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Keywords: Virtualisation, virtual machines
Title: The VMware Workstation 5 Handbook
Author: Steven Warren
Publisher: Charles River Media
Verdict: Useful for the new user only
VMware Workstation was a ground-breaking product that really kick-started the move to PC and server virtualisation a few years ago. While there are other pretenders to the throne, VMware's products continue to lead the trend in virtual machines on Intel hardware. While the enterprise level products are making the move into the data centre, for developers, tech support and home users Workstation remains the product that others have yet to beat. We here at TechBookReport remain big fans (see our review here). And, for users new to the product, Charles River Media have published the 'VMware Workstation 5 Handbook' which aims to provide a hands on guide to getting the most out of a complex but incredibly useful and flexible piece of software.
The book is pitched very much at the VMware beginner. The opening chapter introduces the concept of machine virtualisation, describes what VMware does and generally paves the way for the rest of the book. There are chapters on installation, a quick guide to the user interface, another on upgrading from the previous version to version 5.0 and chapters on creating virtual machines and setting up guest operating systems running Windows and Linux and so on. On the whole the book makes heavy use of screen shots and provides step by steps instructions to accomplish the core tasks of installing, configuring and using virtual machines. Much of this material is contained in the documentation that comes with VMware, which is generally of a very high quality. Anyone who's used the product before will find that there's little that they'll learn from these chapters, though for new users having the information in one place may make life a little easier.
There is some coverage of more advanced topics, such as converting physical systems to virtual machines, which was useful, as was coverage of some of the command line tools (to mount virtual disks, for example). However the book would have been much more useful if it had gone into greater depth or had covered more advanced topics. Performance tuning, for example, could well have done with additional material, and topics such as debugging within guest systems was also missing. Also missing was information on how to maximise the sharing of virtual machines in a networked environment so that different developers or support personnel can share the same virtual machines.
The book is supplied with a CD that contains both a 30-day demo of VMware Workstation 5.0, documentation and a copy of the third-party Leostream physical to virtual machine conversion tool.
Given the high quality of the material that is supplied by VMware, it's a shame that this book duplicated so much of it rather than adding new material or additional examples. This factor alone makes this a hard book to recommend to anyone but the newest of users.