Here’s my little contribution to trying to correct this. Quite some time ago, VMware announced the availability of the VMware Player, a free version of their superb VMware Workstation product line. While it’s feature limited compared to their commercial products, it’s still an absolutely awesome piece of software and has become an essential tool on my machines.
If you’re not familiar with it, VMware workstation and its siblings are virtual machine applications. These are not emulators like Virtual PC – they use the native hardware of the machine they’re running on and thus perform relatively close to the native speed of your machine when running software. They allow you to run additional operating systems simultaneously on your machine, say for example Windows 98 inside of your Windows XP machine, or Windows 95, or, in my case, linux.
This has become enormously useful for me – I run a duplicate of my server’s operating system (the server hosting this site) on my pc and test out software builds and patches on it before I install them on the actual server, saving me the heartache and time. I’ve also used it to test out a variety of other linux distros and even OSX on intel – there’s a user community out there that’s busily offering up a host of different operating systems and flavors for the free player. Whether you’re doing software/web development stuff, want to test out linux, or just want to play some old DOS games, or for any of a hundred other reasons, this is a fantastic tool that’s worth checking out.
Note that this is Win32 and Linux only, and while performance is really good, you wouldn’t want to be playing a modern 3d shooter using VMware player. Older stuff from the pre-windows xp days generally works fine though.
Next purchasing cycle at work, this is going to become part of my professional toolkit as well (the workstation product) and help me get rid of the ridiculous array of screens strewn across my desk. I’m at 5 and occasionally 6 at this point. I also hope they consider developing an OSX port of their product once OSX is running on intel hardware.