Since monday, I've become a pretty happy virtualization user. Background: At university, our latest homework is released in partly binary form (for x86); moreover, it is configured to work on university computers only. It is recommended to work on it directly on a university computer ... Another annoyance was that - just for using X-forwarding over SSH - I had previously to reboot my computer in order to run Linux, as I'm a usually running windows.
A long and winding road
The first and obvious solution was to get
Cygwin, which comes with a built-in X-server.
It works, quite good even, but somehow the X-Server wasn't stable on my
machine (sometimes silently crashing). In order to start it reliably, I
had to log-off and log-in again and then run the X-Server. Hmpf! There
had to be something better. Well, and there is: What I wanted was the
comfort of a real Linux without the hassle of rebooting just because of
it - so virtualization was the way to go. My first try was Microsoft
Virtual PC. Unfortunately, neither
the 2004 SP1 nor the 2007 Beta worked as I wanted. Both had serious
problems (graphics stretched, various Linux distributions refused to
install at all). I presume they're better suited at virtualizing
Windows. The next logical choice was VMware.
They provide their host runtime (the VMware
Player) for free. All you need
to use it is a tool which creates
.vmx files that contain the virtual
machine settings (actually, they're simple text files, so you could
write them by hand, but I'm lazy ;) ). I've found the free VMX
Builder, which is a
simple GUI similar to VMware Workstation. A friend suggested to use the
- also free - VMware Server
for creating the files (ask him about that
solution). Unlike Virtual PC, VMware worked right out-of-the-box with
Fedora Core 6. Performance is surprisingly
good (running on a 1.8 GHz Turion Notebook with 1 GiB RAM with 320 MiB
dedicated to the VM). The full installation took roughly 30 minutes and
uses 3 GiB.