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Monthly Archives: October 2008

VMware Fusion 101: Unique Identifiers

If you enter a room and want to get someone’s attention, you might call out their name so they know you want to talk to them (and not, say, the person standing next to them). Computers have various unique identifiers that serve a similar purpose, and if these identifiers conflict, they might not be able to communicate with each other. A common identifier is the MAC (short for Media Access Control) address. Every network adapter has one of these. VMware virtual machines have another identifier called the UUID – this isn’t important to the guest, but is how Fusion (or other VMware products) keeps track of virtual machines.

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Whenever you move or copy a virtual machine, Fusion needs to know which happened — if you’ve moved the virtual machine, the UUID and MAC address(es) remain the same. In the people-in-a-room analogy, you just walked over to a different spot. If you’ve copied the virtual machine, Fusion assigns a new UUID and MAC address(es) — in the people-in-a-room analogy, your twin sibling just walked in and needs a different name so people don’t confuse the two of you. Maintaining the same unique identifier is less disruptive for the virtual machine, while creating a new identifier is required if you’re going to use an original and a copy at the same time.

So far so good, but to make things more complicated, there are potentially other unique identifiers associated with each computer that Fusion doesn’t know about and so can’t change. If your guest has one of these, you’ll need to update it if you copy the virtual machine or else things may not work. One example is Windows, which has a Security Identifier, or SID. Even if two computers have independent MAC address, if the SID is the same, one won’t be able to access the network. You may need to use a tool like NewSID to update the SID of a copied Windows virtual machine. Another example is older versions of Ubuntu, which stored the MAC address in /etc/iftab; networking didn’t work if the MAC address changed and this file wasn’t updated.

Tip: Force a Virtual Machine to Power Off

If you’ve ever used a computer and had it freeze or otherwise lock up, you may have had to pull the power cord, either literally or by holding the power button. But how do you do this for a virtual machine?

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Hard
In the Virtual Machine menu, there are of course power commands: Shut Down Guest, Suspend Guest, and Restart Guest. However, these are what are known as soft power commands – they’re requests to the guest OS, which it can ignore (or in the case of a deadlocked guest, might not be able to handle). In contrast, hard power options are not ignorable by the guest – it’s the virtual equivalent of yanking the power cord. To get these hard power options, hold down the option key on the Virtual Machine menu to change the power commands to Power Off, Suspend, and Reset.

Obligatory note of caution: Just like with a physical computer, you risk corrupting the contents of the (virtual) disk if the guest OS isn’t in a quiesced state.

Side note: Some virtual machines have the default options switched (i.e. hard power options by default, and pressing the option key changes to soft power options).

Bonus tip: Holding down the option key to get alternate menu items is used in other Mac applications – for example, try it in Finder.

VMware Fusion 2 on MacVoices Podcast: New Computing Architectures and More

macvoices Chuck Joiner over at MacVoices invited us to come chat about Windows on the Mac, VMware Fusion 2, and the future of Windows on the Mac. 

The podcast can be listened to here. 

You can also download an MP3 of the podcast here.

Chuck’s a sharp guy, and so we ended up talking about some much broader topics than just features in VMware Fusion 2.  Our conversation ranged from new computing architectures enabled by virtualization to why even old school Mac users should be interested in running Windows on the Mac with VMware Fusion.

Thanks for having us Chuck!  And to our readers, we highly recommend subscribing to Chuck’s feed.

Ladies and Gentlemen, for Your Virtual Learning Pleasure: Eric Tung

nuts_and_bolts Most of the readers of the Team Fusion blog are familiar with me, Pete Kazanjy, the product marketing guy on the team, and Pat Lee, our former product manager, and current consumer group lead at VMware, from our posts on the blog.

We’ve tried to mix the content up and cover both more “marketing-ish” stuff (news, new features, product announcements, Mac market movements, etc.) while at the same time posting tips and tricks and technical information (our “nuts and bolts” series).

But to be honest, it’s usually been less technical—which is fine, because while VMware Fusion is a powerful tool, it’s also designed to “just work” in a way that doesn’t require a computer science degree. 

However, it’s nice to provide some insight into how things work under the hood, and how, if you want, you can really take VMware Fusion to the max.

It’s my pleasure to introduce Eric Tung, one of our illustrious engineers who helps bring VMware Fusion to life.  Some of you may know him as “etung” on our VMware Fusion forums where he doles out technical help, virtualization wisdom, and more.

Eric’s first post is on “Virtual Hardware”—essentially the guts that make virtual machines run.  Go check it out, and keep your eyes peeled for more from Eric in the future.

VMware Fusion 101: Virtual Hardware Version

VMware virtual machines have a property known as the virtual hardware version – if you’re into .vmx-file diving, it’s the virtualHW.version field. The virtual hardware version is how we manage the file format, and is sort of like Word 98 vs. Word 2008 – newer file formats are needed to support new features that were unthought of years ago. The virtual hardware version is analogous to a motherboard in a physical computer – upgrade the virtual hardware version to upgrade the virtual machine. Many times, new features like enhanced 3D or more device support depends on extending various parts of the file format (for example, for the technically minded, we might have to add more registers or card slots).

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If you upgrade from VMware Fusion 1.x to Fusion 2.0, you’ll probably be asked if you want to upgrade a virtual machine; in other words, you’re being asked if you want to upgrade to the newer file format. If you want improved 3D in XP or Vista, upgrading the virtual hardware is a good idea. On the other hand, there’s not much point in upgrading a DOS virtual machine since at best DOS will ignore the new hardware and at worst will freak out. You can always upgrade later by selecting "Virtual Machine > Upgrade Virtual Machine…"

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If you downgrade from VMware Fusion 2.0 to Fusion 1.x, you might see a warning that a virtual machine was created with newer features that Fusion 1.x doesn’t know how to handle. To get around this, have Fusion 2.0 downgrade the virtual hardware by selecting "Virtual Machine > Downgrade Virtual Machine…" This way, Fusion 1.x will recognize the virtual machine.

Since we use the same virtual hardware version to mean the same thing across all our products, what I’ve said also applies to Workstation, Player, Server, and so on. Fusion 2.0 uses virtual hardware version 7, the same as Workstation 6.5, Player 2.5, and Server 2.0. Fusion 1.x uses virtual hardware version 6, the same as Workstation 6.0.x, Player 2.0.x, and Server 1.x.

Walt Mossberg: “VMware Fusion is now the better choice for running Windows on the Mac…”

BXSHT_Fusion2_Q308_MedRes Having pushed VMware Fusion 2 out into the world a little over two weeks ago, we here on Team Fusion have been waiting with bated breath for the reviews to start showing up.

We had a great surprise tonight, when Walt Mossberg, personal technology columnist for the venerable Wall Street Journal posted his review of VMware Fusion 2 with the headline “One Way to Turn a Mac into a PC Just Got Better.”

Walt reviewed our debut a little over a year ago, and back then came to the conclusion that he liked VMware Fusion 1 for its speed, stability, and low impact on his Mac.

As he put it back then, “In my tests, Fusion never slowed down my MacBook Pro laptop or two other Macs on which I tested it…I found VMware Fusion puts less strain on the computer overall. While I like Parallels and have used it since it came out, it sometimes slows down my Mac.”

Take Two!

In his current review, Walt focuses on how VMware Fusion 2 makes great strides in further breaking down the walls between Windows and the Mac, for example, with our Keyboard Mapping feature (video demo), and Multiple Display support (video demo). 

As he puts it, VMware Fusion “permits you to completely customize keyboard commands so that the same common key combinations work in both Windows and Mac programs,” and “It allows the faux Windows machine to take full advantage of multiple monitors, if you have them.”

Virtual 3D Performance

3D performance was also something that Walt was happy with, and something in which VMware Fusion 2 has made great strides.  When VMware Fusion 1 launched back in August of 2007, we supported DirectX 8.1, upping that to DirectX 9 without Shaders in VMware Fusion 1.1 as of November 2007, and now, VMware Fusion 2 supports DirectX 9 Shader Model 2.

As he puts it, “VMware Fusion also uses a more modern and capable version of the proprietary 3-D graphics system in Windows, called DirectX. That means some Windows-only games and other programs that won’t work in Parallels will work in Fusion. I successfully tested two such programs, both from Microsoft: Worldwide Telescope and Photosynth.” 

We actually have a some fun demos of both Microsoft Photosynth (video) and Worldwide Telescope (video) running on VMware Fusion 2 for you to check out, if you’re interested.

Safer Windows on the Mac

Walt also was jazzed on how VMware Fusion 2 makes Windows safer on the Mac.  Particularly, he called out our new AutoProtect automatic snapshots (video demo), and complimentary 12-months of antivirus and antispyware software that is an optional install.

As he puts it, VMware Fusion “allows you to automatically take those protective snapshots at timed intervals,” and “also offers a one-year free subscription to Windows security software.”

The Bottom Line

Walt is a very brass tacks reviewer, and is evenhanded in how he tests, praises, and dings various products.  His takeaway was that as of his review, VMware Fusion is the best way to run virtual Windows on the Mac.

Our favorite quotes, for the fridge here at the Team Fusion compound? “VMware Fusion is now the better choice for running Windows on a Mac virtually.”  And with respect to our biggest competitor out in the market, “VMware Fusion edges it out as the better product.”

Looking forward to more reviews as they come in, and those from our hundreds of thousands of users!

You can also check out Walt’s video commentary below: