VMware Adventures: Joys of multi-networking and hassles of a broken install

I have been generally having a positive VMware experience over last 5-6 months. I have been using it to work in Ubuntu environment on my XP host laptop. One of the nice things of this setup for me is that when I am inside our corporate wired network with all kind of firewall restrictions, the vmware environment can use the guest wireless network to access my home network or external project code repositories which are not on port 80.

Port 80 seems to be the only port the corporate firewall would let us connect to, that is unless you are on our guest network, which does not have these restrictions. It can be a pain when you are working with some external code repository and they don’t have a http proxy setup. So with vmware it is like having two computers sitting on my desktop. I guess for my small world this is an instant realization of benefits of virtualization! Once I have the ubuntu vmware appliance connected to our guest wireless network in bridged mode, I can proceed to run vncviewer, etc. over ssh to my home machine on port 22 and so on.

One problem I had run into initially was about how to ensure the bridged network connection in VMware player is using the wireless adapter in my laptop. VMware knowledgebase has good workstation documentation that explains the differences between the various virtual network adapters (VMnet0, VMNet1, VMnet8 , etc.) that are installed in the host system, and how VMnet0 should be setup. VMnet0 does not show up in the Windows network control panel and it is the adapter that is used to connect the VMware environment in bridged mode, i.e. directly to the DHCP server on the network as a peer to other machines, including the host. This is the one I really cared about in my office environment.

The NAT mode would cause the environment to tunnel through the host (XP) environment’s network connection and that would take me into wired office LAN and I do not want that. I do use NAT mode when I am in situations where my XP environment is automatically setup to connect to paid access points using utilities like iPass. I don’t have a similar setup for my ubuntu environment and I end up using a NAT mode of connectivity in that case, instead of having to pay twice.

Anyway this document provides a good overview of what are the different models of connectivity available in VMware environment. Another good document describes how to use the Virtual Network Editor, located in installation directory, in Windows for setting up bridged network to ensure that it always uses the network adapter you want it to use; in my case it is the wireless adapter. By default this editor application does not get installed under Vmware folder in the program menu. You need to look for it in the installation directory.

So everything was humming along fine. Yesterday, when I launched the player it notified me that new version (2.0.5) of player is available and I decided to download and do an update. As my luck would have had it, the update process broke in the middle, during the uninstall phase to be precise. The update first uninstalls the previous version and does a new install. During the uninstall of the existing version (2.0.4) it seemed to have hung at some point and I finally had to kill the installer. After that when I tried to reinstall I kept getting prompted that there is an existing version of VMWare player and I should manually uninstall it from Add/Remove control panel. But the Add/Remove control panel did not have any VMware player entry. The previous failed uninstall had obviously removed it while leaving behind other registry entries. The msi file had also gone missing from the install locaton. Usually one would find the installer/uninstaller msi files in the C:\WINNT\Installer folder.

Enabling the Author column in windows explorer should disclose their identity and I was looking for them to manually run the uninstall. But none of them were there!

Took me a while to find out that there is a vmware install cleanup utility which can be found in this knowledgebase article. I think this utility should be available in their downloads section instead of in a knowledgebase article! 

The other option is to run the installer executable with /c option which cleans the registry entries. launching it with /help or /h gives a list of options that are available.  Actually I discovered this before I found the knowledgebase article about the cleaner utility.

After a cleanup I went back and tried to reinstall my earlier 2.0.4 version and three quarter of the way through it hung again with the message “preparing for network component installation”.

Found another vmware community thread on this topic where others have ran into this issue. I never had this problem before. So I killed the installer, ran the cleaner utility, which I had downloaded by now, disconnect all networks, disabled  various anti-virus and anti-spyware software and rebooted. I never had to do this during my earlier successful installs. Anyway I was frustrated enough by now and had alreasy wasted a large chunk of my day. I just wanted it to work. Reran the install and this time it did work!

After this I just had to remember to redo my bridge network setup again! It has been a while since I last used it and took me a second to figure where the hell was this tool that let me change the setting. Will try the 2.0.5 upgrade again in a few days with a manual uninstall first.

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