(UPDATE: A reader has pointed out that the specific problem that I was trying to address is actually solvable using another workaround. Due to bugs in VirtualBox shared folders handling symlinks, they were actually disabled on purpose…and no check box was provided in the UI to turn them back on. But if you’re a “risk taker” and have read the issues and don’t think they affect you, you can use VBoxManage to enable it on a case by case basis…for particular shares in a particular VM.
So if you go to the directory where your virtual machine lives, and the VM name is VM_NAME with your share named SHARE_NAME, you just need to type:
VBoxManage setextradata VM_NAME
That turns shared links back on, for that VM and that share. And if you don’t know how to mount VirtualBox shares from within the client in read/write, in my case you have to specify your user id as MY_ID in the following way:
sudo mount -t vboxsf -o uid=MY_ID,rw share /path/to/share
In my basic tests, this seems to work. If anyone has insights into what the actual dangers to doing this are, please add a comment.)
Before I mentioned how I had moved from VMWare to VirtualBox, so that more of the stack I use would be open source. Besides the “Genuine Windows” VM re-activation annoyance I mention (due to a perceived hardware change), everything seemed to go fine after that.
A couple months later I hit a snag. In my configuration I wanted to keep certain project directories on the host…and be able to read and write those directories in the guest. I expected to be able to use the “Shared Folders” feature, which does exactly this. It’s built into VirtualBox:
But eventually I ran into a problem…
VirtualBox shared folders don’t support the creation of symbolic links by the guest in a directory owned by the host. Not even if the underlying file system on the host supports them..
How to work around this? Networked filesystems were one answer, but have never been something I looked at favorably. They’ve always seemed overly complicated to set up, and platforms pull support for any given one at the drop of a hat. Plus, they offer ridiculously opaque error messages which give you no indication of what setting you might tweak to make them work.
So despite being the type of person who snarls at people who back up source code with zip files and demand they learn to use version control, I’ve been a luddite when it comes to networked filesystems. Rather than go through the pain of setting them up, I’d frequently resort to zipping up a directory…putting it on a ftp server…then downloading it to the other computer! :-/
But zipping the problem away wasn’t going to be an option in this case. So it was time to bite the bullet. I’m going to explain how I set up NFS on an OS/X host with a Debian VM.