I updated my server to the 9.10 “Karmic Koala” release of Ubuntu. Unlike my recent laptop upgrade, I upgraded instead of doing a fresh install - I have too much software installed there to go through re-installation if I don’t have to.

As I have mentioned here before, one of the things that I run on that server is a virtual instance of Windows XP, to support QuickBooks. For our business accounting needs, we then simply RDP to the virtual Windows XP instance to use QuickBooks.

I’ve been running that virtual machine on VMware. I like VMware. It works well, is well-polished, and the “Server” version is free. The one problem is that every time there’s a change to the Linux kernel, parts of VMWare have to be recompiled against the new kernel. This happens just often enough to be an annoyance, but until now, has not been a deal-breaker.

VMware has typically been slow to catch up to major kernel changes, and this upgrade was no exception. Usually, someone comes out with a patch to the installer fairly quickly. This time, there is a patch, but it didn’t work for me. I was able to get VMWare started, but unable to keep it running. It would crash, and then when I tried to run it again, it would tell me that it needed to be recompiled. After a couple of cycles of this nonsense, I decided to look elsewhere.

I’ve been using Sun’s VirtualBox at work for some time now, and it’s been very stable, though not quite as polished as VMWare.  VirtualBox also supports and installs the DKMS (Dynamic Kernel Module Support), which promises to automatically recompile the VirtualBox driver when the kernel gets updated. Theoretically, this means that with VirtualBox, I won’t have to deal with this problem any more.

So, I set up VirtualBox, installed XP and QuickBooks, and everything is working fine. I was pleased to see that the newest version of VirtualBox also supports bridged networking as part of the “normal” VM creation, via the GUI.

BTW, for the curious, I keep the QuickBooks file on the Linux host’s file system, and expose it to XP via a Samba share. This makes it ridiculously easy to back up the file, and, as with the current switch-over from VMware to VirtualBox, I don’t have to worry about losing it in some virtual machine disaster.

One last thought. VMware, even when it is working, has lately taken the really annoying approach of re-implementing their console as a web application. If ever there was an application that should not be a web app, it’s a virtual machine console. Of course, you can’t really implement the VM’s window in a web app, so they then go to a browser plugin. This works sometimes, but this is a silly way to do things, with a lot of overhead. I can see where it would be useful sometimes, but it shouldn’t be the only way to administer VMs. Also, the VMware console uses it’s own instance of Tomcat, but comes configured so that it conflicts with all other default installations of Tomcat (the shutdown port is left to it’s default value). This is an amateur mistake, and has gone unfixed for quite some time.  VirtualBox, on the other hand, has a nice, sane, desktop console. +1 for Sun!