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.