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Thoughts from David Cornelius


In the old days, playing around with Linux and installing programs and such was quite a chore. Typically, only students and geeks without any social life knew how to make their systems sing and dance. All the business professionals know that time is money. So Windows was the natural choice because to install a new program, you just insert the CD and click Next, Next, Next.

But over the last few years, things have been changing. Linux is getting easier because there's been a big push to hide a lot of the gory details and just present a nice interface with buttons and rounded corners and all. I suppose you could say it's looking more like Windows (or like Macintoshes!).

So after reading up on the "virtualization" services in CentOS (or Red Hat Enterprise) and realizing I really did need VMWare, I downloaded the installer. I figured installing VMWare would fit in with this as well. After all, I had installed VMWare on my Windows server and it went in very easily and is humming along nicely. How much harder could the Linux version be?

Quite a bit it turns out.

But there's a "good" reason. My Windows server is running Windows Small Business Server 2003, a well-supported commercial system. VMWare supports this platform natively--and all versions of Windows, it turns out (which is relatively small when you consider the plethora of Linux distributions).

The version of Linux we are using is "binary compatible" with a well-supported commercial system (Red Hat Enterprise), but none-the-less is a free knock-off. So even though VMWare has an installer that works perfectly with RHE, I couldn't use it because it knows it's not RHE. Ugh.

Instead, I had to build my own VMWare support module from scratch matching the EXACT version of the Linux kernel in use on this box. The command uname -r told me that it's running 2.6.18-8.1.4.el5xen. Oh, this will be fun!

I had to add the C source files and headers needed to rebuild the kernel so that this very custom version of VMWare would work with it. Wow--what a pain! (I learned this after a lengthy Google search.) The packages to include (obviously under the heading of "kernel-devel") were very slight derivations of each other. Every digit in that version number counts. I tried three different sets of source files before realizing that it was the "xen" version of what I had been trying. Of course!

Finally, the VMWare install was able to build a module it would recognize and which tested successfully. Then I had to enter the 20-digit hexidecimal serial number (which took three tries). At long last, the ordeal was over and I was looking at the familiar VMWare console screen I was used to seeing on my Windows machine.

I created the virtual disk, set the memory and am now ready to install the church's old copy of Windows! (It should be as easy as clicking Next, Next, Next! :-))