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VMware Converter intro: Switching from Windows servers to Linux virtual machines

In this tip, new technology writer Brendan Barry tells you how to use VMware Converter to turn Windows machines into VMware-based virtual machines running on Linux, or any other supported operating system.

There are many virtualization schemes out there, but I think that using VMware on Linux is the best way to get started on the right foot. In this tip, I'll show you one way to use VMware Converter to turn a bunch of Windows machines into VMware-based virtual machines running atop Linux or any supported operating system you have.

Why should your IT team check out virtualization? The one-server-per-task or one-server-per-person paradigm is fading away...and good riddance. Virtual machines (VMs) offer real business savings with multitasking and multiple roles per machine. Not only does virtualization keep the manpower needed to configure and maintain multiple machines low, but it cuts down on the cost of applications, per-seat licensing and even power costs.

General VMWare best practices
For new users, here are some VMware usage tips:

1.) Change your anti-virus settings on access scanners to exclude .vmdk .vmem and .iso files. This will stop the continous file-access scanning from your AV software.

2.) Store VM's on a separate partition and preallocate disk space if you can, all the while scheduling daily defragmentation. Try not to store VM's on removable USB/Firewire/ESATA drives, as this can be slow.

3.) Add MemTrimRate=0 and sched.mem.pshare.enable=FALSE to your .VMX file (needs lots of memory)

4.) Page sharing is a technique guest OS's to share memory. To disable this, add the following line to the virtual machine configuration (.vmx) file: sched.mem.pshare.enable=FALSE option

Quick-start approach for VMware Converter
Here's a quick-start way to convert your Windows servers or workstations, one by one, with VMWare Converter.

1.) Obtain VMWare Converter via VMware's site.

2.) Running from a Windows console, open the wizard. It is extremely simple and easy.

3.) Choices are typically
a.) Type: "Physical Computer"
b.) "A remote machine": Here, you give the DNS or IP and the login info.
c.) Type: "Turn it into a Virtual Machine"
d.) Where to store it: Choose whatever disk location you want to store your VMs.

4.) Power on VMWare Workstation or VMware Server and run your machines normally.

Customizing your virtual machine
That's the bare-bones approach. Here's one way to go if you want to customize a bit more. To get Windows apps working in your Ubuntu Feisty Fawn installation, take these steps:

1.) Make sure this repository is active in your /etc/apt/sources.list: deb feisty-commercial main.

2.) Install the vmware-server and rdesktop packages through Synaptic or through Add/Remove Software.

3.) Go to the System Tools menu, and open a "VMWare Server Console".

4.) Click "Connect" and then click "Create a new VM". Click through the defaults, but pick NAT Networking.

5.) Install Windows XP Pro (Pro is needed, as it can be used with rdesktop) normally in the VM.

6.) This is a long step, so we'll break it down into shorter mini-steps:

  • Once Windows has started: Enable Terminal Services in Control Panel/System. Click the Remote tab, and enable "Allow users to connect remotely to this computer".
  • Turn off the desktop for the user you'll use to run your Windows apps, by clicking Run, and typing regedit and selecting HKEY_CURRENT_USER/Software/Microsoft/Windows/ CurrentVersion/Policies/Explorer.
  • Create a DWORD called NoDesktop set to 1.
    • Note the IP address of Windows.
    • Go to your LAN Connection and click the support tab.
    • Download SeamlessRDP, then extract it to C:\seamlessrdp.
    • Log out of Windows, and close VMware Server Console (leave the VM running)
  • Open a terminal and type:

    rdesktop -A -s 'c:\seamlessrdp\seamlessrdpshell.exe c:\windows\explorer.exe'
    IPAddress -u user -p password. Substitute the IP address of your Windows VM.

  • The top of the Windows taskbar should appear above your panel at the bottom of the screen. Right click it, select Properties, and disable "Lock the Taskbar".

    Note: as some online have noted, you need to enable the welcome screen & fast user switching.

On the VMware on Linux path
Hopefully, this has given you a starting point for delving into ways to cut your costs by moving apps off of Windows and virtualizing and manage multiple machines virtually. Doesn't it feel good to really get your money's worth from software again?

About the author:Brendan Barry has been professionally involved in the technology sector for 12 years. In 2005, Brendan started his own technical training school and development consultancy, and simultaneously became heavily involved with virtualizing an existing company's infrastructure, saving them hundreds of thousands of dollars in the process.

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