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Running VMware Player under Linux

By Tina Gasperson on February 01, 2006 (8:00:00 AM)

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After testing VMware's new Player on Windows a few weeks ago, I wanted to see how it performs on Linux. While the Player is a great tools for Windows users who want to see what its like to run Linux, the inverse of that equation doesn't play out the same way. Curiously, Microsoft wasn't interested in loaning me a Windows XP image, but that was OK. I tried another operating system instead -- a Linux distribution that looks like it could be a lot of fun.

The process of getting VMware Player installed on Linux was time-consuming. When I realized that it wasn't going to go as smooth as butter, I was a little disappointed. I don't have a few spare days to tinker with my computer. Linux on the desktop has come a long way in the last few years, but apparently not all the kinks are gone.

I've been using SimplyMEPIS on my HP Pavilion zt1170 laptop. This isn't a review of that distribution, so suffice it to say that I have been very happy with Mepis's performance throughout the entire process of installing, configuring, and living with it. Because of that, I was surprised that it didn't want to play nice with the Player. Apparently, VMware's product has some issues with matching kernel headers that span the distributions. If you've ever updated your Linux system, there's a good chance that your headers don't match up with the kernel source. If I'd realized the problem right away, I wouldn't have taken the drastic measure of (temporarily) giving up on SimplyMEPIS and downloading and installing Ubuntu.

But that's what I did because I was in a hurry and I figured Ubuntu was a safe bet. That's the distribution VMware chose to build its browser appliance with, so if anything was going to have the right configuration for a smooth install, it was going to be Ubuntu. I was right about that -- the installation went fine. Much to my chagrin, however, after I updated my system later, the Player decided not to start up anymore. I did get things working properly after downloading and installing gcc and the right headers version. It took me a while to determine the problem, though, and that's a problem -- but I won't go on a rant about how my desire to use Linux 100% of the time is often thwarted by the fact that I do not have at my disposal the spare hours to devote to things like researching unsatisfied dependencies and mismatched headers.

Once I got my problems solved, I was able to try out a few images. I downloaded FreeBSD and took a look around this "minimal install" image. System performance was not noticeably degraded as I navigated the directories. I didn't take the time to learn how to configure the network or install anything, but if my goal was to learn more about how the BSD-based operating systems work without having to try a full install and configuration, this would be a good way to do it.

Next I tried Damn Small Linux (DSL). I really liked this little distribution and was pleased to see that it comes with a GUI that is spare but still easy to navigate. DSL didn't recognize my wireless card, but other than that it loaded up fine, with the exception of some minor rendering problems and a bit of lag in responsiveness, even though the Pavilion has 512MB of RAM and a 1.13GHz processor.

Finally, I loaded VMware's Browser Appliance, a preconfigured instance of Ubuntu featuring the Firefox browser. Other than a few more rendering issues and a bit of lag, this image worked perfectly, including recognition of the wireless card. The absurdity, however, of running Ubuntu inside Ubuntu was not lost on me.

Tina Gasperson writes about business and technology from an open source perspective.

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on Running VMware Player under Linux

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"didn't recognize my wireless card"?!?

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on February 01, 2006 07:34 PM
Huh? VMware doesn't talk to the hardware. It uses a virtual network card that -- depending on the configuration setup not really mentioned in this article -- is routed or bridged by the host OS to the hardware NIC.


Re:"didn't recognize my wireless card"?!?

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on February 01, 2006 09:46 PM
The vmware player install mentions during the install that it needs the headers and gcc, so that can be no complaint. It is not a strange thing that a program that goes so deep into the hardware needs kernel headers. On Windows there simply are not that many different kernels, so all is precompiled.

The network card in a virtual machine is always the same, regardless what your real NIC is and regardless of whether it is wireless or wired.

Nevertheless: the installation process could have been a lot easier and I cannot imagine that a GUI would have been such a big problem.


Re:"didn't recognize my wireless card"?!?

Posted by: Administrator on February 02, 2006 11:22 PM
I'd bet that the reviewer tried to do a bridged network. Some wireless cards do not support bridging , so if you need a network connection in vm guest operating system you'll need to create a NAT connection. I'm assuming that VM players supports Nat'd connections just like VM Workstation does.



computer user vs. subject matter experts

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on February 02, 2006 02:23 AM
It took me a while to determine the problem, though, and that's a problem -- but I won't go on a rant about how my desire to use Linux 100% of the time is often thwarted by the fact that I do not have at my disposal the spare hours to devote to things like researching unsatisfied dependencies and mismatched headers.

Its the age old flamewar between an ordinary appliance users (I just wanna print a picture) and the subject matter experts (of course you have GCC installed).

That's why Linux, BSD, etc. will continue to be percieved as server "backoffice" platforms or a second rate "almost there" desktop by a majority of people.

By the time Linux has enough momentum to generally change that perception, MS, Sony, etc. will have gotten the government to effectively legislate and patent open source out of existence.

Ah well, keep up the good fight and resist the dark side as long as possible...


Re:computer user vs. subject matter experts

Posted by: Administrator on March 02, 2006 11:13 AM
The real issue is the time. Yes the subject matter expert can go faster, but the real issue in the enterprise is the cost of time spent. There is a very large enterprise group that does know much more then an appliance user but still needs to produce faster. Linux is getting much better in this regard.


What a pointless review

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on February 02, 2006 04:23 AM
Some guy loads a product onto an operating system he does not understand and has troubles and then he gives the product the most triveal tests he can think of and says he "didn't have time" to do more.

Why was this published. To fill up screen space?

Here is My review: VMWare player works as advertized, read the VMWare website for details. If you need this, it works well if you have no need for it, VMWare is useless. My job is writting reviews for the web so of course VMWare was usless to me.

So I can say the same thing but then I failed to fill up all the white space.


Re:What a pointless review

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on February 02, 2006 05:20 AM

Cool it, dude.

It was pointless for you. You probably are not the only person who read it. I found it somewhat interesting, and learned a little from it.

Being somewhat familiar with human nature, I did not learn anything from your comment.


Umm...dude...Tina is a girl, not a guy

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on February 04, 2006 01:30 AM
You might want to check the "Author" field again. The name there is "Tina Gasperson", and she is female.

That said, you do have a point about this review. VMware is, and always has been, a tool for technical folks, mostly software developers/testers and systems engineers. It was not meant for the average home user. Tina appears to me to be reviewing it as if it were; a better reviewing perspective would perhaps be that of, say, Peter Norton's or Mark Russinovich's expertise level (heck, even mine, since I happen to be a systems engineer). Even when it has been set up for non-engineers (e. g. call center help-desk personnel who must support multiple OS's and/or versions thereof), the VMware set-up is done by the systems engineers, not the end users, and for good reason.


Re:What a pointless review

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on February 04, 2006 08:37 PM
My opinion too.. I don't see any review here. This could be summarized like: "i had some problems, i installed it, it worked". huh, what is this ?


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Its about the pre-configured VM's

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on February 03, 2006 03:08 AM
While the reviewer talks about how to install/use the player on Linux, what I found usefull was the already configured VM's of various OS's, FOSS only of course.There is a community building up around pre-configured VM,s, I tried Suse10/KDE3.5 from a KDE site. There are many possibilities, firewalls/routers<nobr> <wbr></nobr>..etc. Not having to do an install of a Disrto or appliance is nice.



Re:Its about the pre-configured VM's

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on February 16, 2006 04:30 PM
Agreed that the news about the pre-configured VMs was most interesting. This is one of the most interesting articles I've read today. I can see how this would really make teaching the lab for Operating Systems *easy*, and fun!


Re:"didn't recognize my wireless card"?!?

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on February 03, 2006 05:57 AM
maybe he used the wrong terminology, but he's not talking out of his a$$. on most of the community built virtual machines i've tried, networking is automatically set up, and i can immediately browse the web or whatever as soon as i log on. so when i tried to DSL image, i figured it would do the same, but it didn't, and i couldn't get it working.


Re:Worked for Me

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on February 06, 2006 12:34 AM
Suse 10 isn't on the supported list, but flavours of Suse up to 9.3 seem to work well with VMWare products.


Helpful info on getting VMWare to work on Ubuntu

Posted by: Administrator on February 02, 2006 01:22 AM
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and the Point of this aricle is....

Posted by: Administrator on February 06, 2006 09:45 PM
The author possibly didn't spend much effort on this, and it shows. The absurdity of reading about what a recreational software hobbyist does on a lunch hour is not lost on me.


Worked for Me

Posted by: Administrator on February 01, 2006 10:23 PM
Interesting article.

I installed the VMWare player on Suse 10, after trying to get Win4Lin Pro to work, and had no trouble with installation at all using the RPM package.

The target machine is a laptop with 3Ghz Pentium 4 with 1GB memory, and an nVidia 5700 Go graphics card (with acceleration turned on).

When you update the kernel, you have to re-run a small routine to get the player working again, but that's no big shakes.

I decided to pull out an old copy of Windows 2000 to create the image file, and I must say that it works a whole lot faster and better than Win4Lin Pro. For one thing, USB is fully supported (I got a Windows-only printer working, as well as a USB drive formatted with NTFS), as is the sound (I understand these haven't been fully resolved yet on Win4Lin Pro).

I'm disappointed that the author didn't try using Windows, which is probably the main reason someone would use VMWare in Linux in the first place.

The only annoyance with the Player is the need to play around with links and Windows network drive letters to gain access to additional drives and partitions on the computer. Not a biggie, just an extra step.

I should point out that without the utilities that only come with the full commercial VMWare package, you will find you have limited screen resolution and color depth.

Unlike Win4Lin Pro (which is worthless, IMHO), the VMWare player is well worth setting up,if you have a need for Windows apps, want to avoid dual booting, and neither Wine nor Crossover Office do it for you.


Win2K over XP

Posted by: Administrator on February 01, 2006 10:37 PM
I forgot to mention, that I picked Windows 2000 over XP because 2000 is a lot faster, has a smaller memory footprint, and supports the programs I need.

Using XP in any emulator is a waste, if you have 2000 available because of the size and speed issues. XP is a pig! I can't wait to see how bad Vista is.


Re:Worked for Me

Posted by: Administrator on August 30, 2006 04:16 AM
Hey, I was wondering if you could put me through the process of insalling VMWare player on my newly installed SUSe 10. I have tried to no avail through the weekend. I think I might have messed something up.
P.S: I'm a Linux newb


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