Can you suggest a good, lean Linux build that will give me only what I need to run VMware?
That's a fantastic question! I do not play with the different distributions of Linux nearly as much as I should, so I tend to stick with a Linux distribution that I know, like, and is stable and fast. For me that is Ubuntu. And while you may know about Ubuntu because of its current position as the Linux desktop leader, there is also a server edition that you can download from Ubuntu's website.
I use this server edition to run all of my Linux VMware Server servers and it has never let me down. Alternatively, to explore different, "light" versions of Linux and what they have (or in this case, what they don't). You can always refer to the DistroWatch Website. You may want to check out Damn Small Linux. It's only 50 megabytes!
The only thing you may have to install (on Ubuntu) is the inetd or xinetd daemon; it hosts the VMware Server authorization service. I hope this answers your question!
This was first published in December 2006