Submission to Virtual Mania

I've been using VMWare on Windows XP Pro at work and discovered that maybe there is a purpose for virtualization but it may not be the reasons the programmers were envisioning. BTW virtualization still doesn't make coffee or buttered toast!

I've been using VMWare on Windows XP Pro at work and discovered that maybe there is a purpose for virtualization but it may not be the reasons the programmers were envisioning. BTW virtualization still doesn't make coffee or buttered toast!

Turns out that VMWare for workstations (not the VMPlayer, that's another product) has a feature that allows screen capturing and it takes the capture and puts it into the clipbook on the host. Another option is one that allows “making movies” of desktop actions. These two features makes writing user manuals a breeze. I've been writing what I call a “cartoon book” otherwise known as a user manual. I use tons of screen captures with arrows and boxes etc. hence the “cartoon book” handle. For that reason alone, using VMWare was worth the price of the product. I can run our new application software in a virtual machine and grab screen captures of every step of the process being written about without dealing with the user interface of the system I'm actually doing the writing on.

An embedded user manual should be considered an extension of the user interface on the product. You shouldn't kill a tree to make your software easier to use by your customer.

Of all the virtual tools I've used previously, VMWare Workstation is probably the easiest and most stable software yet. I loaded Fedora 9, Debian 4.0, Ubuntu 8.1, OpenSolaris 10, Windows XP Pro and Windows XP Embedded all into virtual machines using VMWare. All of them work just fine and the system does not bog down and come to momentary halts like it does with VirtualPC 2007 from Microsoft. The development system I use at work has a Pentium Duo in it with 4GB of RAM @ 2.8 Gigahertz so its not an impoverished machine. With VirtualPC running, the virtual machine and the host its running on run much slower than they should. Running VMWare there is a slight apparent performance hit but nothing like VPC.

The behavior of the application program running in a Windows XP Pro VM has same behavior appearance of the application running on standard hardware with Windows XP Pro without a virtual machine. Since the application is the equivalent of a Human-Machine Interface device, operation while running in the VM opens many training possibilities with a training program running perhaps in one VM and the application running in another.

The other products tried were not acceptable at all and I'd rather not give them any Google hits.

The only trick to learn for setting up the VMs is to pre-allocate the entire suggested virtual drive space for each of the Linux distributions. Fedora 9 and Windows XP didn't seem to care but Debian and Ubuntu required pre-allocated space for the drive in the virtual file set up by VMWare. OpenSolaris I installed with a pre-allocated drive space since it seemed as if it was going to only use minimal configuration unless I gave it more space. OpenSolaris seems to need quite a bit of space to operate properly. Obviously with all of the virtual machines using anywhere from 256MB to 512 MB of real RAM space, 4GB of RAM goes fast if you try to run more than one or two at a time.

I'll write more about my experiences with VMWare periodically. It seems to be an excellent product. My next test is to see how well it works when hosted on Linux.