I'd been meaning to try the VMware Player for a while now, and this weekend, I finally took it for a test drive. Easy installation, with a suggested reboot, which I did (note: I reboot my Wintel laptop once a day anyway, so this doesn't bother me too much. One of the prices of running Windows).
Next, I downloaded a "Breezy Badger" Ubuntu release from this page. I've installed Ubuntu several times now over the last year, it's the Linux distro I'm most comfortable at this point. Unpack that .zip, create some shortcuts, and I'm off and running.
The boot time seems a little slow compared to a native Ubuntu boot, and so I was concerned that the entire runtime story would also be paying this penalty. But, I was happy to find out this wasn't true. Once booted, things were quite snappy.
Here's a few things I learned along the way, which may not be obvious:
- The initial 'admin' user is 'ubuntu', and that's the password as well. I wanted my own userid, which was simple enough to add, but to get sudo support for this, make sure you add that new user to the admin group. If you do that, you don't need to touch the /etc/sudoers configuration
- The clock is slow. Visibly slow. And you will probably be on the wrong timezone after rebooting as well. But the slow clock is just ... weird. I guess that's ok, it's just a temporal thing. As long as you are just fixing the clock by jumping it ahead, things probably won't get too confused about being out of sync. Things like make anyway.
- I thought I'd try to 'fix' the clock issue by enabling NTP synchronization. In the clock widget, right click, adjust time, pick the synchronize with time server option. Wops. NTP support not installed, do you want to install it? Sure. Fine, please insert your Breezy Badget CD. Ut oh. OK. I used to keep a BB CD in my backpack, but couldn't find it. So, I thought, let me just download another one. Start the iso download. Now, while I've got some time on my hands, I'm wondering, is VMware going to recognize my laptop's CD drive as it's own? Else, what do I do? Also think, I might as well give Nero ImageDrive a try before burning the CD, maybe that will even work. And guess what? Run ImageDrive on the iso, see it loaded as a virtual CD drive in windows, and a file explorer simultaneously popped up in my VMware session on the CD. Very, very cool. Saved burning a CD.
- Even with time synchronization, the slew is so bad, I don't think using NTP is going to cut the mustard. Instead, I think I'll just manually synchronize the time when I remember to do this. How do the 'real' versions of VMware handle this? I'm not sure I could really work like this, with the time more or less ALWAYS behind.
- Ran eclipse 3.1.x under the gcj java that Ubuntu ships. Just to see if it would come up. And it did, though it gave me some error 'pane' where the project navigator should have been. Didn't really look into it.
All in all, I'm definitely impressed, but worried about the clock. The only other really nagging issue was the screen size. I run my laptop at 16x12, and the Ubuntu display driver maxxed out at 1024x768 (I think). Too small. Want bigger. And I know enough about X to know that there's no way I'm going to try to reconfigure that. It would also be nice if there were some way of allowing a native directory/directories to leak through to the VMware session somehow. I'd like to actually host my home directory on my real drive instead of the VMware one. I suspect I can set up file sharing to do this somehow, maybe the performance would be acceptable. Or maybe just backing up my home directory somehow (zip it up, ftp it back to the native OS) would do the trick. More experimentation required.
I think I could see doing some lightweight development, or at least screwing around, here. Don't know that I'd want to use this for full-time development, though I don't know what the other, 'real' versions of the product can do either.