Monday, August 10, 2009

Another Try with VMware Workstation and Player

In a previous post, I described how I was sometimes getting no audio from my VMware virtual machines (VMs), at times when my 64-bit Ubuntu 9.04 (Jaunty Jackalope) installation on that same computer was able to play the same files without a problem. I experimented with VirtualBox as an alternative, but that was coming along slowly at this point, so I decided to give VMware another try. I had been using 64-bit VMware Workstation 6.5.2 to run 32-bit Windows XP VMs on this computer. I now recalled that, lately, I had begun to use VMware Player instead of Workstation to run some of my VMs. I wondered whether Player was somehow messing up my audio settings or my VMs, such that only a reboot or restart of the VM, of VMware, or of the whole computer would fix it (and sometimes that didn't even do the trick). I think what got me wondering about this was one occasion when I was not able to play an audio file in a VM in Player; but then, without rebooting or restarting anything, I opened another VM in Workstation and was able to play audio just fine - and then the audio in Player was OK too. I hadn't really been paying attention, and therefore wasn't sure that this was exactly how the sequence had unfolded; but I thought it was worth a second look. About a day later, I got my first renewal of flakiness from VMware. I was running a VM in Player. I minimized it and went to work on a different VM in Player. When I went back to the first one, I couldn't find it. That is, there was no entry for it in the taskbar at the bottom of the screen. I had learned, by now, that this didn't mean it had closed down; it just meant it was hiding. On Ubuntu's top panel (i.e., the taskbar running across the top of the screen, which in my case I had moved to the left side of the screen because left-right real estate was less crucial than top-bottom real estate, on my widescreen monitor) I saw the icon showing that VMware was up and running. I clicked on that and, sure enough, there was the name of that hidden VM. I clicked on it. It opened up - but not in Player. It opened up in VMware Workstation. This had happened several times previously, but this was the first time when I was absolutely sure, when I was watching for it. I made it full-screen and resized a few windows in Workstation - it had resumed in less than full-screen mode, which meant (in VMware's way of doing things) that all of the windows I had running in that VMware session were automatically resized - and then I clicked on the top panel. Workstation vanished. I went back to that icon in the left-side panel and brought that VM back onscreen yet again. Fortunately, the audio was still working, so this was as far as my bug-hunt was able to progress at this point. But it did make me wonder, again, whether VMware Player was part of the problem. At present, my sense was that running each VM in its own session of VMware Workstation was the most stable way to go. Postscript: two weeks later, running only Workstation since writing this note, I conclude that Player was indeed the problem. This problem has not recurred for me in Workstation.