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(Excerpts from a comprehensive intro to Virtual Machines)
Imagine this: You need your own private configuration of a couple of servers running on a specific operating system, so that you can document the awesome ways that the servers and apps talk to each other. Setting them up is a pain and takes a lot of time. Besides which, there’s the minor problem that your own computer runs a different operating system. What if someone could simply copy a folder from their machine to yours, and you could click a couple of buttons to say:
Take that setup, make it mine and let me run it from here on in.
That’s what a VM (virtual machine) does for you.
What am I using a VM for?
I’m writing the documentation for the Confluence SharePoint Connector. The connector consists of a couple of plugins for Confluence wiki and a couple of SharePoint features. To run the connector, surprise surprise, you need both Confluence and SharePoint up and running, along with the bits and bobs that each demands.
As a technical writer, it’s really useful for me to have a “tame” version of the application I’m documenting, or at least a private area where I can create my own test data, test out the various “how to” scenarios I’m planning to write up, and create my use cases for screenshots. It’s positively blissful to know that they’ll all be there, unchanged, next time I go looking for them!