Tuesday, July 25, 2006 11:02 am By BigLig

These days, when every modern PC has a stupidly fast CPU and mountains of RAM, virtualization is a practical proposition. In the past I've used WINE to run the Windows-only applications I occasionally need, with mixed sucess. This time I'm going to see what I can do with a virtual machine running Windows.

I have to say the results are very good. I installed the free VMWare server software. This is very easy to do - download the tarball, run the perl script inside, and answer lots of questions with sensible defaults. Once done, I put a windows CD into the drive and started the VM. XP installed as usual; Office and Netsupport went on fine. I'm not sure my AV worked - it is on a silent install so it can be hard to tell. Performance was fine once I'd put the VMWare tools on, even while the VM had 256Mb of RAM. I have 2Gb in the laptop, so I gave the VM half of that - probably more than it needs.

The only slight hiccup was that Netsupport needs you to press CTRL+ALT+ESC occasionally, so I had to change VMWare's default hotkey (which is CTRL+ALT).

Now, once the VM is created you can open it in any VMWare product, so I installed the VMWare player (which replaces VMServer) and tried that. It worked OK, and I theory should be a better UI than VMServer (which is designed to run servers) for day-to-day use, but I like the server UI more, so I put it back on. All this process was very easy, and each install retained sensible settings from the previous one.

This seems to be an excellent solution to my needs. I have "proper" office, "proper" IE, "proper" netsupport whenever I need them at perfectly acceptable speeds.