Wednesday, 13 October 2010

VM Workstation

Having now used my virtual workstation for many months, I can provide a meaningful update about the whole thing.

For those who want some background I wrote about what I'd like to achieve a while back. I ended up running VMware Fusion on a 17" MacBook Pro.

First of all, it works. I use my main virtual workstation all day every day. Deployment was as simple as creating a disk image of my ThinkPad, putting it on my MacBook drive and pointing VMware at it.

My only beef are three persistent bugs with VMware Fusion:
  1. Sometimes the keyboard doesn't work when I resume my workstation image. A keypress results in a beep. The only work-around is to go from full-screen to single window with Command-Option-Return and then maximizing the window to full-screen again. This is a PITA since my Gnome Toolbars then "helpfully" move around and don't get put back where they were.
  2. When I wake the workstation, sometimes for no particular reason the network is off and I need to re-enable it.
  3. I've stopped sleeping my MacBook with VMware running because there is a nasty bug that somehow causes VMware to freeze which results in data-loss - very unhappy. So now I quit Fusion, and then sleep my MacBook. Not ideal.
Things that work.
  1. I have the ability now to snapshot my workstation, or development server, or client image, or whatever and do an upgrade or driver install and then roll it back with no pain.
  2. I am running this with 3 external monitors and it just works. I'm using the DVI port and 2 x USB-DVI adapters with 3 x 1080p screens (Toshiba PA3768) - which also rotate - niiice.
  3. I'm using Afloat to keep a VM window floating above my "normal" desktop, so I can use Ubuntu as my workstation full-screen while still keeping an eye on another VM.
  4. My backups are using Time Machine on a sparse bundle drive, which VMware doesn't notice. So all my VM images are stored on this drive and Time Machine just backs up the sparse-bundle file.
  5. I pulled out all the apps from OS X and created an OS X guest machine where I can run iTunes etc. Sound is still buggy on this guest, but I'm working on that.
All in all, this has proven to be a little nerve racking in the early days, especially with the data-loss issue, but my productivity has increased no-end and I can say that this is a vast improvement on running my workstation on bare-metal for many many reasons.

Now if I had a few more hours in the day I could get back to doing more productive stuff for the Ubuntu Server Team.

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