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I'd like to make a certain application portable.

The normal version acesses a server. The "portable" (virtualized) version is meant to work with the server unreachable.

It should contain a copy of XAMPP and an edited hosts file so when the application tries to reach the server it is redirected by the virtual hosts file to its own virtualized local server.

Simple enough in theory, but possible? Thinapp doesn't virtualize the network interface.

Am I screwed then? :(

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VMWare Player will virtualize the network interface. (it is not free for non-education and commercial distributions)

But if it is just a "web app" that is being run local then you should be able to write a little installation peice that would edit the hosts file and adds the proper entry. There is a free software installer called Nullsoft scriptable install system. NSIS can open and edit files, and you could you that method to edit the hosts file. This way you could just call the XAMPP installer or use a distribution like IndigoPerl that can run from a directory just by coping.

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The idea would be to make it run without touching the OS, so I'm still going after that. Do you know if any of the virtual machines that support seamless mode (QEMU and VirtualBox can also do it AFAIK) can be asked to open one application in such a mode instead of showing the VM to the user? Maybe just having them start in seamless mode would be fine because the rest could be done inside the OS (such as disabling the guest's explorer.exe and starting the application and server immediately). Something like Player.exe -seamless. –  Camilo Martin Sep 21 '10 at 2:27
    
If this is a web app even if you use seamless you will still be distributing the image file of the OS along with all source etc. I almost think that it would be easier to get portable LAMP and then just run a regex to change all references of server.com to localhost that way it can just be run and will only open a port on the local machine for the web server. –  Robert Leckie Sep 21 '10 at 16:14
    
Well in the end I just made it into a very very tiny (100MB compressed with 7z, 150MB as appliance) XP VM with pretty much every service and system component disabled that opens Firefox (+"Full Fullscreen" addon) in fullscreen at boot and uses nginx as a server. I just don't think anyone will fuss about such a small thing, and I suspect even developers in corporate enviroinments get away with workarounds like this... –  Camilo Martin Sep 27 '10 at 18:54
    
By the way it runs Firefox smoothly with 192MB for the whole VM and pagefile disabled, plus boots before the boot progress bar cycles for the first time. I'm impressed at what some editing can do. –  Camilo Martin Sep 27 '10 at 18:58

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