The best way to test software?

Discussion in 'sandboxing & virtualization' started by bgoodman4, Oct 22, 2009.

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  1. bgoodman4

    bgoodman4 Registered Member

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    I have 2 excellent programs but unfortunately they do not play nice together (or at least not as nice as I would like). They are Shadow Protect and RollBack RX. I have the former on my desktop and the latter on my Tablet PC. RollBack is excellent especially when it comes to testing new software or opening an e-mail or file that I am suspicious of. Its very fast to create a snap and a simple reboot and I can be back to the point before the install. Shadow Protect is also excellent and it is able to store images off line, and while it is fast it is not nearly as fast as RX. I would put both on the same PC except its a bit of a nuisance to have to uninstall RX every time I want to image my C drive (thats where the OS is the data is on the D: drive).

    I also have Returnil which would be a good solution except that it will not allow a reboot which will keep the installed software that I want to test.

    So whats the best way to do this. Should I just install both RX & SP on the same PC and "fix the MBR" if it comes to that? Should I use a program like ZSoft uninstaller (still rather slow since it takes time to do the pre and post install analysis)? Or is there some other solution? Perhaps a Returnil like program that will allow for reboots,,,,,, or,,,,, perhaps an approach I am not aware of.
     
  2. Meriadoc

    Meriadoc Registered Member

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    vbox
    virtualpc
    vmware
     
  3. LenC

    LenC Registered Member

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    I'm an SP fan. I take an image and restore it if something gets screwed up with a software test. Pretty simple and SP has never let me down. I also have returnil, but am using it less and less because of the reboot issue. Also, I've been told (on this forum) by people smarter than me that it is bad idea to run SP and Rollback together.
     
  4. Raza0007

    Raza0007 Registered Member

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    A virtual environment is the best way to test software. Go for Virtualbox, as it is free and has more options than Virtualpc.

    The best currently is still Vmware workstation, but it is not free.

    You can use SP and rollback together, just make sure when you make an SP image you select the option of a "sector-by-sector" backup. It might be called differently in SP. It is an image of the entire hard drive/partition including free space, so it will capture the rollback snapshots too. After you are done testing harmful software, simply restore the SP image and you will get rollback snapshots restored back too.

    And if you dont want to install them together, just "take and restore" the SP image from outside windows, through the bootcd
     
  5. bgoodman4

    bgoodman4 Registered Member

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    Thanks for the replies,,,I really like ShadowProtect (and RX) too, its just that it takes too much time to do an image and possible restore if I just (for example) want to open a suspect e-mail (but I feel it MIGHT be legit and important). Mind you for this sort of thing I can use Returnil as its as fast as RX.

    I will take a look at the virtualization programs suggested and see if they do it for me for the program testing. Oh, and while free is good I have no problem paying for a program that will give me what I want/need. Thats why I paid for a ShadowProtect licence (for example) so Vmware workstation is certainly an option. Could I trouble you for a brief "why its best" summary?

    Any further comments/suggestions/alternatives will be most welcome.
     
  6. Raza0007

    Raza0007 Registered Member

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    One of the major advantage Vmware has over Virtualbox is that you can jump back and forth between snapshots on Vmware, but in Virtualbox you can only revert back to a snapshot.

    So for software testing Vmware is advantageous, as you can install a software and then take a snapshot, then save that particular snapshot and revert back to your regular session. You can switch to the snapshot when ever you need to test the software and go back to your regular session when you do not need to use the software under test.

    I am sure there are other befits too.

    See here https://www.wilderssecurity.com/showthread.php?t=248350&highlight=virtualbox

    and here https://www.wilderssecurity.com/showthread.php?t=250832&highlight=virtualbox

    keep in mind that virtualbox is upgrading at an alarming rate. It will most likely overcome this snapshot shortcoming soon.
     
  7. firzen771

    firzen771 Registered Member

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    i use rollback rx for all my software testing needs, never failed yet.
     
  8. bgoodman4

    bgoodman4 Registered Member

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    That is quite interesting,,,I really like the idea of being able to save a snapshot of an installation and then call it up when needed. Can the snaps be save of-line (on a 2nd drive)? If I have my OS on the C: drive and my data files on D will both drives be virtualized and contained in the saved snap or will only the OS be covered?

    EDIT: this program sounds awesome,,,the following is from https://www.wilderssecurity.com/showpost.php?p=1506679&postcount=11 and it would appear as if this is the one I have been looking/hoping for. For this kind of functionality I will have no problem shelling out the dollars. The other programs MAY catch up,,,but this one does it now. In fact from the following it sounds a lot like the old First Defense that I have heard so much about ---- is this correct or am I missing something?


     
    Last edited: Oct 23, 2009
  9. Raza0007

    Raza0007 Registered Member

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    Let me clarify what Vmware does. It will not virtualize your PC's hard disk, it will create a virtual environment inside your hard disk, complete with its own OS and a virtual hard drive. Your virtual environment is isolated from the host (your computer). You can however choose to share a folder from your host OS, so both host and virtual environment has access to it.

    Let me give you an example, I have Vista on my PC and a Winxp VM. The VM is installed inside a separate folder. All files related to the VM, including the snapshots, are contained inside that folder. If I want I can just copy that folder and take it with me and my VM with its snapshots goes with me.

    So, when I need to try a harmful software, I run the VM from inside Vista and boot Winxp. It boots inside my Vista. I can work on Vista at the same time by simply minimizing the Vmware window.

    I hope I clarified it for you. The best solution for you is to download Vmware workstation and try it. I personally find it extremely helpful.
     
  10. LenC

    LenC Registered Member

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    Using SP, I have a schedule that runs a weekly full backup and then a daily incremental backup. So if I am about to test something, I run an incremental which only takes about two minutes.
     
  11. bgoodman4

    bgoodman4 Registered Member

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    o_O?? so unlike Returnil (which I have on my single drive laptop) the program is not replicating (virtualizing) my existing PC set up? Its creating a new, bare bones OS inside my PC, none of my programs etc, just the OS as if it were a brand new set-up?

    This is excellent and was what I was hoping you would say. So the obvious question (well obvious to me anyway) is why bother at all with imaging software. Presumably the snapshot will be loadable on any PC that has VMware installed on it and will function as if a normal OS so you no longer need to image a drive (which is time consuming to do and of course even more time consuming to restore). Or am I still missing something? (which no doubt I am).

    I fully intend to give VMware a try, it just sounds too good to be true (or at least as I understand it so far) and I want to get an idea of what I may be not understanding.
     
    Last edited: Oct 23, 2009
  12. bgoodman4

    bgoodman4 Registered Member

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    Understood, and normally that would be all I would need or want,,,,except I have gotten used to the speed and ease of use that RollBack RX provides. Under 2 seconds to create a snapshot, and a quick reboot to restore to a previous state. SPs incremental are very fast but the restore is still more involved than would be the case with a SP image......I guess I am just getting lazy, before RX I would have seen SP imaging as the way to go for testing, now, with RX and VMware it seems like there is an easier way to go.....And easier is often (but not always) better.

    By the way, I have SP set-up like you. Weekly baselines and daily incrementals. This is for my OS drive. My data drive is base-lined weekly and incrementals are done every 30 min. I do graphics work and potentially losing 4 or 5 hours of work is not something I wish to contemplate. When I am actually working on a model I will switch to incrementals every 15 min and then back to 30 min when I am done. You would think a longer time between incrementals would be sufficient for most purposes on my PC but I often get distracted and forget to change the setting (very focused when working) so the 30 min normal, 15 min when working (if I remember to change it) seems to me a good set-up.
     
  13. Raza0007

    Raza0007 Registered Member

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    Yes! exactly. The VM is like an entirely new machine. Perhaps that is why it is called a VM (virtual machine). You get a new OS with its own programs and settings etc.

    The benefit of an imaging software is that it protects your host computer and its OS, programs, settings etc. It of course depends on you whether you feel the need to backup your host computer.
     
    Last edited: Oct 23, 2009
  14. Meriadoc

    Meriadoc Registered Member

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    or you could convert your physical machine or image to a vm
     
  15. bgoodman4

    bgoodman4 Registered Member

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    Ah, thats what I would want to do. The only way to see if there would be conflicts between existing programs & settings with the test program would be to run them together.

    Any one care to comment about the functionality of the original First Defence program and VMware?
     
  16. bgoodman4

    bgoodman4 Registered Member

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    But would a snap of the VM (assuming it was a replica of your physical system etc) not fill that function?

    Don't get me wrong, I do back-up using imaging software (ShadowProtect & Paragon) but it sounds like a VM snap will do the same thing. The question is of course will it do the same thing.
     
  17. bgoodman4

    bgoodman4 Registered Member

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    I just took a look at the VMware site and already I am confused. I think the 2 products that would be appropriate for me would be VMware Workstation and VMware Player. Is this correct or one of the other ones (or some combination).

    I like to get a good idea of whats what before I jump,,,I found the documentation page and probably the doc I would want to look at first would be Desktop Virtualization > Desktop Products, is this correct or is there something I should look at first. I have limited knowledge in this field (an understatement for sure). Apart from some experience with Returnil I know nothing about virtualization.

    EDIT: hummm, looks like the documentation page is more promo than actual info. Is there a users manual thats available for download?
     
    Last edited: Oct 23, 2009
  18. Meriadoc

    Meriadoc Registered Member

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    The Player is free to play your vms but cannot create vms although there are online services to help (easyvmx.) VMWare server is also free and you can create vms.

    Trial Workstation you also get Player. If it meets your needs you can upgrade a .5 of a version.

    Vbox from Sun and VirtualPC from Microsoft are free.
     
    Last edited: Oct 24, 2009
  19. bgoodman4

    bgoodman4 Registered Member

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    I found some U-Tube videos on VMware and its clearly going to take some work to get to set up and use. Is there any way to simply replicate my current system (along with programs) as a virtual machine? The idea of having to go through the entire set-up procedure is not very enticing. I suppose I could do the basic set-up and then do a restore using one of my SP images. Would this work or is there an easier way?
     
  20. Meriadoc

    Meriadoc Registered Member

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    VMWare Converter is free and quick.

    Physical to virtual. ShadowProtect, Ghost, Acronis and Paragon are VMWare friendly.

    Workstation has a nice easy install feature for newer Windows and Linux OSes that lets you enter name, password and key in the vm creation wizard. It then goes on to install the operating system and vm tools without bothering you.

    VMs aren't all about testing software though. Have a look at the ready made appliances at VMWare or make your own for example I have a TorVM that can run in the background and give my host privacy and anonymity, firewall vms SmoothWall and Astaro appliance. Workstation has another nice feature called Unity mode where Workstation in minimized and can access the guest in a host window. Play with it, take your vms with you, screw the OS up as much as you wish knowing you can go back to or forward to a snap shot or revert on restart.

    example of snap shots taken with Workstation...
     

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    Last edited: Oct 23, 2009
  21. bgoodman4

    bgoodman4 Registered Member

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    Thank you, this is, I think, the clincher.

    So it looks like the programs I will need are VMware Workstation, VMware Player, and VMware Converter. Considering that 2 out of the 3 are free the price for Workstation is not bad at all. I would have expected to pay for each component separately which is a typical business model.

    Thanks to all for your guidance and insight. I will be getting into this virtualization business in the very near future. An added bonus will be the ability to explore other operating systems such as Linux, something I have wanted to do for quite a while but had been put off from doing due to the need for a dual boot system. The guys who built my machine for me suggested I would be asking for trouble if I set this sort of thing up,,,something about stability issues. Now I can explore worry free.
     
  22. Raza0007

    Raza0007 Registered Member

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    A VM snap will only take the snapshot of your virtual machine, not your physical machine.

    But if your virtual machine is a replica of your physical machine, then of course, the snapshot of your VM will be the same as a snapshot of your physical machine.

    You already have shadowprotect. It supports P2P, P2V, V2P and V2V

    All you need to do it to take an image of your physical machine and restore it inside your VM and vice versa.

    I have never done this myself so cant guide you but play with it, I am sure it must be easy and automated.

    Doing P2V you do not need to re-install your programs back.
     
  23. bgoodman4

    bgoodman4 Registered Member

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    Thank you for your reply Raza0007, this is one awesome program.

    I will def have to spend some time going through the user docs so I can learn the ins and outs of the program. Simple the program is clearly not, but then with the power and capability of the program I am not surprised that there would be a relatively/moderately steep learning curve.
     
    Last edited: Oct 26, 2009
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