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Monthly Archives: November 2008

One Day VMware Fusion Madness: 50% off VMware Fusion. Combine with Competitive Rebate

The VMware E-store team wanted to do something a little crazy to celebrate Cyber Monday—the first Monday after the great annual shopping holiday known as “Black Friday.”

So they decided to go whole hog. 

From 12:01 AM Pacific Time (well, I think it actually might be live right now) on December 1st, 2008 through 11:59 PM, 24 hours later, VMware Fusion will be on sale for 50% off, worldwide.

That’s right.  Using the coupon code “CyberMondayDeal” at checkout, you can buy VMware Fusion at half off its typical list price.

What’s more, in the United States and Canada, this deal combines with our $30 competitive rebate for Parallels and Virtual PC for Mac users. On top of getting Fusion for half off, you can get $30 back when you prove ownership of a competing product.

So yes, you heard that right.

People interested in running Windows on the Mac, can do so with Fusion for half price, all day tomorrow.

And people interested in switching from Parallels and Virtual PC to VMware Fusion can do so for as little as $9.99.

How’s that for the holidays come early?

Tip: Guest OS Type

Fusion’s view of the world is very low-level – when you run a virtual machine, Fusion sees machine-level instructions like "add registers A and B" or "write the contents of C to memory address X". Based on just this information, we might be able to tell you’re generating network traffic and there’s some video updating going on, but we would not be able to tell what program you’re running to do this, or even what guest operating system you’re running. Knowing what guest OS is being used in a virtual machine is important because some of them have quirks – one might not like video RAM above a certain size, while another might panic if it sees too many PCI slots, and a third might be unforgiving about how long I/O can take. There might be certain shortcuts that can safely be taken for certain guests. When you create a virtual machine, Fusion needs to know the intended guest OS to correct for the quirks and enable optimizations.

If you ever change the guest OS in a virtual machine (say you upgrade from Windows 95 to XP), you can (and should) use the Virtual Machine Library to change the guest OS that Fusion thinks resides within. Knowing which guest OS is being used is also important for things like Tools install – Fusion automatically picks the correct Tools image to use based on which guest OS you’ve told Fusion is being used in the virtual machine.

Tip: Switch Virtual Disk Type

Now that you’re familiar with sparse, preallocated, split, and monolithic virtual disks, you might be wondering how to switch from one format to another. In Fusion 2.0, this can be done through the virtual machine’s Hard Disk settings pane – select the options you want, then press Apply. Fusion will convert the disk’s format to the one you specified.

As usual, you can do this only if you don’t have any snapshots, and you will potentially need as much free space as the maximum size of the virtual disk.

VMware Fusion 201: Split vs. Monolithic Virtual Disks

In addition to the sparse and preallocated virtual disks, there’s another, orthogonal set of options: split and monolithic. You can have a sparse/split virtual disk (the default in Fusion 2.0), a sparse/monolithic virtual disk (the default in Fusion 1.x), a preallocated/split virtual disk, or a preallocated/monolithic virtual disk.

While sparse vs. preallocated affects how the data inside the guest is stored in the .vmdk file, split vs. monolithic affects how the .vmdk file is stored on the host. In a monolithic virtual disk, everything in a virtual disk is kept in one file – this includes metadata about the virtual disk (e.g. size, geometry, parent disk, and so on). Note: You might still have multiple vmdk files in a virtual machine (either because you have multiple disks or because you have snapshots). The previous posts about sparse and preallocated virtual disks showed monolithic disks.

In contrast, a split virtual disk is, well, split into multiple files. There’s a small, plaintext metadata file, and a number of slice files. If you have a preallocated/split virtual disk, each slice (except possibly the last) will be 2 GB. If you have a sparse/split virtual disk, each slice can be up to 2 GB, depending on how much data falls into that slice. Preallocated/split virtual disks have a -f### suffix (where ### is a number), while sparse/split virtual disks use a -s### suffix.

So why choose one over the other? Split disks are critical in some cases – for example, some filesystems (such as FAT) can’t deal with files larger than a certain size. By splitting virtual disks to be below this limit (typically 4 GB), you can keep a virtual machine on such a filesystem without losing data. Another advantage of split disks is that you don’t need as much space to consolidate snapshots or shrink virtual disks. We try hard not to lose data, so rather than doing these operations in place (where something could go wrong if the power fails), we make a copy and only replace it when we’re sure it succeeded. Because of this, if you use a monolithic disk, you might need as much free space as the virtual disk occupies to complete such an operation. On the other hand, with a split virtual disk, you only need 2 GB (or less, if you have a sparse slice that’s smaller) since each slice can be done individually.

On the other hand, monolithic disks have some advantages too. In addition to more obvious limited computing resources such as CPU or disk space, one of the not as well known ones is something called file handles. OSes need to keep track of which files are being used, and has a limited number of file handles to do this with. If the OS runs out of file handles, no more files can be opened. Remember that you’re using a lot more files than just the documents you’re working on – programs need to open files to read resources, for temporary use, and lots of other not immediately obvious things. With a monolithic virtual disk, you use only one file handle per virtual disk. With a sparse virtual disk, you use one file handle per slice, which can quickly add up if you’ve got a large virtual disk with a lot of snapshots.

VMware Fusion 2.0.1 Update Available

images Happy Friday everyone!

This is a quick note to let you know that VMware Fusion 2.01 is now available, a free maintenance update to VMware Fusion 2. 

You can download the new bits here.

VMware Fusion 2.0.1 features enhancements and fixes in follow up to the release of VMware Fusion 2 and the Apple notebook refresh.

You can read all about it in the release notes, but some quick things of interest:

  • One of my favorites: AutoProtect postpones taking a snapshot when the user is interacting with the virtual machine. Watch a video demo of AutoProtect, here.
  • Now shows application badge instead of generic document icons when assigning Windows applications to Mac documents.
  • Greatly reduced initial pause when opening mirrored or shared folders.
  • No longer disables certain shared folders and mirrored folders that were nested folders. The potential data loss issue with nested shared folders has been resolved.
  • No longer publishes Windows guest applications to Mac if “Allow the virtual machine to open applications on your Mac” is unchecked in virtual machine Settings > Sharing.
  • Brings back the Enable Hints menu item in Help menu.

There are more enhancements and bug fixes 100% broken out the release notes, here.

In the meantime, go get the bits!

VMware Fusion 2 University: Import a Parallels or Virtual PC Virtual Machine

Continuing in our theme of the different ways to move to VMware Fusion, today’s video revolves around importing a Parallels-based virtual machine or Virtual PC for Mac-based virtual machine to run on VMware Fusion 2.

Lots of people enjoy the stability, power, and user-friendliness of VMware Fusion, and as such, are switching from Parallels Desktop for Mac to instead use VMware Fusion 2 to run Windows on Mac.

And people who have been using Virtual PC for Mac to run Windows in emulation (NOT virtualization, like VMware Fusion) on their Power PC-based Macs, but who are now moving to Intel Macs, will certainly be looking for a new way to run Windows on Mac.

In fact, recently, people like Walt Mossberg of the Wall Street Journal, and Dave Girard of Ars Technica have been noting that VMware Fusion is the better way to run Windows on the Mac.

Switch to Fusion with Unparalleled Ease

In order to make this really easy for our users to switch and not have to rebuild their VMs, and the work that went into them, we’ve included a feature in VMware Fusion 2 that allows you to directly import Parallels and Virtual PC for Mac (for those people moving from Power PC-based Macs up to Intel-based Macs) to run in VMware Fusion.

Like most things with VMware Fusion, it’s easy, straight-forward, and “just works.”  You can check out the video below to see how easy it is.

And as a quick ad, this video is taken from the more than dozen VMware Fusion 2 video tutorials made freely available to help you get the most out of VMware Fusion 2.

VMware Fusion 201: Snapshots

I previously gave a tip about how to make effective use of snapshots, but what about how they actually work? As I mentioned, one of the key things to understand about snapshots is that they only store the differences between the current state and the original state. Technically-minded people will recognize this as copy-on-write.

Let’s suppose you have a sparse virtual disk as shown. You then take a snapshot and do a little bit of work – modify the file at the far right and shorten the one before it. Once you take a snapshot, the original base disk is no longer written to, but is still read from. Most of the virtual disk is still pointing at the base file, but what you did change now refers to the snapshot. Snapshot_1
By itself, snapshot 1 is not enough to represent the virtual disk, nor is the base disk. Snapshot 1 might not even contain complete files, but only parts of files that have changed.

If you take another snapshot and make more changes, a similar process happens – now neither snapshot 1 nor the base file are written two, but are still referenced. New changes go to snapshot 2.Snapshot_2

Hopefully you can see why each snapshot can take up as much space as is allocated to the virtual disk – you might overwrite every single block, and Fusion needs to keep both the original (in case you want to revert to the snapshot) and the new data.

With a preallocated virtual disk, it’s nearly the same story. Only the base disk changes to a 1-to-1 mapping, but each snapshot is still sparse.

Tip: Control-click

Unlike OS X, most other operating systems require the use of multibutton mice. Most Mac users know you can ctrl-click to simulate a right click, and you can do that in Fusion as well. But what if you actually want to ctrl-click in the guest – say, to select multiple items in Explorer?

In Fusion’s Preferences, go to the Keyboard & Mouse tab, Mouse Shortcuts. Uncheck the secondary button shortcut (or map it to something else) – now you can ctrl-click in the guest.

If you still need to right click and don’t want to remap to a different shortcut, there may be other options. For laptop users, you can enable two-finger right clicks in System Preferences > Keyboard & Mouse > Trackpad. If you have a Mighty Mouse, you can enable right click in System Preferences > Keyboard & Mouse > Mouse. And of course, since OS X has always supported multibutton mice, you can always plug in your favorite multibutton mouse.

VMware Fusion 2 University: Create a Virtual Machine from a PC with VMware Converter

Apple likes to talk about how 50% of all Mac purchasers are switching over to the Mac from the PC. 

Just recently, Apple’s COO, Tim Cook, Apple specifically called out VMware Fusion as one of the driving factors helping people to switch to the Mac, by making it easy to run the Windows apps you’ve come to love, or which don’t have Mac versions, on your Mac, virtually.

Bring your PC with you as you switch

One of the things that helps people do this, is the ability to move an existing PC, a physical Windows box, like a Dell or HP or what have you, to a virtual machine, to run on VMware Fusion.

Yes, it does sound like black magic, but really, it’s quite easy.  In fact, we provide a free tool, VMware Converter, which runs on pretty much any Windows OS, that will make a bit-by-bit virtual machine copy of your existing PC to run on any VMware virtual machine runtime (Fusion, of course, being this team’s favorite).

To help you get a better idea, here are two videos that show exactly how to switch to the Mac with VMware Fusion by bringing along your existing Windows PC.

These are both taken from the more than dozen VMware Fusion 2 video tutorials made freely available to help you get the most out of VMware Fusion 2.

VMware eLearning step-by-step video:

VMware Fusion team’s slightly sexier, though less exhaustive video:

Migrate Your Windows PC to your Mac with VMware Fusion from VMware Fusion on Vimeo.

Make Windows Unity windows look like Mac OS X Windows: WindowsBlinds with VMware Fusion

Chris White pinged us on Twitter the other day saying that he was using WindowsBlinds to skin his VMware Fusion Unity windows (Unity demo video here) in Windows look like Mac OS X windows.

We were intrigued, and asked him to take some screenshots to share with everyone.

Chris was nice enough to do so.

Here’s a shot of Internet Explorer with a Mac OS X WindowsBlinds skin on it.  The visual style is “Leo.”  Hmmmm…wonder what that stands for….?

Note how the “close” “minimize” and “maximize” buttons in the upper right of the window look like Mac OS X buttons:


And in a too-meta-moment, here’s a screenshot of the WindowsBlinds UI, which has itself been skinned!