I wanted to come up with some witty introduction here, but after a year of hard work on Workstation 6.5, I’m just too tired to come up with anything.
Workstation 6.5 is the latest release yet of our Workstation product, and continues in the fine tradition of being an awesome program. It’s also the first version to introduce Unity, a feature I’ve spent a lot of time on and will be blogging about in more detail soon.
So why should you upgrade to Workstation 6.5? Well, if you’re a Workstation 6.0 user, it’s free, which is a pretty good incentive. It also comes with a bunch of new and improved features.
Unity is a feature I’m particularly proud of, because it’s pretty much the only thing I worked on for Workstation 6.5.
Unity breaks down the walls between the host computer and the virtual machine. With the click of a button, application windows from the VM pop out onto the host desktop, allowing you to put your host and guest applications side-by-side. If you’re a Linux user but you need to use Outlook for work, this feature will let you just simply run Outlook alongside your other windows.
Unity isn’t just a Workstation feature on Linux or Windows. The free Player product can also run your VMs in Unity!
Unity works best with Windows guests right now but does support Linux guests as well. Linux guests are more experimental and I strongly recommend using a recent version of Metacity in the guest. For Linux hosts, you’ll have best results with Compiz, Metacity or KDE.
It’s a complicated feature and, while not perfect, is still pretty great. I’ve written a little about it (see Working outside the box with Unity and Workstation 6.5 Beta 1 – Now with 100% more Unity!).
In the coming weeks, I plan to write a small series of blog entries about the development of this feature, including some of the complications involved and design decisions we made.
Workstation 6.0 introduced Interrupt Record and Replay, a feature enabling users to record on the CPU level everything that’s happening for a range of time in a virtual machine for later playback. This is a powerful feature for development and debugging, as one can record a session during the testing of an application and forever capture that annoying 1-in-100 crash.
Workstation 6.5 improves upon this by providing a much more flexible UI with the ability to skip around a recording, adding checkpoints for quick navigation, and just generally bringing the feature into a more mature state.
Improved Linux Installer
One of the main grumble points that users (and ourselves) have had with past Workstation for Linux releases is that the installation process wasn’t very smooth, and the vmware-config.pl script had to be re-run after any kernel upgrade.
We’ve fixed these issues by providing a new GTK-based installer that walks the user through the installation process, and by handling kernel configuration (if needed) during Workstation startup. The days of running a shell script to get Workstation running are over. Finally.
Virtual Machine Streaming
Ever want to preview a downloadable virtual machine without having to grab the entire zip file or tarball? VMs can be quite big and it’s a pain to download one only to find out that it doesn’t meet your needs.
The new VM Streaming feature gives users the ability to point Player or Workstation to a remote VM (if provided in the proper format). It will then download the bits as needed, and allow users to pause or restart the stream. It’s important to note that this will be slow at first until it has enough data to smoothly run files off the disk. When finished with the VM, the user can choose to keep what they have, or delete the cached VM from disk.
3D Acceleration with DirectX 9
Our hard-working team of 3D Code Monkeys have been working to bring support for DirectX 9 in the guest, supporting up to Shader Model 2.0. This means many more games are now playable, including one of my favorites, Portal.
Easier VM Creation
We’ve revamped the New VM wizard to provide a more streamlined VM creation process, complete with our new Easy Install feature. Simply put your installation CD in the drive or point the wizard to your ISO file and it will automatically determine the guest OS and default settings.
And lots more…
That’s just scratching the surface. We’ve made plenty of other improvements, listed in our release notes.
Some of us developers will be providing some support in the forums, and if you have a Linux Unity question, feel free to contact me directly.