Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Running Linux distributions with VMware Player

Just about everybody by now knows about VMware's Player. If you don't, then you should. The player is free as in beer, and there are pre-built "appliances" where complete Linux distributions are already installed and ready-to-run with the player. All you have to do is snag one and have the player run it. The system I have all this installed on is altair 4 at work, the Boxx system with the aging Athlon FX-55 and 4GB of DRAM running Windows Server 2003.

So far, using VMware Player version 2, I've downloaded and tried six different disribution appliances: Debian Etch, Fedora Core 7, Fedora Core 6, Suse 10.2, PC-BSD 1.3.0, and RHEL 4 Update 4. What follows are a trio of screen shots with the player running an FC7 distribution.

This shot (above) is a screen shot produced by Fedora's own screen capture (via Gnome). This shows the complete desktop as it would appear if my monitor were capable of completely displaying 1900 x 1440. This is the first time I've started this virtual machine, and it has found and is downloading updates.

This shot shows the Windows Server 2003 desktop with the same Fedora 7 desktop running in VMware.

Here's FC-7 again, but I've maximized the player. There's a scroll bar across the bottom of the screen that allows me to see the entire FC-7 desktop if I want. Right after taking this screen shot I changed FC-7's screen resolution so it would fit in the regular physical limitation of the Samsung LCD (1280 x 1024).

So what's it all good for? It's a quick and very easy way to sample distributions and run simple tests to see what works and what doesn't without the installation pain. It isn't perfect and a virtualized distribution will never be as fast as one running natively on the hardware, but for a lot of things, it's Good Enough.

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