A few years ago after yet another one of those hacker scares of compromised browsers and operating systems I decided to get a bit dramatic and stop working primarily on my computer’s host operating system and instead run everything I could inside of virtual machines. VirtualBox has always been my tried and true technology, but in recent months it has suffered a huge plague of major stability problems across all of my host operating systems. These are problems I’ve never had under VirtualBox 4. The 3D drivers seem to get more and more unstable with each subsequent upgrade of Windows or MacOS. Chrome/Chromium/Electron applications that used to run okay now are display artifact hell. With the latest batch of updates audio drivers keep failing, as well as the 3D drivers.
VirtualBox 5 was a major upgrade to the line which had laid stagnant for many years. These are changes that I don’t directly use, but I reluctantly upgraded after it had been out for awhile. My flawless, rock solid stable Linux Mint VMs that I could save and reload ad infinitum day after day no longer recovered from their saved state correctly (no cursor). When I had to upgrade my laptop and got Windows 10 the stability problems with the graphics driver got worse. I decided to go with a less graphically demanding system and started using MATE instead of Cinnamon and Unity. Now it seems that after a few hours video fails to play correctly. If I force reset the audio services I can get back to where I need to be on some of the VMs but on others it is hopeless. Lastly, with the latest Windows 10 update I’m now stuck with using software 3D mode due to major crashes in the video driver when it is piped over the USB3 connected docking station.
I would love to wipe everything and start over with VirtualBox 4 but it’s not supported. They are still making security upgrades for a little while longer, but the installers for my Linux baremetal OS are not available (they only support Ubuntu 14.x lines). For all of the good efforts that the VirtualBox team is putting in it seems like the product gets more unstable and finicky with each release, when it should be the opposite. It seems to me that forking and reviving the VirtualBox 4 line may be in order, assuming that the stability and reliability of the product can’t be returned soon.
The real meat of the problem is that I did successfully convert to working almost solely within VMs. That means these stability problems are a major problem for me. I don’t want to go back to everything running on the host OS. I love being able to crush and build new VMs as I need them even for short lived operations. I need to get back to the rock solid days of just a year or so ago, and I need it to happen fast. If forking VirtualBox to revive the 4.x line isn’t realistic, and admittedly the area of software engineering I’m familiar with doesn’t deal with building that sort of technology in a hands on way, then perhaps I need to look around to alternatives.