.

Virtual x86 1

After you select the desired operating system, Virtual x86 may take a few minutes downloading the base image, and then running it. Rather neat, this whole deal. Anyhow, let's take a look at several of these pre-defined examples.

Virtual x86 KolibriOS example

Virtualx86 Windows 1.0

More reading

In order not to spam too much, I decided to post most of the links to the relevant articles here, rather than in the opening paragraphs of this article. So if you care about some of the virtualization technologies mentioned earlier, please do take a look:

VirtualBox 4 review

VMware Player 4 review

VirtualBox & KVM side-by-side

VirtualBox networking & sharing guide

And more, more, more. Take a look at the virtualization section.


Mark my words. All this wondrous advancement in technology and hardware acceleration in browsers, all that may help you enjoy your 3D donkey pr0n more vividly, but the beauty of Javascript is meant for something else. In fact, one day, when the computers get so powerful and Javascript engines so slick, you will be able to run virtual machines as another tab, in your own favorite Internet software. This is me predicting the future.

JSLinux and Virtual x86 are great examples of this trend. Moreover, they also showcase how smart some people are, and what can be achieved by some rigorous coding. This is truly amazing. Well, now you have food for thought, and new games. Enjoy.


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