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Review: Alfonso V. Romero’s VirtualBox 3.1

This by far is not a complete analysis of everything in the book (a spoiler), but a short text on what I found out reading it. If you decide to buy it, please use my affiliate link to give me some bucks. Thanks.

I’ve been asked by Disha Parekh of Packt Publishing to review VirtualBox 3.1, a new book by Alfonso V. Romero.
This book is for beginners, and, admittedly, I’m not one: I’ve been diving into virtual machines in general, and VirtualBox in particular, for a while, mostly thanks to my project.

Most books aimed at beginners try to incite the reader into going further – that’s perfectly fine – by saying that everything is easy and intuitive; now, it’s the use of that adjective, intuitive, that often makes me upset. I’ve been hearing it through several of my bachelor degree’s courses, and always when the hardest news were coming.

As an alternative to what I have said, some other author simply try to enlighten how important their knowledge in their field is by adding forty more pages about a corollary whose practical use is left as an exercise to the reader. And yet you have to read them, otherwise you would not understand what comes next.

Romero did not do any such thing, and that made me go past the first chapter; his wit and care in using one or two images where he could have written several boring paragraphs did the rest.

His style reminded me of a book I have read during high school that is in many ways responsible for my aim to become a professional programmer: Who’s afraid of C++? by Steve Heller. That was an absolute beginner’s guide to programming: instead of starting using BASIC or Pascal (both little more than toy languages), I had to luck to start with C++. It was not a conscious choice: it was the only book I could afford that included a complete compiler for MS-DOS!

Apart from this trivia, should you ever get a copy of that book (it has been obsolete for several years), you would see that your trip through programming is like a friendly walk, and in no time you are building serious applications – I mean, something easier than a full-blown word processor, but much more advanced than a stupid “Hello, world”, that’s for sure.

This approach is what I find valuable in Romero’s book, or, as they put it in the back cover of his book, “learn by doing, start working right away… leave out the boring bits”.

And even if you know something about VirtualBox™, either because you read a forum or some document on the Internet, you might find this book a fast reference for some niche tasks. For example, I had always wanted to know how to use VirtualBox as an headless virtual machine server, and never found an explanation that sufficed me: chapter 8 was really helpful, even if I was not a complete newbie.