VMware Workstation 5.5 for Linux Hosts
Installing VMware Workstation on a supported Linux system is a breeze. You install the RPM version either by executing a single command or by unpacking the .tgz version and manually running the installer script vmware-install.pl (which is executed automatically if you install the RPM). Then, you run the configuration script vmware-config.pl. That's it! The installer scripts and the configuration script do all the work for you.
For example, to install the RPM version of VMware, I executed the commands:
rpm -Uvh ./VMware-workstation-5.5.1-19175.i386.rpm
The configuration script asks you a number of questions, regarding things like how to set up networking. For most users, the default values are fine; otherwise, the Workstation 5 User Manual provides clear and comprehensive descriptions of the various options presented by the installer script.
Speaking of which, the user manual is, in my opinion, a model of effective technical writing—everything you need to know about VMware is included, explained in plain English and organized in a logical manner. It's accessible from within VMware's Help menu in HTML format, and it also can be downloaded as one big (490-page) PDF file from vmware.com.
Once VMware Workstation is installed and configured, you can run the vmware executable in the X Window System to start creating and using virtual machines. Figure 1 shows the New Virtual Machine Wizard.
To create a Typical virtual machine with this wizard (as opposed to a Custom virtual system), you need to make only four decisions:
In which OS will the guest machine run?
Where on your host machine's filesystem will the virtual machine's files go?
Which flavor of VMware networking will the guest machine use?
What type and size of virtual disk to use?
Because this article is a review and not a how-to, I forego explaining all the different options available at this point. A few words about virtual machine hard disks and networking options, however, might help illustrate VMware's flexibility and power.
A virtual machine's hard drive is usually a virtual disk—that is, a regular file that essentially is mounted by VMware as a loopback filesystem. The beauty of this approach is that the virtual disk file doesn't need to reflect its capacity; if you install only 300MB worth of system software, applications and files on your virtual machine, its disk file will be only 300MB or so. The size you specify when setting up the virtual machine therefore will be its maximum size, not its actual size (unless you check the Allocate all disk space now option).
If you run the New Virtual Machine Wizard in Custom rather than Typical mode, you additionally can choose whether to create a virtual SCSI disk (the default) or a virtual IDE disk. You also can choose whether to use a virtual disk at all. If you prefer, and if your intended guest OS is supported in this mode, you alternatively can designate a physical disk partition on your host system as the virtual machine's root. This is handy if you have a dual-boot system on which you'd like to run both (or more) local OSes simultaneously, but support for this feature is limited and comes with some caveats. Tread lightly with this feature, and be sure to read the user manual carefully before you attempt to use it.
You can network your virtual machines using one of three methods. In bridged networking, the default, your virtual machine is given a virtual Ethernet interface connected to the same LAN as your host machine's physical network card (or wireless card—in VMware 5 you can now bridge WLAN interfaces on Linux hosts). In other words, your virtual machine appears on your local LAN as though it were sitting side by side with your host machine.
With Network Address Translation (NAT), your host system acts like a NAT firewall. Your virtual machine is given a fake IP address, and when it connects to other resources on your LAN or beyond, VMware translates the source IP address on all its packets to that of the host system's physical network interface. In other words, your virtual machine is hidden from the rest of your LAN by your host system. This is handled strictly by VMware; you don't need to configure iptables on your host OS to achieve this.
The third option is host-only networking. This is similar to the NAT mode in that your virtual machine is assigned a fake IP address on a virtual LAN separated from your physical/actual LAN by your VMware host system. The difference is that none of the virtual machines on your host-only (virtual) LAN will be able to interact with the real LAN unless you explicitly configure the underlying host OS to forward and route those packets. In other words, with host-only networking, you will need to configure your host OS to route or bridge your virtual machines' packets. This mode, therefore, is most useful when you don't want to connect your virtual and physical LANs—for example, if you're testing potentially dangerous network applications on your virtual LAN.