Wednesday, December 5, 2012

VMWare Workstation under Linux....the heaven and hell in the same package

I'm a VMWare guy (still am).
I've been virtualizing infrastructures from 1999 on. Back then I had no "big time" enterprise server virtualization software, so I used VMWare Workstation, first under windows and then finally under Linux.
I've sicked to VMWare Server ever since the very first version and always under Linux...then ESX and ESXi came along and things got really serious. I absolutely love ESXi and I've tested in beyond the reasonable (or designed) usage, and it always surprises me.

VMWare workstation however has a different relationship with me. I love it just about as much as I hate it. Let me explain why: VMWare workstation is very UNsupported on Linux. It seems stupid that the very best product they have and sell (the ESX and ESXi) is Linux based and it is just flawless.
So VMWare Workstation works very very well under windows...witch kinda denies it's purpose on the first place! Why oh Why would I want to run a virtual machine built on top of a virtualization solution running under the worse O.S. when it comes to resource usage and management?
When it comes to Linux, VMWare Workstation has historical problems with the best O.S. when it comes to managing and using hardware resources...and that's a bad thing. You see, Windows runs better if virtualized under Linux... it's more stable and a lot faster; the opposite is not true at all.

So things loot like they've been inverted; The best implementation of VMWare Workstation is for the worse possible usage of that product. But this would be bearable if the Linux implementation was, at least, stable...but we're not that lucky.
I'm a Debian/Ubuntu user, than meant constant headaches up until version 7. Whenever I had a Kernel Update, I would have several hours of rebuilding the VMNet kernel modules so that VMWare workstation could run, and that was everything but easy. Some guys produced patches and workarounds, but they normally posted them months after my hell week. Having less and less time to spend over glitches instead of real work problems, I had to switch into the "don't upgrade the kernel until articles with the patches and solutions have been posted" mode.

Then things improved with VMWare Workstation 7 and it's perfect install routine. I though I was in heaven by then but this "honeymoon" was very short lasting. My laptop (obviously running Linux) uses an ATI graphics a result, if I turned On the Virtual machine 3D acceleration, I get screen image corruption. Up till that point, I was blaming ATI on their bad drivers for Linux, as the dual screen functions are very unstable and often produce the same screen corruption I experienced in VMWare. Back home at the workstation with it's dual Nvidia graphics cards, Workstation 7 run smoothly with 3D acceleration.

Then VMWare upgraded to Workstation8. WS8 was an important upgrade as is allowed link to ESXi for usage of the virtual machines (not full management functionality, but at least I could use the machines) see, VMWare VSphere client (the management for ESX and ESXi) is windows only! So Linux users had to install a Virtual Machine with Windows and then install the management application (it's goofy to manage your server from a VM running on that same server, but VMWare is well known for leaving you to making goofy decisions for lack of support on the right platforms). But back to the WS7, still the same cool installer and improved performance but, the laptop continued to have real problems with 3D acceleration. At least the Workstation could still kick ass on 3D with the Nvidia cards.

Recently, VMWare upgraded to Workstation 9. I was thrilled to see the claims for better performance so I immediately tried it...and found HELL! You see, not only this one still doesn't work 3d on ATI cards, it crashed BADLY with my nvidia cards and 3D acceleration enabled.
So where does this leave us? VMWare is building worse and worse implementations of better and better products! WEIRD!

So why do I insist on running VMWare Workstation on Linux? Because I keep trying to find a good product and finally stick with it.

My advise to EACH AND EVERY ONE OF YOU out there is: Don't buy VMWare Workstation until you try EVERY function available...use the trial and test before you spend any money.
I mean it's good for office and simple tools, but forget running games or even 3D apps on it without these VERY BAD PROBLEMS solved properly.

Are there any other solutions out there? Sure!
VMWare workstation is not compatible with ESXi, so I can't just stage a machine with Vmware Workstation and then upload to ESXi, I have to use VMWare converter to convert the machine to ESXi. In that sense, why use VMWare Workstation at all?
Welcome to Oracle Virtual Box. Virtual Box, unlike VMWare Workstation, comes from Linux. The Windows implementation is not the prime development but rather the secondary.
Is it perfect? no... not as a good performer as the VMWare workstation, but at least it supports 3D without crashing! Bare in mind that the USB support for the community edition is quite bad, so I recommend you to download form the Website instead of installing through Software Center.

So... unless you want to use nvidia ONLY and keep on Workstation 7, just use Virtual Box and if you stage ESXi machines, don't worry as you would still need VMWare converter anyway if you were using VMWare Workstation.

Sorry VMWare... better start supporting Linux at least as well as you do Windows! It's not that difficult, just grab one or two geniuses you have working on the ESX team and learn from them.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Ubuntu on unity: is this the end?! NO!! Ubuntu Studio saves the day.

I've been using Linux ever since I was forced to use PC hardware on my everyday job, against my platform of election - The Commodore Amiga.
I started my PC experience with the 286 and then my father brought me an IBM PS2 386 SX, hopping I would drop the brilliant Amiga against the DOS and clumsy windows didn't work! I used the PC for the works at school (mostly programming), and the Amiga for just about everything else from programming  to music producing, to video editing to the simple spreadsheet and word processing.
Even when I was studying engineering, I was forced to use the AUTOCAD 12 under MSDOS...but I still used XCAD on the Amiga for the drawings, Lightwave 3D for animation and 3D, and sometimes I even played with Real3D for some very very awesome renderings of my mechanical parts.

When I started working, back in 1997, the Amiga was loosing strength (because of poor visioned management that rotted the corporation for years), and I was running out of time to work 2 different systems constantly. By then Windows NT3.5 and latter the NT4.0 were the poor mans workstation standard, while Sun sparcs ran Solaris and Serious HP workstations ran HPUX.
I had training in UNIX, but it was just impossible to have both a UNIX station and a Windows station back home, so since most of our clients were Windows based, I had to opt for the NT...hell, I even got certified (not something I usually tell people, not by the fact that's a Microsoft certification, but rather not to be confused with today's "Microsoft Certified Professionals"...back then a Microsoft certification was hard to get and implied real knowledge, instead of just good memory for brain-dump).

Still, was constantly amazed with the increasing hardware power,  while the results were so damn poor comparing to my good old Amiga... and I was not even comparing my A4000-030, I talk about the 80's  A500 running a 7mhz 16bit CPU on 512Kbs of ram.

It wasn't until 1999 that I got enough money to have several computers at home, and the office allowed me to have a laptop, so my work could be on the laptop and use my home machines for exploring other O.S. solutions. Back then Linux was not much easier than a Unix, and far from as productive as an Amiga... but at least it was hardware resource sensible and very fast.

Linux grew in time... lot's of distributions passed and I tried them as I searched for a good Linux. I tried RedHat, TurboLinux, Mandrake and of course Debian, making this last one my preferred one.
Ever since Ubuntu popped in the scene with REAL improvement on user desktop experience (and I'm talking about 6.04LTS), I decided to stick with Ubuntu and Debian alone. If the Hardware was too picky, I would go for Debian, and if I was running on state of the art hardware specs, Ubuntu (with it's constant updates) would be the choice.
For the last years I've been using Ubuntu Studio 9.10 64 on my HP Compaq 8510p laptop, and I've used the same on my home AMD 5000+ Workstation, however problems with the support for Vmware  workstation 6 and 7 on Debian based Linux (especially with the compilation of network kernel modules) made me constantly try new kernels, and that led me to the post title.

On one of those Updates, the Ubuntu Studio 11 (if not mistaken) I found my self out of Gnome and into (if I'm not mistaken) XFce... and I really don't like KDE nor Xfce (or I thought I didn't). So I decided to re-install with Ubuntu and then manually install all the other packages from Ubuntu Studio....boy was I on for a surprise. Ubuntu had been defaced into that thing called unity. These's something very wrong about today's Ubuntu Unity and Windows 8! If I want a PAD, I buy one and run the Debian based Android on it!!!! Why would I want that interface on my workstation?!?!
The pity thing is that the kernel is much better and faster (same thing as in windows 8... a much much better kernel on a bad interface), so the Unity interface is just a way to let you...NOT enjoy it and move away to the always reliable and good old DEBIAN. Like I did!

I've been very very disappointed with today's Ubunty Unity, and I understood why would Ubuntu Studio move away from Gnome to a XFce like environment, however, I decided to recheck Ubuntu Studio on the 12.10 version. FINALLY, Ubuntu's good old "Gnome-like" desktop running on the brand new super fast kernel.

So to conclude, If you used to like Ubuntu and feel disappointed (ultimately moving to Mint I would if they drop that sick green), try the brilliant Ubuntu Studio 64 12.10... and find your self back into the Desktop Experience Linux game...and you know what? That brilliant Gnome like actually Xfce4 :s. Seems like that, while Gnome is getting worse with unity, Xfce found it's way through.

This is a good example for some of you readers queering me about my anti-Microsoft pro-Linux tendencies. I'm not against Microsoft... I actually love, use and teach how to use some of their the same time, I'm not a blind Linux lover.
If I like a product, than I like and write about it; If I don't... well I just don't and write about it.