Jan 14, 2014

The virtue of virtual machines for translation

The year 2014 started for me with new stationary working hardware and plans for using it via remote access as some of my clever colleagues and friends have already done for years with their high-powered desktop systems. For more than a decade I've worked on laptop computers, but a RAM-loaded tower with solid state drives just makes more sense now for the kinds of work I do.

The new configuration is particularly well-suited for using virtual machines, such as those with can be created with VirtualBox or VMware. I have used VMware for more than a decade now, mostly as a way to continue using ancient translation dictionaries which cannot be run under newer versions of the Windows operating system, but also as a way of using some Linux tools on a machine that is otherwise configured for other operating systems. This time I'm going a little further and using a VMware configuration to quarantine SDL Trados Studio 2014 and keep its current difficulties with Java from affecting the rest of my system. I wish I had done this with earlier versions of SDL Trados, and I paid the price of stupidity often enough by getting my Microsoft Office installations screwed up every time.

Virtual machines also solve another problem I face when documenting workflow solutions for memoQ and comparing them in different versions. It's rather a nuisance to close one version and open another simply to look at a dialog or make a simple screenshot; now I can simply launch the older version of the software in the window for a virtual machine. Time saved. Less stress.

Although I do have an old VMware Workstation license, I'm now using version 6.0 of the free VMware Player, which is able to create its own virtual machines. The free converter from VMware also enables me to create virtual machines from my old laptop and netbook configurations. I also plan to try Windows XP Mode under Windows Virtual PC for some applications.

What are the potential benefits for other translators to use virtual machine solutions?
  • Continued use of older dictionaries or software versions for which updates may not be available or needed
  • Safe testing and/or isolation of new software or upgrades you don't trust
  • Use of other operating systems or software versions for documentation. When I did a lot of software manual translation years ago, I used several virtual machines with different versions of Windows in various languages to keep track of differences in system paths, etc.
  • Access to tools or other resources available only for another operating system.
Shared folders allow easy passing of data between virtual machines and the host system (your main computer configuration). There are probably a number of other benefits; I've only listed the ones I have made use of many times over the past 13 years and will use to a greater extent once again.

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