USB devices with VMWare Server 2.0 on Ubuntu

One of the nice features of VMWare Server 2.0 is that it supports the forwarding of USB devices to virtual machines. Unfortunately when it comes to Linux the VMWare team have leveraged an old method (/proc/bus/usb) for scanning the USB bus which newer distributions, such as Ubuntu Server 8.04 no longer support.

To resolve this problem the "old" method for scanning for USB devices must be enabled in the underlying operating system. In the case of Ubuntu Server 8.04 this is a case of editing the file /etc/init.d/ and uncommenting the following section:

# Magic to make /proc/bus/usb work
mkdir -p /dev/bus/usb/.usbfs
domount usbfs "" /dev/bus/usb/.usbfs -obusmode=0700,devmode=0600,listmode=0644
ln -s .usbfs/devices /dev/bus/usb/devices
mount --rbind /dev/bus/usb /proc/bus/usb

Reboot the server and /proc/bus/usb should be functional once more.

Activating a USB device within a virtual machine

Once the underlying USB subsystem is configured the USB device needs to be associated with a virtual machine. For this to occur the virtual machine must have the USB Controller added to its virtual hardware configuration. If the controller is not already part of the virtual machine's configuration shutdown the VM, add the device and restart.

Assuming there are USB devices attached to the server, once the virtual machine boots a small USB icon will appear within the VMWare web management console. Click on the icon and select the relevant USB device to attach it to the running virtual machine.

All going well the USB device will appear within the virtual machine as an accessible device. VMWare Server remembers this selection, so the next time the virtual machine (or server itself) is restarted the USB device will automatically be attached to the running VM.

FlashLinux 0.3.2 Review

After stumbling on the FlashLinux website a few nights ago I had been itching to give this USB based distribution a try due to its inherit potential for becoming a truly portable desktop environment. I have been using Live CDs for a while now mainly for system recovery. Whilst useful I have three issues with the CD distributions. Firstly you cannot save preferences/files (unless you use a USB key), secondly they are generally slow because CD-Roms are not fast and thirdly a CD-Rom is just too big to fit in your pocket.

USB key distributions interest me because I am reasonably mobile. I have a couple of offices plus clients dotted around the city. Also I have a lengthy trip planned in the future and the idea of taking a few USB key based desktops away with me really appeals.

Working Desktop (click to enlarge)

A Very Tidy USB-based Linux Distro

A few of us were talking recently about USB based Linux distributions.
Up until now I had only really seen 'lite' text distros or very cut down Knoppix hacks.
This distribution is aimed for 256meg USB key owners and provides such cool things as Gnome 2.8, Firefox and OpenOffice.

FlashLinux USB Distribution Homepage
For old school 128meg key owners like myself it's almost worth going and buying a new key just for the freedom it would provide.