I have been using VMware Player to build test virtual machines on my laptop with an external drive for some time now. I used to use the free VMware Server. My test VMs weren’t fast because of the slow disk drive but they were good enough to run small Linux VMs to evaluate software. I also had one VM to do some C hacking of the game Nethack for fun. I got a lot of good use out of these free VMware products and VMware is a great company so I’m not knocking them. But, this week I accidentally wiped out all the VMs that I had on my external drive so I tried to rebuild one so I at least have one to boot up if I need a test Linux VM. I spend several hours trying to get the Oracle Linux 6.8 VM that I created to work with a screen resolution that matched my monitor. I have a laptop with a smaller 14 inch 1366 x 768 resolution built-in monitor and a nice new 27 inch 1920 x 1080 resolution external monitor. VMware player wouldn’t let me set the resolution to more than 1366 x 768 no matter what I did.
Finally after a lot of googling and trying all kinds of X Windows and VMware settings I finally gave up and decided to try VirtualBox. I was able to quickly install it and get my OEL 6.8 VM up with a larger resolution with no problem. It still didn’t give me 1920 x 1080 for some reason but had a variety of large resolutions to choose from.
After getting my Linux 6.8 machine to work acceptably I remembered that I was not able to get Linux 7 to run on VMware either. I had wanted to build a VM with the latest Linux but couldn’t get it to install. So, I downloaded the 7.2 iso and voilà it installed like a charm in VirtualBox. Plus I was able to set the resolution to exactly 1920 x 1080 and run in full screen mode taking up my entire 27 inch monitor. Very nice!
I have not yet tried it, but VirtualBox seems to come with the ability to take a snapshot of a VM and to clone a VM. To get these features on VMware I’m pretty sure you need to buy the $249 VMware Workstation. I have a feeling that Workstation is a good product but I think it makes sense to try VirtualBox and see if the features that it comes with meet all my needs.
I installed VirtualBox at the end of the work day today so I haven’t had a lot of time to find its weaknesses and limitations. But so far it seems to have addressed several weaknesses that I found in VMware Player so it may have a lot of value to me. I think it is definitely worth trying out before moving on to the commercial version of VMware.
P.S. Just tried the snapshot and clone features. Very neat. Also I forgot another nuisance with VMware Player. It always took a long time to shut down a machine. I think it was saving the current state. I didn’t really care about saving the state or whatever it was doing. Usually I just wanted to bring something up real quick and shut it down fast. This works like a charm on VirtualBox. It shuts down a VM in seconds. So far so good with VirtualBox.
P.P.S This morning I easily got both my Linux 6.8 and 7.2 VM’s to run with a nice screen size that takes up my entire 27 inch monitor but leaves room so I can see the menu at the top of the VM window and my Windows 7 status bar below the VM’s console window. Very nice. I was up late last night tossing and turning in bed thinking about all that I could do with the snapshot and linked clone features. 🙂
P.P.P.S. Now the bad news. Virtualbox is not working for me with USB flash drives. This works flawlessly out of the box with VMware player. I guess it was inevitable that I would find things that VMware does better. Maybe VMware works better with Windows hosts. I seem to be hitting this issue. It seems to be a known bug using USB flash drives on Windows 7 using Virtualbox. Seems to have been a bug for about 4 years. The workaround seems to be to edit the registry on my work laptop. Not going to do that.