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Category Archives: linux

Linux 2.6.24 (And Ubuntu 8.04 Hardy Heron), VMware Fusion 1.1.2, and Open Virtual Machine Tools

hardy heron As most of our esteemed readers know, VMware Fusion 1.1.2 went live the evening of Wednesday, April 23rd, sporting a variety of bug fixes and enhancements, aimed to make things work better, faster, stronger for our users.

What some of our more technical (ok, fine, geeky) users may also know, is that the same day the latest distribution of Ubuntu Linux, dubbed the ever-alliterative “Hardy Heron” also went from Beta to General Availability that day.

Included in the latest Ubuntu, the most widely used desktop Linux distro, were a variety of changes to the underlying Linux 2.6.24, some of which created issues with VMware Tools. 

The good news is, some smart users have already come up with some great worarounds, which we’ll get into later.  But before getting into that, it might be worthwhile to explain the dynamics that create these issues, so our dear users can better understand how these situations arise.

Machine Virt 101:Guests, Tools, and You

To the x86 operating system–whether Windows, Solaris, FreeBSD, or, as concerns this blog post, Linux–installed on top of that virtual hardware,  that hardware looks no different than the “physical” hardware those OSes tie into when installed on a physical machine.

And just like with physical machines, a set of drivers provide that tie between the “guest” operating system (virtualization slang for the operating system of the virtual machine in question) and the virtual hardware that powers it.  VMware’s name for this set of drivers, Linux Guestswhich is different for each guest OS, is “VMware Tools.”

These tools are what make the seamless interaction between guest and host OS happen.  Things like the ability to drag and drop between guest and host, create shared folders between the two, automatic resize of screen resolution, and even the mind-blowing “Unity” view that VMware Fusion [YouTube Vid] pioneered, and now featured by VMware Workstation 6.5 Beta.

VMware provides the broadest set of these “guest tools” in the industry, and they come packaged with VMware products, like VMware Fusion, VMware Workstation, and so on, such that when you go to create a new virtual machine, and install a new operating system, the guest tools are there for you to install too. 

This is the primary reason why VMware product downloads can be hefty at times: they package the VMware Tools for all of those supported operating systems

Come Together, Right Now

yin-yang-15470Of course, what this also means is that these tools have to be maintained to ensure that as the operating systems they communicate with change, they still “work.”  This is the dance that Microsoft and hardware makers have been doing for years, but mainly only every four years or so.

Linux is a bit different, in that it changes more frequently.  In this case, the latest distribution of Ubuntu included some changes to Linux that broke VMware Tools for a limited set of functions.

While the latest distros of Linux aren’t on the supported OS list for VMware Fusion, we recognize that our users like to play around with the latest and greatest, whether that means Hardy Heron or Fedora 8, or what have you.

The good news is, because those great hackers who like to use VMware Fusion and VMware Workstation to help them play with the latest and greatest, are the same people who can come up with clever workarounds, including installing Open Virtual Machine Tools that have been updated to address the changes in the Linux.

Opening Doors with Open Tools

But what are these “Open Virtual Machine Tools” of which you speak?  In late 2007, VMware open sourced the majority of VMware Tools, with an eye towards making it easier for the larger open source community to more agilely update and modify the tools that enable the multitude of x86 operating systems that can run on VMware virtual hardware to better integrate with that virtual hardware.

It’s great to see this strategy paying off, with the latest version of Open Virtual Machine Tools addressing the breakage in question.

This is a great post by a user named Josh who did the VMware Fusion community a favor by pointing out a fix posted in the VMware Workstation forums about a month ago.

And as usual, the VMware forums are a great place to share and discuss technical issues.  “Mufassa” posted the fix in March after he updated 35 of his development VMs to Fedora 8, only to see after that, gasp, that the update broke VMware Tools. 

His fix is located here.

And lastly, cheers to Peter Cooper for blogging about this in the context of VMware Fusion and Ubuntu 8.04 Hardy Heron, and doing a great job of breaking out the process, step by step.  His post is located here.

Snapshot, Snapshot, Snapshot!: Take Your Virtual Machine Back in Timeflux capacitor

This post also provides a great opportunity to comment quickly on the value of  snapshotting virtual machines. 

Because virtual machines are just files, in addition to be able to do things like suspend and resume them rapidly, unlike Apple’s Boot Camp, or even VMware Fusion running on top of Boot Camp, you can also take a picture of them in time, with the “snapshot” feature.  Later, if you want, you can revert to that snapshot, if you don’t like what has happened to your virtual machine thereafter. ont>

It’s a new idea for a lot of users, but the great thing is, you can use a snapshot to try out new software, with no risk to your “production” virtual machine.

For example, recently, Windows Vista pushed its new Service Pack.  Only Vista users running in virtual machines had the ability to take a snapshot before installing the Service Pack, install it, and then see if everything still worked a-ok.  It’s pretty amazing stuff.

Upgrading your Tivo with a Mac, and VMware Fusion

TivoWing Wong over at the Winged Power Photography blog has a great, and delightfully detailed, post on how to upgrade your Tivo’s hard drive using a Mac and VMware Fusion.

Wing’s problem was one that a lot of Mac users are familiar with: a specialized peripheral (in this case, a Tivo DVR), that needs specialized software to update it (whether we’re talking about a Garmin GPS, Nokia cell phone, and so on), but which software doesn’t run on Mac OS X.

In this case, when removing a drive from your Tivo (Because 40 GB of Battlestar Galactica, Mythbusters, and Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares, just isn’t enough!) in order to put a bigger one in there, to prep your new drive, and also to push your old content over onto the new drive, you need to run specific Linux-based tools from MFS Live .

In this case, VMware Fusion comes to the rescue, letting you run that Linux MFS Live ISO as a virtual machine, to prep your new, beefier drive, so you can spend even more time in front of the tube, catching up on email and your favorite shows (at least, that’s what I would do with a larger drive…YMMV ; ) 

Most people think of VMware Fusion at the best way to run Windows on a Mac, but as Wing shows us, there are lots of mainstream reasons why VMware Fusion’s ability to run Windows, Linux, and more than 60 other operating systems on the Mac, can be a total lifesaver.

Check out the full glory of Wing’s post here, and when you’ve got your own neat hack or VMware Fusion story, let us know, and we’ll make sure to blog it.  Hit us up at teamfusion AT vmware DOT com.

Weekend Geek Out: BeOS, Haiku, and VMware Fusion

Haiku_logo_black_on_white_big_2
  This was posted earlier this week by Ars Technica,
Wired and
MacUser , but we
wanted to note it to our readers as well.

Most people think of VMware Fusion as being the best way to
run Windows on a Mac. But it’s important not to forget that VMware Fusion not only will let
you run Windows 3.1 all the way through Windows Vista, but also more than 60  x86 operating systems as well. And
that includes operating systems many people thought had already rode into the
sunset!

Old school tech heads may remember BeOS, which many back in the day thought might ultimately replace Mac OS Classic
as Apple’s operating system of choice. Well, when Apple went with NeXTSTEP, many thought BeOS was doomed to the
scrapheap.

Well, BeOS is making a comeback, in the form of the Haiku
project
, an open source version of the operating system.

And if you have an interest in playing around with the newest open source
version of what was once hailed as the successor to Mac OS Classic, you can
certainly do just that, using VMware Fusion to run a pre-built virtual
machine with Haiku already installed
(zip file).

The people at Haiku have even made it easy for you,
providing VMware-based virtual machines on their download page.

Go forth and geek out! 

And as a preview, here’s a neat demo that the Haiku team pushed onto YouTube: