running oracle virtualbox on macos 11.6 big sur

I run Linux virtual machines on my MacBook Pro. The MBP is a mid-2019 machine with an i9, 64 GiB of memory, and 4 TB of SSD. It is a powerful developer machine that has been in constant use since I purchased it last June.

One of the tasks I use the MBP for is running Linux virtual machines. For that purpose, there are two well-known tools; Oracle’s VirtualBox, which is open source and free, and Parallels Desktop, which is commercial. Both are capable of running most Linux distributions I care about, and Parallels is known for running Windows, and rather seamlessly, on the macOS desktop. The only problem is I have no need to run Windows as a VM, as the critical application Office is available as a native macOS application.

One major difference between VirtualBox and Parallels is that VirtualBox appears to need a kernel extension installed for its VMs to operate. VirtualBox ran just fine until I updated macOS to 11.6. It ran without issue on every release before that. When I stepped up to Big Sur 11.6, VirtualBox VMs would no longer boot.

Every time I would attempt to start a VirtualBox VM, I would get something like the following:

along with this:

Very annoying to say the least. I finally solved the problem thusly:

  • Boot the MBP into macOS recovery mode following these directions:
  • When in recovery mode, open a terminal (Utilities > Terminal), using the menus on the upper left.
  • In the terminal execute csrutil enable --without kext
  • In the terminal execute spctl kext-consent disable

Then reboot out of recovery mode and back into macOS. The next time you attempt to start a VirtualBox VM, you will succeed.

I ran into another issue when I upgraded from VirtualBox 6.1.26 to 6.1.28. Under 6.1.28 I ran into the same VM boot issue, even though the documented changes were still in place. When I downgraded back to 6.1.26 it all started to work again.

If you’re wondering why I just don’t run everything under Parallels, it’s because Fedora and some of the other distributions I need to run don’t work very well with Parallels. The only distribution that works without issue under Parallels, regardless of version, is Ubuntu or Ubuntu derived distributions. Most of the time I’m quite OK with Ubuntu, but every now and then I need to I need to dip into Fedora.

My final thoughts on all of this: I spent six grand on this MBP. It’s my MBP, and as far as I’m concerned it will do what I want it to do, not what someone else feels it should be doing. Installing and running a kernel extension on macOS should not be a problem, and blocking it from installing is laziness on someone’s part who’ve decided perhaps it’s too much trouble to make sure that capability continues to work from release to release. I’m sure that trying to get a kernel extension running on top of Apple Silicon probably doesn’t work at all, which is why I’m not rushing out to get a new machine using it. I’m not interested in finding out that I can no longer dive into the internals and do what I want it to do.

nicholas joseph purry update

Nicholas Joseph “Nick” Purry is fifteen weeks old, and has nearly doubled in size (or at least, in weight) since he came to live with us back in September. He got his second and final dose of Nobivac Feline 1-HCP on 18 October. At that time he weighed 4.5 pounds. When he came to live with us he was 3 pounds in weight. He’s a ball of energy, a streak around the house when he runs, and he runs quite a bit of the time. He keeps the other five cats in the household on their figurative and literal toes. No fighting, mind you, but everybody watches out to see where Nick is.

Typical of any kitten, Nick shows no fear as he explores the big world of the house and outside screened in area. I don’t let any of my cats outside the house, but they do like the outdoors provided by the screened in area around our little therapy pool.

He’s slowly integrating into the overall clowder. Most of the current crew are now indifferent to him, except for Zoë, who has adopted the little guy and likes to play with him and groom him. And because Nick loves to run, Danï loves to run with him, side-by-side around the house and across the screened in area.

I keep worrying about Nick’s loss of his left eye, and wondering how it might affect his depth perception and actions that require it like jumping and climbing, but it doesn’t seem to have had any adverse affect at all. He is growing and thriving on a daily basis. He might be the smallest cat right now, but I have a feeling he’s going to be physically huge by the time he finally grows up.