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I want to create a portable VM setup so that I can boot a Linux install regardless of which Windows XP / Windows 7 host machine I am on.

I was looking at Qemu but it doesn't appear to have a relatively safe win32 build (The build I found in Google noted that it had recently had an "infected" USB driver). There was also another Qemu build but I'm not sure it's even the right path do go down.

Other environments like VirtualBox require complete install on the host OS for performance reasons. I'm not so concerned about performance, I just want to run a few curses based applications.

My ideal end goal would be a a memory stick of some size with a VM/Emulator I can boot on most WinXP/Windows 7 machines and access my own curses based applications (probably Arch Linux or Debian).

Any help would be appreciated.

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do these curses apps really need a full Linux environment? a stripped-down "portable" Cygwin environment would be much lighter (all you need is your libraries and the Cygwin DLL), but naturally not everything can be recompiled under cygwin. – quack quixote Mar 24 '10 at 7:29
That's a good question Quack. Right now I've managed to get Qemu running though with Arch Linux. I'll also investigate Cygwin then return with my findings. Either way I'll get this answered (on superuser) in the next few days. – Jotham Mar 24 '10 at 10:34

I think QEMU is the only way to go. All other virtualization applications I know of require an installation.

Please correct me if I'm wrong.

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It doesn't really answer your question, but have you considered putting a proper Linux distribution on the USB drive. I am thinking of something along the lines of installing your program onto a machine in Suse Studio and then taking the live distro with you...

This obviously wouldn't work if you require Windows to be runnung when you use your program, but may be appropriate.

Alternatively, a remote machine may be of some use for you, eg Geekshells.

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Yeah I don't want to have to reboot the machine or anything. I already have permanent access to a number of remote machines. I thought I outlined my ambition pretty clearly. – Jotham Mar 25 '10 at 2:38

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