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Getting started with Debian Linux in VMware

At first you will have to download the zip file which includes the Debian VMware appliance completely installed with VMware Tools and ready to use. You will need at least the free VMware Player in order to run it. Unpack the zip file, start your VMware software, navigate to the unpacked "Debian5" folder and start the "Debian5.vmx".

In the upcoming dialog box that asks whether you want tor create or keep an identifier and/or whether you copied or moved your image chose "keep" the old identifier or that you have "moved" the image. This increases chances that the internet connection via the host system works out of the box. Some more messages may appear so that you become acquainted with the software.

Adjusting the memory size

Fine is having 1 GB physical RAM and using 512 MB for the virtual machine (VM). If your computer has less than 512 MB you have to experiment a bit. The Debian 5.0 appliance needs at least something like 96 MB, but starting larger desktop apps is uncomfortable slow then.

"Troubleshoot->Change Memory Allocation" is the menu entry of the Player for setting the right amount of RAM that is used by the VM. After setting the RAM size, Workstation users will have to click the red start button now, whereas the Player software already started the VM with the selection of the .vmx file and can only use the chosen amount on the next start.

Booting and shutting down the VM

The virtual PC is much like a real one, so make sure you don't have a floppy disk or cdrom inserted, or VMware may try to boot the virtual PC from there. The boot behavior of the appliance can be changed by clicking into the window (to give the guest system the focus) and pressing F2 shortly after starting the VM. To get the cursor back into the outer host system press Ctrl-Alt. When the graphical system of the guest has started, this is only necessary in full screen mode, because the cursor can be dragged out of the guest window at least through the lower edge of it.

After powering on the VM you can just wait or log in at the welcome screen with:

username: user password: user
username: root password: root   (for administrative purposes only)

Shutting down is done in the guest system with "System->Shutdown... ->Shutdown". The Player has a preference that controls whether the VM should be powered off or suspended if you close the Player window from the host system. In suspension mode the whole guest system will get frozen and will come up exactly with the same state the next time you start the VM. Very convenient!

A double click on the top label of the Player window will switch to full screen mode. To get back to the host press "Ctrl-Alt".

Connecting to the internet

Internet connection is done via virtual networking with the host system. The VMware Player or Workstation software has a network configuration switch which must be enabled and in mode "NAT". Moreover, you have to assure that this network is also in the guest Linux connected. There is a network icon at the Gnome menu bar (two monitors) that must not show a sign of being disabled.

If there is no internet access despite the host being online, the Network Manager of Gnome has to adapt first to the new network. The easiest way to force this, is to disable from the outside with the VMware software the network adaptor and wait a few seconds. Gnome's Network Manager recognizes the disconnection and displays a message. Now reconnect the network adaptor with VMware again and watch 2 green balls orbiting around Gnome's monitor icon. After seeing again a message from the Network Manager, the appliance should have network access. If the host is online, the internet should be also accessible. Perhaps it is sufficient to click "Wired Network" from the context menu of the monitor icon and disable and re-enable networking from the inside.

However, it may be necessary to be online with the host before starting up the VMware appliance. For a suspended appliance that means restarting with shutting down and starting again from the Linux Quit menu entry. As a final resort try rebooting the host system first.

Configuration of the appliance

The start-up screen resolution of the appliance is 1024*768. It may be possible to change the guest desktop size simply by resizing the VMware window from the host. Typically you will want to switch the keyboard layout to the one your host system uses. Sharing files with the host system can be done via the Shared Folders feature of the VMware software or networking with CIFS or SMBFS. For more information about screen resolution, file sharing and other settings have a look at the configuration notes.

Installing new applications

Installation is conveniently done by selecting a package out of the universe of more than 20000 packages that are prearranged for this purpose and accessible online.

Now it is time for a short note of caution. Linux is in some aspects different to Windows and this little page can't cover of course all important issues that a Linux newcomer may experience. Just one example, the installation, package versions have to fit together, and by upgrading them the installed VMware Tools may be corrupted. Have a backup or snapshot of your appliance or be prepared to reinstall a newer version of the VMware Tools which may or may not work.

So, be careful before hitting the "mark all upgrades" button or have a VMware Workstation and make a snapshot before applying bigger changes. In general, if you see that Synaptic wants to "upgrade" or "remove" and not only "install" other packages in order to install what you selected, you may shutdown Linux or suspend the VM first and pack the whole directory into a zip file if you have only the VMware Player (which can't make snapshots).

Basic other packages that could be installed:

Desktop environments and window manager which will add session entries in the options menu of the startup-screen. It is probably best to keep Gnome as the default desktop, because then KDE programs are displayed as they should (fonts...) whereas the other way round Gnome programs get the ugly default X-look and font settings are not obeyed. However, in order to change the settings of KDE you have to make KDE temporarily the default desktop (in the options menu of the startup-screen).

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