About two years ago I bought a Compaq Presario 3000 laptop computer as my primary machine. It started overheating whenever I would try to check things out of a source repository or build software on it. I had it dual booting Windows XP and SuSE Linux 9.1. The overheating would cause it to just plain shutdown on Linux, or completely freeze under Windows XP. It was impossible to get anything of any substance done on the machine past email and web browsing, but I stuck it out because I didn’t want to spend more money on a new machine — and I didn’t want to be without a machine for 4-6 weeks while they sent it in for repairs.
At the time I bought it, it was brand new on the market and the poor customer reviews weren’t available. By the time I called support, the machine was on Compaq’s “classic” list.
Last month I got completely frustrated and decided to go out and find a laptop. I settled on the GATEWAY 7422GX Notebook Computer. It’s a 64-bit AMD chip with built in wireless, universal card reader, and DVD-RW drive. To be honest, I was actually too cheap to settle on this one and bought a cheaper model. However, that model I soon found had a known defect with the system restore, and they let me trade up for this model for the same price. You have to love Best Buy.
My first inclination was to again dual boot the machine running Linux and Windows XP. I need XP because my Digitech GNX4 software does not run on the Linux environment. However, once I got Linux on the machine, I found that the wireless card wasn’t supported on the distribution of Linux that I was installing (or if it was, I couldn’t figure out how to get it running after hours and hours).
Rather than spending my time wrestling with the machine and operating system for hours on end, and realizing that I actually wanted both Windows and Linux without having to reboot every time I wanted to change operating systems, I grabbed VMWARE WORKSTATION 4.X for Windows NT/2000/XP and installed it.
I decided that this time around, I was going to try out Fedora Core 3 as my Linux operating system. Having VMWare at my disposal was great, as I could muck about with the configuration as much as I needed to without hosing the machine. Once I found the documentation on getting the VMWare tools installed under Fedora, the machine has worked great.
In addition to being able to run multiple Linux distributions at my whim, the virtual machine is also able to piggy back on the hardware drivers for the Windows operating system, giving me access to my wireless network from my Linux installation. For each virtual machine installation, I now have the ability to snapshot the environment before making any major changes, guaranteeing that I can get back to a working installation.
This is truly the best of both worlds. If you want a truly safe way to run Linux on newer hardware and have any questions as to whether it will run or not, I highly recommend VMWare as a platform to integrate Linux into your daily work. I haven’t been happier.