Turning the world on its head: running VMware on Ubuntu

When Windows XP was my base operating system, I used VMware Workstation to peer into the worlds of Windows 2000, Solaris and various flavours of Linux, including Ubuntu. Now that I am using Ubuntu instead of what became a very flaky XP instance, VMware is still with me and I am using it to keep a foot in the Windows universe. In fact, I have Windows 2000 and Windows XP virtual machines available to me and they should supply my Windows needs.

A evaluation version of Workstation 6 is what I am using to power them and I must admit that I am likely to purchase a license before the evaluation period expires. Installation turned out to be a relatively simple affair, starting with my downloading a compressed tarball from the VMware website. The next steps were to decompress the tarball (Ubuntu has an excellent tool, replete with a GUI, for this) and run vmware-install.pl. I didn’t change any of the defaults and everything was set up without a bother.

In use, a few things have come to light. The first is that virtual machines must be stored on drives formatted with EXt3 or some other native Linux file system rather than on NTFS. Do the latter and you get memory errors when you try starting a virtual machine; I know that I did and that every attempt resulted in failure. After a spot of backing up files, I converted one of my SATA drives from NTFS to Ext3. For sake of safety, I also mounted it as my home directory; the instructions on Ubuntu Unleashed turned out to be invaluable for this. I moved my Windows 2000 VM over and it worked perfectly.

Next on the list was a serious of peculiar errors that cam to light when I was attempting to install Windows XP in a VM created for it. VMware was complaining about a CPU not being to run fast enough; 2 MHz was being stated for an Athlon 64 3000+ chip running at 1,58 GHz! Clearly, something was getting confused. Also, my XP installation came to a halt with a BSOD stating that a driver had gone into a loop with Framebuf fingered as the suspect. I was seeing two symptoms of the same problem and its remedy was unclear. A message on a web forum put the idea of rebooting Ubuntu into my head and that resolved the problem. I’ll be keeping an eye on it, though.

Otherwise, everything  seems to be going well with this approach and that’s an encouraging sign. It looks as my current Linux-based set up is one with which I am going to stay. This week has been an interesting one already and I have no doubt that I’ll continue to learn more as time goes on.