Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Other Virtualization Solutions to Play Audio in Ubuntu 9.04

I was running 64-bit Ubuntu 9.04 (Jaunty Jackalope). I wanted to use IrfanView to listen to .wav files. I had been using it in a VMware Workstation 6.5.2 virtual machine (VM) running Windows XP, but I had lately been having a problem with stuttering audio playback, and my efforts to fix it had failed so far. It was possible that I had not correctly applied all of the suggestions I had encountered, so one option was to go back and review the recommended steps, perhaps by spending a few weeks working through the Comprehensive Video & Multimedia Howto. Since there seemed to be users whose problems persisted after trying those suggestions, however, I thought perhaps I should try out some alternatives. I posted a question about the VMware problem and left it at that for the time being, reserving the option of trying the supposedly surefire solution of installing a second sound card.

One alternative was to try running IrfanView directly on Ubuntu, with the assistance of Wine. I had made some progress on that, but that, too, was still pending resolution of a posted question. Another possibility I had overlooked was to use VMware Player instead of VMware Workstation. Player (a free download) had been installed when I had installed Workstation, and was now available to me in Ubuntu at System Tools > VMware Player. I opened a VM that I had powered down (i.e., that was not merely suspended) in Workstation. I hadn't really used Player before. I was pleased to see that it seemed to run VMs a little faster and simpler than Workstation.
I tried playing audio in VMware Player. To my surprise, both IrfanView and Windows Media Player played .wav audio files just fine, with no stuttering! I had shut down the machine the previous evening and powered it back up again that morning, so I wondered whether the cold restart had made a difference. I started up Workstation, resumed a previously paused VM, and tried playing .wav files in there. Those, too, played fine. Apparently the restart had indeed temporarily fixed the problem - might, indeed, have been the reason why the other solutions I had tried had seemed to work. I had rebooted the system previously, but it now seemed that I simply hadn't left it turned off long enough.
Since the problem seemed to be fixed, I abandoned (at least for the time being) the other possibilities that I had begun to explore. In case I (or someone else) needed them, however, that list of possibilities included the following:
  • Perhaps I could successfully run IrfanView inside a virtual appliance. These would seemingly be subject to the same VMware Workstation problems, but perhaps not, somehow. I searched the VMware Virtual Appliances webpage for IrfanView but, not surprisingly, found nothing. My Google Search for WinXP applications in the VMware catalog didn't seem to turn up anything special, but a search for "Windows 7" indicated that, for $10, I could download something called the Bagvapp RC Windows 7 beta. They said this thing also came with additional software installed. (Microsoft provided additional information on this free (possibly bug-filled) Release Candidate.) For ten bucks, of course, it made huge good sense to just buy the pre-installed VM from Bagvapp; but since I didn't really need it, I contented myself with signing up for Bagvapp's RSS feed. (Most of their stuff was free, but they said they were swamped with orders for the RC and had to pay for a ton of bandwidth.) There also seemed to be other free Windows 7 beta virtual appliances, such as one from Tuxdistro, although not all appeared to be as fully tricked-out as the one from Bagvapp. The Win7 RC, in any case, was said to be valid for another eight months, until March 2010.
  • In March 2009, Jonathan DiPrizio discussed four virtualization options in Linux. Those four were Qemu, Parallels, VMware, and VirtualBox. DiPrizio found VMware and VirtualBox to be the clear winners among these four, and actually preferred the latter. So I would have the option of trying to run IrfanView in VirtualBox, if the VMware problems continued.
  • I had also located Wikipedia articles on application virtualization and platform virtualization. These led to consideration of other possibilities, such as Microsoft Virtual PC and DosBox.