VMware Workstation 6.5 released!

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

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.

Record/Replay

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.

Love,

Christian

17 thoughts on “VMware Workstation 6.5 released!

  1. All very might be nice, but VirtualBox’s Seamless mode still beats Unity hands down by supporting Solaris and OpenSolaris guests. (Even before Sun bought it!)

  2. Thanks for the encouragement Goldie 😉

    I’m sure there are certainly ways in which VirtualBox’s seamless mode is more advanced, and vice-versa. If you could provide an objective, detailed analysis, it would help us to improve our design for our many dedicated VMware customers (enterprise and casual).

  3. Great news, I’m definitely testing 6.5 today, thanks! Just one thing makes me slightly worried – that GTK installer for Linux guests. Personally, I do not have any GUI configured in any of my many Linux VM’s (both work and personal) and I’d hate to set this up just for VMWare config. (Yes, I know I sort of had to do it for shrinking disks – that’s why I never done that in Linux VM’s).

    Is there a “backward compatibility” command-line interface too? Thanks!

  4. foo: Not to be rude, but

    1) It’s my personal blog, and I speak about many subjects on it, GNOME-related and otherwise.
    2) Planet GNOME policy doesn’t prevent me from speaking about such topics on my blog.
    3) We have a good relationship with the GNOME community, are GNOME developers ourselves, contribute back, and work hard to fit our product in with the GNOME desktop. We’ve even open sourced parts of the codebase.
    4) As indicated by the amount of comments I get here, on IRC, and in e-mail, many GNOME developers are glad that I occasionally blog about Workstation, as several use it regularly.
    5) You’re free to turn off syndication of my blog feed on Planet GNOME. You can do so at the bottom of the page.
    6) I generally don’t approve anonymous users. You’ll have more credit with me if you actually provide some identifying information. This would help us to actually have a discussion on the topic.

  5. Jirka: If you run the install bundle with the –console parameter, you should be able to use it in text mode.

    For disk management, do you mean the actual partitions in the guest, or the VMDK files on the host? If you want to shrink VMDK files, you can use vmware-vdiskmanager, which is a command-line tool for performing many operations on disks. (Of course, be sure to back up before doing anything!)

  6. I tried Unity today. I’m runngin Ubuntu with Enlightenment as my window manager. I fired up windows, brought up Word, and pressed the Unity button, and everything disappeared. I was able to alt-tab to VMWare, which brought me to a big grey box that said something like “get out of Unity”, and it brought everything back to normal.

    How would I access the stuff running in windows? Is there a better place to ask this?

  7. Topher: Due to the complexity of how Unity works and the fact that most of what it needs to do is not covered by any window manager spec, a number of window managers just simply will not work. Enlightenment is likely going to be one of these. We’re really limiting support to Metacity, Compiz and KDE.

    I’m hoping to work with people on additions to the EMWH spec that provide what we need, which would allow Unity to work in any supporting window manager. This would be some time in the future, though, as we’d have to agree on the additions, support them in Workstation, and add support to the various window managers.

  8. Hi, I have created a video tutorial about how to install VMware 6.5 Workstation in OpenSuse 11.0, the video is available at:

    http://easgs.wordpress.com/2008/10/03/video-de-instalacion-de-vmware-65-en-opensuse-110/

    @foo

    I think opensource and propietary software can work hand to hand in many scenarios, there is no neeed to tread commercial software as the enemy, as some opensource promotors do in some conferences, that even scare some new potencial opensource users that feel intimidated for this kind of behavior.

    Thanks for the excellent article.

  9. Hi, just installed onto my GNOME SLED10 SP2 and it works perfectly. But the GTK theme is very odd. Like it used to be on GTK 1.X versions.

    Any ideas? What happened?

    Thanks!!

  10. @easgs: Awesome, thanks!

    @Amado: This is our shipped library fallback mode. Basically, by default we attempt to use system libraries and system settings, but given our wide range of distributions we support (and just as importantly, those we don’t support and test), we can run in another mode where we use only the libraries and configuration we bundle with the product. It sounds like this is what is happening. As for why, I don’t know off-hand. Try running from the terminal and see if you get any big scary errors before the UI comes up.

    Do you have gtkmm installed on your system, and what version? It’s possible that it’s a workaround for a specific version of gtkmm. You can also play around with /usr/lib/vmware/lib/wrapper-gtk24.sh to find out what conditional is failing (look for VMWARE_USE_SHIPPED_GTK checks).

  11. The DX9 support is an awesome improvement!
    With the speed you guys are catching up with DirectX, VMWare should soon be able to run the newest games about as soon as they come out.
    Then… none will be forced to run Windows as host anymore and an important pillar of MS’s power over the market will be no more.
    The host OS will be become irrelevant, so the OS market share competition will be all about usability and merit and not application dependence. I can hardy wait!

  12. I think SuperNull is right, most people is tied to windows because they use X application and there is not an equivalent or ported application in linux, applications, it is all about applications.

  13. Hi Christian,

    nice features. One question, do you know if vm workstation 6.5 support novell Open Enterprise Server 2.0 or not? ( I don’t see it on vmware’s website). The only thing is to support Netware 6.5 and OES version 1. Can you give some answer on this?

    Thanks a billion.

  14. You’re writing no more need to run a shell script after a kernel upgrade. Yay! But there were two issues, one on the host, one in the guest. Are they both solved, or for now just the one on the host?

    I understand you clearly say above I won’t need to run a script on the host.

    But do I need to run something on the Linux guests?

    Recently company made me get used to CentOS.

    I was going to put into my Linux VMs something like http://www.tuxyturvy.com/blog/index.php?/archives/48-Automating-VMware-modules-reinstall-after-Linux-kernel-upgrades.html

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