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VMware 2.0: Virtually Magnificent
Two OSes, One Machine
April 10, 2000
Described in the driest terms, the concept behind VMware 2.0 for Linux doesn't do much to attract attention: the software provides a virtual machine, simulating a networked "computer within a computer" on an X Window desktop.
VMware's virtual machine provides Linux users with the chance to not just run software from such operating systems as the Microsoft Windows family, FreeBSD, or MSDOS, but to run the operating systems themselves almost seamlessly within a window on an X Window desktop. The traditional price of access to a second or third operating system, repartitioning, or fussing with a bootloader, is removed, too. VMware gives users access to a second or third OS without requiring a single reboot or nerve-wracking visit to fdisk.
Version 2.0 of this outstanding product is a real improvement on an already quality piece of software. The upgrade is worth it to existing users, and those who passed on its last release over performance issues may want to reconsider. Those who may have overlooked VMware on the premise that it was an underfeatured novelty should reconsider, too. Several new features enhance its use in professional environments.
Despite our enthusiasm, though, VMware still isn't the ideal solution for everybody, and it has limitations. Gamers, BeOS enthusiasts, and OS/2 revivalists in particular are in for some disappointments.
Although VMware allows the installation and use of such disparate operating systems as FreeBSD and MSDOS, we focused on Windows 98 for this review due to simple availability and the fact that a frequent complaint about Linux is the lack of variety in common productivity and entertainment applications.
Getting VMware VMware 2.0 for Linux is available under various terms at prices ranging from free for a 30-day evaluation download to $329 for a boxed version bundled with some printed documentation (available for download as a PDF) and the SuSE distribution in a preconfigured virtual machine. The download weighs in at just over 6 MB, putting it within easy reach of even slow dialup connections.
Students and hobbyists who won't be using the software for business can buy it for $99. Bulk purchase rates exist, but the software may not be site-licensed. Though this review is concerned with the Linux version, prospective buyers should also note that they can't transfer licenses between the Linux and Windows NT/2000 editions. The only way to buy the product is through VMware Inc. itself; the company has decided not to license outside vendors.
Those who already own a licensed copy of VMware 1.0 must check the VMware Web site for upgrade eligibility.