Martin @ Blog

software development and life.


VMware experiments

For a course at the university, I needed an installation of an older Linux-distribution. The course, hackers hut, is about the basics of hacking and security of Linux systems. In order to complete the course, one has to do some excercises, like exploiting a buffer overflow or a format vulnerability. On most modern Linux distributions, there are a number of improvements, which makes it difficult to complete these excercises. Some of these improvements are a randomized stack pointer, non-executable stack or SELinux. So in order to be able to test your knowledge, it is nice to have an older Linux distribution to hack on.

So, I decided to look more into the virtual machines which are currently available. Because Xen is not very convenient for my purposes, I decided to give the free tools of VMware a try. First, I downloaded VMware Player and using this site I was able to install Red Hat Linux 7.3 on it. However, it not very convenient to install an operating system on a VMware Player instance, because it is not possible to umount a cd-rom image (the only way I could resolve this problem was by using a hard link to the iso I wanted to use, and change this link when I had to change the cd-rom). Also there were some stability problems during the installation. In the end, however, I was able to get it working as it should.

Because I was not satisfied with the experience with VMware Player, I decided to give the other free product of VMware a try, VMware Server. To my surprise this product is very similar to VMware Workstation (which I used before) and also has a lot more options than VMware Player. The installation of VMware Server on Ubuntu Linux 5.10 (Breezy Badger) was a lot more difficult than the installation of VMware Player, because it required me to compile a kernel module, which on its turn required me to install the kernel headers (linux-headers) and compile tools (build-essential and gcc-3.4). After a number of installations and trying, I was able to get it working in the end. The nice thing is that it is possible to load the image created with VMware Player without any hassle. VMware Server has some additional stuff which is useful, like the ability to install the vmware-tools in the distribution and to resize the partitions on the fly. Next time, when I want to do something with virtual machines, I will try VMware Server first instead of VMware Player. Obviously, there is still a big drawback of the VMware products, and that is the fact that they are not open source and VMware Server requires registration before one can use it. Maybe I have to look also at the open source alternatives someday.

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