Windows XP under VMWare Server... yay!

Posted on Thu 02 August 2007 in misc

As a laundry-list systems librarian, my responsibilities run the gamut from crawling under desks connecting cables, administering our ILS, getting an institutional repository up and running, and contributing to open source projects. Maintaining staff workstations is part of the gig. Now, I'm pretty lenient when it comes to personal workstations... everybody pretty much has Power User status, so they can install and uninstall programs at will (sigh, yes, including WeatherBug and Dolphin Screensavers and other quasi-spyware). But for shared workstations, like our reference desk workstations, I recently enforced a stricter policy of plain old User access.

This caused some legitimate grumbling, as our public workstations are also locked-down and our Computer Services department hasn't figured out how to enable students to use their U3 USB keys, so in the past our reference people have taken on the role of saviour by accessing the U3 USB key on behalf of the panic-stricken student who needs to print their assignment that is typically due in ten minutes (or less). Locking down the reference desk workstations this summer removed this capability from our reference people, leading to potential stressful situations in the Fall when the students return en masse. (From a quick read of the U3 support forums, by the way, it sounds like our workstations need to enable write access to the %AppData% directory. I'll have to check on that.)

I mentioned quite a while ago that I thought virtualization technology had plenty of potential for software evaluation and testing purposes. Here's an example of another kind of problem it can solve. Today, I installed Windows XP under VMWare Server (running on top of my Gentoo laptop) and confirmed that its USB support will work. So tomorrow I can install VMWare Server on the reference desk workstations, drop a clean Windows XP image into VMWare, and give the reference people the best of both worlds -- all of the flexibility they need to meet the utmost of edge cases, and a stable workstation that everyone can depend on every time they boot up.