$299 / $99 student/hobbyist license
In a Nutshell
* Improved performance, networking, configuration
* Suspend-to-disk feature
* Disk-shrinking feature
* Primitive installation
* Performance is still slow
|Sharing Text: VMware 2.0 supports cut and paste between the guest and host operating systems, as shown here with Notepad and EMACS.|
* 266 MHz Pentium II or faster recommended
* 96 MB or more RAM recommended
Hard Drive Space
* Enough for a normal Linux installation plus whatever your virtual machines need, combined
VMware is one of those programs you have to see in action to appreciate completely. In fact, the longer you’ve been using computers on various platforms, the more impressive it is. Simply put, VMware lets you create virtual machines and install whatever operating system and applications you want in each one (provided the software is compatible with the Intel x86 architecture) and run it in a window on your Linux desktop. There’s also a version that runs under Windows NT/2000 with the same features.
While a VMware virtual machine can host any x86-compatible operating system, most Linux users will choose to run Linux and use VMware to keep Windows available on an otherwise all-Linux system. The fact that you can create different system configurations in different virtual machines and switch between them makes VMware a must-have for many software developers, particularly in this age of immense, cheap hard drives. You can easily have many versions of Linux, Windows, or other systems available from the same PC and still keep them completely isolated from one another.
VMware’s usefulness extends beyond simply running another operating system in a window. The guest system can communicate with the host via “host-only networking” (which means a Linux host and Windows guest can share files via Samba), and access the host’s real network and sound card. You can even make it run an operating system that’s installed in a real disk partition, such as when you have a Linux/Windows dual-boot system. Version 2.0 adds some welcome features, including a suspend-to-disk feature that lets you stop a VM and then restart it at any time, and enhanced networking support.
We installed VMware 2.0 onto a Red Hat 6.1 system using the provided scripts and then installed Windows 98SE into a virtual machine with 2 GB of disk space. We then added VMware Tools to Windows, an included package that improves the responsiveness of the screen and cursor management, allows the VM to run at a higher resolution, adds the ability to shrink a VM’s disk to what’s actually needed, and enables cut-and-paste between the host and guest systems.
We experienced no problems when running Windows 98 and several applications we installed in its VM. Of course, running any operating system under VMware exacts a noticeable performance penalty, and it’s definitely not how you’d want to run performance-sensitive work.
The difficulty of VMware’s task makes it somewhat more sensitive to changes in your environment, such as upgrading your kernel, than are many other programs. You should therefore browse the VMware Web site and experiment with a copy of VMware with a free, 30-day license.
If you need or want to run another operating system or configuration under Linux, or even several at different times, without buying another computer, then we highly recommend you give VMware a test drive. Try to remember that it’s not magic, just really good software.