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My ramblings on the stuff that holds it all together
I’ve been running the beta versions for a while and have been impressed with the new Unity feature; finally matching what Parallels for the Mac has had for ages.
As ever, clean uninstall of the beta and reinstall of the RTM code, performance is excellent now, and Unity seems to work very well.
Quick (content obscured) screen shot below of how well it integrates into the desktop, even works with the Flip-3D feature in Vista
Good stuff – Unity is definitely the killer feature that allows you to seamlessly run apps on a single desktop, wonder is this available in ACE/Player and would be good if you could do this in future with Linux apps onto a Windows desktop.
I’ve installed the updated build of 6.5 as Eric discussed here; first impressions Unity works much, much better – less screen jitter and flashes of guest desktop – performance definitely improved too and makes my multi Outlook setup much nicer to use.
I’m always impressed at how well VMWare Workstation uninstalled and re-installs between Beta versions.. works 100% every time for me.. impressive considering how many drivers and helper services it installs into the host OS.
Don’t think it will be long until RTM now…
As a result of this post from Eric Sloof I note there is a new build of Workstation 6.5 available; I hadn’t noticed this as I haven’t had much time to follow the forums and my beta/RC (as used in this post and installed here is build 84113) hasn’t notified me there is a new release as all the previous 4.x/5.x beta’s have.
Oddly I checked this morning before I saw Eric’s post and it reported no new builds available – assume this is because its still a beta programme.
Anyway – if you downloaded the previous build before 14th May then go to this page and you can update your registration for the new build (below).
I’ll be trying this out in the coming week and hopefully will be able to get ESX running on my laptop under VMWare Workstation (very handy mobile demo platform).
I use a single laptop for my day-day use, it has all the stuff i need, I run Vista and Office 2007, for our corporate mail we use Exchange like everyone else and I use Outlook Cached Mode to work online/offline..
My own personal email is also an Exchange mailbox – provided by fasthosts (why – well, because..ok?) the problem with this is that I can’t have a single copy of Outlook connected to more than one Exchange server at the same time or run multiple instances of Outlook (I’ve tried all the hacks and Thinstall etc.), and to be honest even if I could it would probably violate the security policies of all the involved organisations as it would be quite simple for an Outlook-aware worm to try to propagate itself across multiple organisations or harvest confidential details.
The problem is further compounded by the fact that I often work on long-term customer projects and have to have a mailbox on their Exchange system as well… which leads to multiple diary sync nightmare, maybe I’ll blog about that some other time).
So at present I have 4 Exchange mailboxes that I need to keep track of, auto-forwarding mail between them is a no-no, I used to be an Exchange admin and I’ve lost many bank holidays due to corporate->Hotmail NDR mail loops!
So, up until now I’ve had to run one full Outlook client and multiple OWA clients in a browser, which is ok as long as I’m connected to the Internet, but no good if I’m on a train unless I want to close and restart Outlook with multiple profiles, which is a pain especially when you are collaborating on a project between multiple organisations. To be honest as good as OWA 2003 is it’s no substitute for a full outlook client. (still waiting for Fasthosts to go to Exchange 2007, oh and enable EAS!).
So, anyway a solution – VMWare Unity, this is a feature like Parallels for the Mac which lets you “float” an application window out of a guest VM to the host desktop meaning you can use the applications without working within a single VM’d desktop window.
To use Unity you need to have upgraded the virtual machine to 6.5 “hardware” by right clicking on the VM in the sidebar pane (below) and install the latest VM Tools – it also only seems to support XP at present, or at least it didn’t work on the Server 2003 VM I had.
Boot the VM… and install the latest VM tools.
VM Workstation Screen – note VM is set to “Unity mode”
My Vista desktop (yes, I have the start bar at the right hand side – widescreen laptop!) with the popup menu for the VM, showing all the start menu for applications installed within in it.
It even shows up on the start bar with the correct icon; although this doesn’t seem to work until its been run a couple of times; I assume it needs to cache an icon or something.
it also seems to respect the window snapshots you get whilst Win-Tab between applications, even for pop-up windows
Technically I can use this to run n x Windows XP/Outlook 2003 VM’s presenting Outlook through to my Vista desktop and comply with all organisations security policies, as each VM and its respective copy of Outlook runs in isolation from each other with the relevant company-specific AV client (or at worst, the same level as if I were using a machine connected to a public network in that they all share a vm network) – I don’t enable shared folders between the VMs.
It’s still a beta feature at the moment, and there seem to be a few bugs particularly when resizing windows sometimes it doesn’t work properly and double clicking to expand to full screen overlays the start-bar on my vista machine.
And it does seem to get confused sometimes and not allow keyboard input, so you have to flick back to non-unity mode and then back to continue, and sometimes a reboot of the guest VM but it is an early build so I would guess this will be resolved.
As an added bonus VM Workstation seems to allow the Vista host OS to go into sleep mode even whilst VMs are running, this is something I’ve not had much luck with in the past – it would generally refuse to sleep when I closed the lid (but thats not a scientific comparison… it may have just been bad luck!)
So, the pay-off – 2 copies of Outlook (2003 and 2007) seemingly running on the same desktop, alt-tab works ok and you have access to all the functionality of both without having to switch between or run multiple OWA sessions and from a security perspective it’s not really any different from having 2 physical PCs in front of you (slight memory overhead, but my laptop has 4Gb RAM, so not a huge issue).
Opening attachments is obviously going to be a bit of an issue, as you’ll technically need an individually licenced instance of Office 2003 in each VM as they can’t (yet) exchange data between them… and that would compromise the security principal.
As of 1st April (not an April fools joke!) you can register for, and download the VM Worksation 6.5 beta programme here..
Main new features are;
I’m most looking forward to being able to use Unity… very cool, have used it on the Mac with Fusion and Parallels equivalent, maybe now I will be able to run 2 instances of full-fat Outlook 2007 side by side, plugged into different Exchange mailboxes and orgs (maybe a bit overkill – but I have my reasons!)