Over the recent weeks I’ve been using VMWare Player to play, experiment and develop in various operating systems & various versions of Ubuntu.
I had been an avid VirtualBox user but I’ve become increasingly disenchanted with VirtualBox unstable nature. I’ve had numerous X-windows crashes & failures to suspend to resume. Every new version it seems brings new problems.
So what other virtualisation software could I use on my Ubuntu 14.04 host? My basic requirements were straightforward:
- 3D Graphics acceleration – I dont want my guest to behave like a slug
- ability to share folders with my host easily – I do my developing in Guests but I share data files stored on my Host.
- easy to move my mouse cursor from Guest to Host without having to use key combinations to release the cursor.
- must be fairly simple to setup & configure
- it must be free – free as in beer.
3D Graphics acceleration is the killer feature here for me – without having to use a full bare metal solution, VMWare Player seemed to me to be the only viable solution (at least at the moment). So the following is what I learned – I’ve split this into two posts – the second describes my trials and tribulations trying to convert an existing virtualbox guest to VMWare format.
So how do I install VMWare player on Ubuntu 14.04…
Its not straightforward. There are no debian packages available like VirtualBox.
First Download the 32bit/64bit Linux bundle file from here
Next reach for your terminal and navigate to where you downloaded the bundle file and give it execute permissions
chmod +x VMWare*.bundle
This will install VMWare Player. However, subsequent to running VMWare Player from the dash it will attempt to compile various kernel modules. This will fail due to kernel 3.13 used in Ubuntu 14.04.
You’ll need to patch the VMWare sources to overcome this. I followed this excellent guide – dont worry, whilst this guide mentions Trusty alpha and vmware player 6.0.1 the instructions equally applies to the latest version of Trusty (at the time of writing 14.04.1) and kernel 184.108.40.206
Once patched, search for VMWare Player in the dash again and this time all will be well and it will fire up.
From VMWare Player you can create new guests. For older Ubuntu versions such as 12.04, VMWare Player recognises the operating system and provides you a quick and easy wizard to install. It will install VMWare Tools automatically.
For newer operating systems you’ll need to install VMWare Tools manually – more on that in a later blog article.
Next – how do I run multiple guests at the same time. Unlike Virtualbox, the VMWare Player GUI only allows you to run one guest at a time.
However if you start VMWare Player and then search and start VMWare Player again, a second instance will run – thus you can start a guest from each instance. Its a workaround – not nice but workable.
Better still though would be to run multiple guests directly from the Unity Launcher. This is possible via Drawers – I would warmly recommend you try this. It costs $2.99 from the Software Center. If you short of cash (!) then you can install for free via a PPA:
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:ian-berke/ppa-drawers
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install drawers
Now create a .desktop file in the folder ~/.local/share/applications
Copy and paste below – change the Exec command to point to the full path of your Guest. Dont forget to change the Name field for what the name of your Guest is.
Save, then open Nautilus and navigate to the .desktop file you just created. Open drawers and drag and drop the .desktop file onto the Draw
Comment=Run a virtual machine
Repeat for your other Guests.
Well I’ve been using VMWare Player for a three weeks now. I’m fairly happy. Extremely happy that I have had not one single X-Window crash. Suspend and Resume is flawless.
Less happy – if you mouse cursor slips to outside the guest window, even though the guest window is still in focus, you lose the ability to type.
If you using a host application such as firefox and want to flip back to the guest you need to click the VMWare Player window title first to bring the guest back into focus. This is annoying.
Generally grumpy – there isnt a way to snapshot and revert VMWare Player guests. Where I’m testing stuff that I need to rollback I’m still using VirtualBox’s snapshot facility.
VMWare is supposed to be the king of virtualisation. These niggles such as no debian package, having to patch software, inability to run multiple guests directly from one GUI and the lack of snapshots makes you NOT wanting to give it a try. I note the latest GTK3.14 version of Gnome Boxes has snapshot capabilities – so come on VMWare – if the opensource community is building in what should be deemed essential capabilities – why arent you?
An upcoming article will cover changing VirtualBox guests into VMWare Guests