James Barrett on 3 Mar 2008 09:36:53 -0800

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Re: [PLUG] One True OS

On Mon, Mar 03, 2008 at 11:53:20AM -0500, Greg Helledy wrote:
> I have played around with VMware player a tiny bit (I have a Debian Etch 
> image here on my work PC) and it occurred to me that if we could run MS 
> Office on XP in a VMware image, with a linux host OS we might be able to 
> increase reliability.  I would probably pick the LTS Kubuntu 
> distribution for ease of support.


> My questions are:
> *Would we be able to get away with the free VMware player if the VMware 
> tools are installed?

You could get away with vmware player, but it is a bit lacking.  VMware 
server would be a better option.  It has more features than player, less 
features than workstation, but does not cost any money out of pocket to 
download and use.  It can either access virtual machines remotely or 
locally.  Plus, if Xorg exits/dies/crashes/whatever then the virtual 
machine does not close like with VMware Player.  With server, the 
machines keep running.

The trick you want is the VMware snapshotting feature.  It is a real 
blessing for Windows virtual machines, and is not available in player 
(at least, last time I checked it was not).  Create the XP VMware image, 
get it ready for primetime (install all your applications and features, 
vmware tools, etc...) and then take a snapshot.  Then do all your work 
on it, when it gets cruddy revert back to the snapshot.  The problem 
with this is that if you save anything (important documents, tax 
records, whatever) to the disk image, they will disappear after going 
back to the old snapshot.  Therefore, I would suggest not saving any
documents on the image, but rather to a central location on the network.

> *Can things be configured in such a way that sharing files between 
> computers works as it does now, so that the controller and payroll 
> person can pass excel files back and forth?

VMware has a built-in file and directory sharing function, but this is 
not a very flexible solution.  There was recently a very wicked security 
exploit against this functionality.  Setting up a separate machine for 
use as a samba server and allowing all the machines (virtual and 
otherwise) to access it over the network is a completely viable 
solution, perhaps more so as you can then have more control over 
security, permissions and the such.  Bridged networking would be very 
preferable for this method, and is easy to set up.  

> *Are there any other things that are going to be significant obstacles 
> to office work that I'm not thinking of?

Linux Kernel upgrades...  Since VMware is proprietary and therefore not 
included with the Linux kernel, most, if not all kernel upgrades will 
require the VMware kernel modules to be rebuilt against the new kernel.  
It is mostly a pain in the rear end, but not dangerous.  

James Barrett

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