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Fusion 2 and vmrun

VMware Fusion 2 and other VMware products include a command line utility called "vmrun". On OS X, you'll find that at "/Library/Application Support/VMware Fusion". You can download a PDF that describes its use at Using vmrun to Control Virtual Machines.

If you want a great guide to learning Fusion, consider Joe Kissel's Take Control of VMware Fusion 3, a free PDF E-book that will teach you everything you need to know.

You can use vmrun to start and stop virtual machines from the command line. You can suspend and reset machines also. That's all very simple:

vmrun start Ubuntu/Ubuntu.vmx 
vmrun  suspend Ubuntu/Ubuntu.vmx
vmrun start Ubuntu/Ubuntu.vmx
vmrun stop Ubuntu/Ubuntu.vmx

What may be more interesting is that you can inspect the process list. You do need to install VMware tools first:

$ vmrun -gu apl -gp mypasswd  listProcessesInGuest  Ubuntu.vmx 
(long delay)
Error: The VMware Tools are not running in the virtual 
machine: /Volumes/WD250/Ubuntu.vmwarevm/Ubuntu.vmx

Although VMware provides VMware Tools, Fusion can't actually install them - it simply mounts a virtual CD image and you do a manual install. For Ubuntu, that involves unpacking and compiling source, some of which failed when I tried it. However, most of the important things did compile and were able to be linked into the kernel so soon I could do:

$ vmrun -gu apl -gp mypasswd  listProcessesInGuest  Ubuntu.vmx 
Process list: 69
pid=1, owner=root, cmd=/sbin/init
pid=914, owner=root, cmd=/sbin/udevd --daemon
pid=2231, owner=root, cmd=/sbin/getty 38400 tty4
pid=2232, owner=root, cmd=/sbin/getty 38400 tty5
pid=2238, owner=root, cmd=/sbin/getty 38400 tty2
pid=2239, owner=root, cmd=/sbin/getty 38400 tty3
pid=2244, owner=root, cmd=/sbin/getty 38400 tty6

You can do the same thing with a Windows VM.

I did have one other problem with the tools: it reset my X display to 1366x768 . That was impossible to read, so I did a Ctrl-Alt-F1 to get a login screen, edited /etc/X11/xorg.conf and did a "killall Xorg" to fix that.

There's more: you can create directories in a running Vm:

vmrun -gu apl -gp mypasswd  createDirectoryInGuest  ~/Desktop/Ubu*/Ubuntu.vmx /tmp/newdir

You can even run programs. That's not particularly exciting for Linux as you could do that several easier ways, but it could be interesting for Windows VM's.

Not that when you run programs, the output doesn't appear at your Mac. In the case of Linux, the output doesn't appear anywhere unless you have told the command to put its output somewhere. A script could redirect to /dev/tty1, an X11 app could use Display :0 and so on.

On Windows, the commands run in the VM console if you use the credentials of the logged in user.

I had a lot of trouble with running programs and scripts. I could easily run a script that I had created, say "/tmp/myscript":

date > /dev/tty1
date > /tmp/foo
echo $1 >> /tmp/foo

That would run with

vmrun -gu apl -gp mypasswd  runprogramInGuest  ~/Desktop/Ubu*/Ubuntu.vmx /tmp/myscript  args

If you were logged in on tty1 (ctrl-alt-F1) you'd see the output and of course would also find it in /tmp/foo.

However, I had problems running Perl scripts such as they show in examples. There doesn't appear to be any logging so it's very hard to figure out what might be wrong.. but it hardly matters as you can always just bundle up whatever you need in another script.

Vmrun makes it possible to automate tasks in virtual machines. I don't have any particular need for that right now, but it's easy to imagine cases where I would.

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