VMware 2.0.3 Review

Reviewer: Joshua Jones
Category: 
Software
Version: 
2.0.3
Price: 
$299

In today's world of Information Technology it is almost impossible to to work exclusively with only one operating system. That being the case the folks at VMware, Inc. dove in and developed VMware; a friendly, robust, and affordable Virtual Machine.

A virtual machine in this instance is software installed on a host operating system that creates a virtual X86 computer and runs a number of guest operating systems. Here's the cool part, no dual booting! That's right for those of us who choose (or are forced) to run one or more operating systems VMware saves us from the frustration of having a workstation cluttered with multiple computers or having to dual boot constantly.

New in Version 2.0.3

- Improved mouse performance
- Support for wheel mouse
- Support for SVGA driver installation in a Windows ME Guest
- Fix for installing the VMware Tools SVGA driver in certain Linux guest operating systems
- Support for hosts running the Linux kernel 2.4 NOTE: There is no support for bidirectional parallel ports on hosts running the Linux kernel 2.4
- Prebuilt modules for Red Hat 7.0
- Support for Red Hat Linux 7.0 SMP hosts for which VMware does not provide prebuilt modules
- Prebuilt modules for SuSE Linux 7.0 on UP machines
- Prebuilt modules for Caldera OpenLinux 2.2 on SMP machines

Installation

I recently installed VMware 2.0.3 on a Red Hat 7.0 machine using RPM (there are also compressed tar archive available) to install the binaries. After successfully installing the binaries I proceeded to run the install script, which must be run as super user and from inside a console. Note: make sure the license is located in the ./vmware directory. The setup script does several things:

1. Displays the end user license and asks if you agree with it.

2. Asks if you want it to automatically configure your system to allow the virtual machines to access the host file system.

3. Probes your kernel

4. Sets up host only networking (needed to access the host file system.). It will probe for unused private subnets.Displays the DHCP copyright information.

5. Displays the DHCP copyright information.

6. Samba is then probed. It suggests that you verify that its Samba configuration doesn't conflict with any real world setups.

7. Asks if you want to set up usernames and passwords to access the host file system.

After running the script you are able to run the command to launch VMware. VMware immediately launches into a virtual machine and prompts for configuration. Configuration wizard is marked as default and I recommend using it until you are comfortable with the software. It will help you set up the guest operating system, setting up the path for the configuration files, the amount of RAM to be used by the guest OS, whether to use a physical or virtual disk, etc.

When the configuration is finished you can "power on" your new computer and install the guest operating system. This is performed as if you would install an operating system on a new computer. However, because this is a virtual computer you'll have to use the VMware tools (included with the software) to install VMware's own SVGA driver. Unfortunately there is no 3D support included. So for those of you wishing to run games will either need to dual boot, run Wine, or something else similar.

Guest Operating Systems

Currently there is only a X86 version of VMware and only the ability to run X86 based guest operating systems. All Microsoft Windows operating systems are now supported (including 2000 Professional/Server and ME), FreeBSD 2.2.8 and 3.X, Most Linux distributions although the 2.X and above kernels are recommended, and MS-DOS 6.X. There are a couple of things to keep in mind when running a guest OS.

1. Have a fast processor. VMware recommends a minimum 266mhz processor. Since you are essentially running another computer inside your regular computer, this will eat up processor time. If you are going to run more that one virtual machine at a time, I would recommended something over 500mhz, preferably multiple processors.

2. Have a ton of RAM. Again VMware recommends a minimum of 96MB. If you want any decent performance out of both your host and guest, a minimum of 192MB should be your goal. The price of RAM has dropped considerably, about 42 USD for 128MB generic PC133 SDRAM.

3. Have enough disk space. Make sure your /home directory has sufficient space to run both the guest OS and applications. More disk space will be needed if you decide to run multiple guests. The best solution is to install a separate hard disk exclusively for the guest OS's. You can easily pick up a 30GB drive for 120 USD.

Features

VMware boasts a number of innovative features. Anything you do on a separate computer, you can just about do using a virtual machine. You can share files, surf the internet, run business applications, develop programs just to name a few. You have a choice of running the Virtual Machine in its own window or in full-screen mode, cut and paste between the virtual machines and the host, use suspend and instant restore, enjoy full multimedia (except 3D), even use an external zip drive.

Summary

VMware is a great product overall. At a price of $299 USD it is perfect for businesses but a bit too much for the average home user. VMware still has a package for the hobbyist at $99 USD which will be discontinued on December 4th, 2000. A lite version will be packaged with Linux distributions (Red Hat for sure) which will allow a user to run a maximum of 2 virtual machines. Setup is fairly easy and the beginner should have little trouble installing it. VMware has excellent documentation included in the software and at its web site. I would personally like to see a version for Alpha or SPARC in the future. VMware for Linux makes it possible for the professional to have the power of Linux as their desktop OS while maintaining compatibility with the majority of end users.

Conclusion

The Good - Pros
  • Ability to run multiple OS's on one PC
The Bad - Cons
  • No 3D support
  • Only X86 OS's supported
The Ugly - Problems
  • N/A
The Verdict - Opinion
  • Great Program. Increases the professionals ability to use multiple operating systems efficiently.

Innovation: 
4/5
Performance: 
5/5
Stability: 
5/5
Cost / Value: 
3/5

17/20

Overall score


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