• United States

More fun virtually

Nov 17, 20034 mins
Enterprise ApplicationsLinuxVMware

So there we were last week — convinced we had installed the Linux Red Hat Package Manager and not yet installed the VMware Workstation software — one of those Zen-like one hand clapping alone in the woods kinda things . . .

So there we were last week — convinced we had installed the Linux Red Hat Package Manager and not yet installed the VMware  Workstation software — one of those Zen-like one hand clapping alone in the woods kinda things . . .Specifically, we tried to use the command “rpm -e ” to remove the package, to which RPM replied, in effect, that the package wasn’t installed. However, when we tried to install VMware with “rpm ” RPM said it already was installed. Moreover, when we looked in the installation directories, all the files were zero length. Terrific.

There seemed to be no obvious solution other than getting into the murky depths of RPM and attempting to hand-edit out the offending installation data. However, we got lucky; VMware had released an update to the RPM release. So we simply installed the new version as an update that overwrote the old files, and voil…! All was right in the garden. Perhaps one of you who has more RPM experience than we have will be able to explain what the problem was. We will let you know if we learn anything.

Anyway, now that we had the software successfully copied to the requisite subdirectories it was time to install the software. Under Linux, you must have Perl available, because the installer is a Perl script. The script asks some simple questions, and you should accept the default values until you understand how the VMware system is laid out.

Where this process gets interesting under Linux is in the next step — running the configuration script, which the installation script offers to invoke. This script configures the VMware software for the currently running Linux kernel. VMware comes with pre-compiled kernel drivers for many Linux distributions but if for some reason, such as you have the latest distribution release (which applies to Red Hat 9) or you have compiled your own kernel, then the configuration script will offer to compile new drivers for you. Of course, this requires that you have a C compiler and the kernel sources installed on your system.

You need to know the location of your kernel source files, and, if you get that right, the process runs to completion (which it did very nicely for us), after which the script attempts to load the driver modules. If this doesn’t work you might have pointed the script at the wrong kernel source tree (easily done if you install everything under Red Hat 9). We had no problems. Whew.

Whether or not you have to go through the compilation process, you are asked about network support and related settings. Finally, the installer asks whether the virtual machines that are to run under VMware Workstation should be allowed to access the host file system. This installs Samba so that Linux-hosted SMB/ shares are exposed to the virtual machines.

This was it, the moment of truth, the point of no return, the proverbial it, the (Get on with it — Ed.), er, yes . . . OK, it was time to launch VMware Workstation. We ran the “vmware” command and there it was: the VMware Workstation management interface for Linux.

To create a new virtual machine (these are called “guest operating systems” under VMware) you select “New virtual machine” from the File | New menu, which runs the VMware Configuration wizard. This leads you through selecting which operating system the guest will be running and, if you don’t want to accept the defaults, the memory to be allocated to the virtual machine, the type of networking to be used, and the disk drive and attributes to use.

The disk drive choices are, create a new virtual disk (up to 64G bytes on a Linux host), use an existing virtual disk, or use a physical disk.

Virtual disks consist of files on the host file system that you can move and copy as required with wild abandon. Virtual disks can be compressed (this is not an aggressive compression scheme) and when necessary, defragmented.

You also can enable or disable write caching, which buffers disk writes to improve performance.

Physical disk access lets you share a local host drive, so software running in the virtual machine could wipe out the host system. There are interesting options to physical access but they’ll have to wait until next week.

Access us at .


Mark Gibbs is an author, journalist, and man of mystery. His writing for Network World is widely considered to be vastly underpaid. For more than 30 years, Gibbs has consulted, lectured, and authored numerous articles and books about networking, information technology, and the social and political issues surrounding them. His complete bio can be found at

More from this author