VMWare Player triggers Windows Activation process

VMWare Player triggers Windows Activation process

Summary: If you've followed any of my blogs regarding VMWare's VMWare Workstation and the runtime it's now giving away for free, then you'd know by now that I'm highly recommending to anyone with a brand new machine that the first thing they should do is load VMWare Workstation on it and then create a bunch of distinctly separate virtual machines (each running Windows for most people), and then, you divide your tasks across those virtual machines.

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TOPICS: VMware
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If you've followed any of my blogs regarding VMWare's VMWare Workstation and the runtime it's now giving away for free, then you'd know by now that I'm highly recommending to anyone with a brand new machine that the first thing they should do is load VMWare Workstation on it and then create a bunch of distinctly separate virtual machines (each running Windows for most people), and then, you divide your tasks across those virtual machines.  For example, all of your personal computing What if I made 1000 copies? Is this a way to bypass the traditional licensing schemes... (in other words, not your work computing) can take place in one or two virtual machines that are separate from the virtual machines that you use for work.  This assures you (and your boss) that the software you have for personal use doesn't interfere with the software you use for work (and vice versa). 

When I said "one or two virtual machines" in describing the number of virtual machines you might spread your personal computing across, I said that because even within your personal computing, you might want to keep things separate.  For example, you might want to have one virtual machine (VM) for all of your online banking.  For this VM, you make it a habit never to install any other third party software that might end up compromising your security.  Perhaps you have another VM that houses all your communications apps.  And a third for your kids' games.  My son has, in the past, downloaded some pretty shady software and I learned the hard way that I can't let him use my notebook for anything.  But as long as he stays within the confines of a VM I've assigned to him, then, I can be a little more flexible.  That's because, if his VM gets screwed up, I just delete it and the rest of the system keeps running without a hitch.

Recently, VMWare announced that it would be making it's VMWare player free (for both workstations and servers).  What this means is that once I create virtual machine (a process known as cloning in VMWare's parlance), I should be able to "play" it on any machine that's running either a full blown copy of VMWare or VMWare's Player (it's basically a runtime).  The implications of this architecture on the software licensing business are many.  For example, if I clone a copy of Windows XP that has a bunch of third party applications installed on it, and then copy that clone to another computer that has the Player on it, couldn't that constitute a license violation (answer: YES).   What if I made 1000 copies?  Is this a way to bypass the traditional licensing schemes like Windows Product Activation that's put to use by companies like Microsoft as a way of protecting their intellectual property?  Could be.

So, I finally got around to testing the Player to see what would happen if I copied a clone from my AMD64-based Ferrari notebook to an IBM Thinkpad T42 and I was quite surprised at the results.  Upon starting the virtual machine on the Thinkpad T42,  Windows XP's start-up halted about midway through and told me that that the computer's underlying configuration had changed significantly and that I had to re-activate my copy of Windows.  So, I moved forward with the activation and, upon activating, everything returned to normal and the virtual machine started working. 

Cool, I thought.  But what was it between the copy of VMWare Workstation on the Ferrari and the Player on the Thinkpad that was different -- different enough for Windows to detect a change.  I thought that VMWare's virtual machine technology virtualized everything to the point that the operating system and applications in a VM were completely abstracted from the underlying hardware.  Well, apparently not.  According to VMWare group product manager Srinivas Krishnamurtiff, there are some things that are not virtualizable.  One of them is the host system's processor.  Said Krishnamurtiff "there's a processor type that's not virtualizable."   In other words, for the clones to truly be portable across systems, the systems may have to be relatively close (within the same family) in terms of process configuration.  At the very least, they can't be processors from a different manufacturer. 

Also, the more I play with this idea, the more I realize that it could create some management headaches for VMWare users.  More on that in my next blog.  Meanwhile, if you have VMWare workstation stories to share with me, write to me and perhaps we'll publish them here on ZDNet.

Topic: VMware

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8 comments
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  • You can do the same thing with

    Linux and multiple accounts. No need for VMWare.
    CTRL+F1 start a new session and login as tom
    CTRL+F2 start a new session and login as ed

    Each login (account) can be setup to specific
    restriction. The beauty of Linux and Free-BSD is
    it's true multi-user capacity is always
    overlooked. The ability to log in multiple times
    simultaneously is awesome and used daily on all
    but my servers.

    VMWare... nice but for what you are speaking of
    Linux and Free-BSD can do with their current
    design and implementation.
    Linux User 147560
  • So Sad

    It is a sad state when you need to load an entire operating system (Windows) to run one program (a web browser) to do one function (Internet banking) separate from anything else that you do.
    BubbaJ
    • Extreme case..

      Bubba: thanks for writing. I gave that example because of how extreme it is and the lengths to which some people -- particularly those who are really paranoid -- can go so they can get some sleep at night. More typical is using different VMs to keep work separate from play. Or, as others have pointed out... development separate from production.

      David
      dberlind
  • Not the same thing

    Multi-user systems are very useful. They are not the same thing.
    mobrien_129
  • Based on your recommendation

    I installed VMWare off a Win2K3 based host to set up a new development environment (staging/production) and a Debian based linux distro called Ubuntu. Ubuntu was offered on the VMWare website as an easy way to install the OS by just mounting/installing the VMWare machine/image. Installation was anything but easy; the image was configured with an older VMWare version that is natively incompatible with any newer versions (something that is conveniently not mentioned on their website). I had to use a hex editor to change some values in the VMWare image to enable it to work properly.

    One thing you haven?t mentioned is that VMWare has two kinds of internet connections (essentially the same speed, one is more processor intensive). This is kind of important when running multiple Win2K3/Linux installations at the same time with limited resources. You can forget about compiling the Linux driver on Ubuntu (has been done on Suse and RHFC), after 4 days of trying I finally gave up and just left it at the more inefficient internet setting. (I belive it?s a limitation of the VM driver and Ubuntu combined, I'm no Linux expert.)

    Another thing not mentioned, is after the initial ?Host? is setup and you begin to install other VM?s, the new VM setup is considerable faster, on the magnitude of minutes. I think this makes for a better user experience and something that should be touted as an advantage.

    Despite the initial problems with trying to get everything set up (I expect the same with any initial software experience) this product is pretty solid. I can turn VM?s on and off with extreme ease. I made a base install of my most used software and backed that VM up, so I have a base to work from without having to start completely over. I?ve since recommended it to a few friends of mine who were actually talking about buying another machine for their kids gaming needs. Why bother? VMWare will save you the trouble.
    donkey_butter
  • Virtuous Virtuosity

    I have used Virtual PC, VMware (GSX and Player), 'Linus on Linux' (UML), Multiboot systems, and dozens of emulators over the last twenty years. VMWare comes the closest to 'transparent' operation without needing to reboot when switching OS. This is proof positive that the average computer has much more power than the average user needs, except for the sorry state of OS code. Bloated, 'DO everything for everybody' operating systems are a curse. One of my favorite VM's is IBM DOS7 with WordPerfect 5.1. A real pleasure to use (once I found a printer that wasn't a Windows cripple.) We can now update some lab equipment controllers by using the older compromised OS in a VM and the proprietary software runs okay. (Always test before switching.)
    plumley9
  • VMWare Player triggers Windows Activation process

    Of course it does!!!

    Microsoft's biggest problem with virtual
    software has been how to control it to
    enforce their asinine (although generally
    accepted) EULA.

    Now that they have worked most of the kinks
    out, it's full speed ahead. Using their time
    tested usual devious business methods, they
    will give away or low ball VMWare until
    every other producer is bankrupted into
    oblivion. Then.... their "users" (they don't
    dignify them enough to call them customers
    anymore, don't y'know) will pay through the
    nose, since they will no longer have an
    alternative.
    Ole Man
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