Never Take Away a Feature Without Saying Goodbye

VMWare 12 and Ubunut 14, a tragic combination that exists to teach me an important lesson.

With Ubuntu 14.04, setting up desktop environment in VMWare has been rather painful. In the past everything installs and runs, and all I needed to do was getting rid of Unity Desktop. Now the virtual machine always boots in low resolution mode, has no 3D acceleration even with VMWare Tools installed, and will not work under Unity Mode (where Linux windows appear side-by-side with native windows).

After several hours of search and experiment, I tried to build a virtual machine I can use. I started with Ubuntu Minimal CD, so that I start with a 40MB instead of 1GB download. Then I went and downloaded 5 more different DVD images, tried them all and none of them worked like before. I invested the time because I remembered how great Ubuntu and VMWare worked together for me.

As it turned out, VMWare Tools worked much better with older versions of Linux. VMWare also stopped supporting Unity Mode in version 12. If you have a version of VMWare that works with Unity Mode, think very hard before you install newer releases because VMWare has an odd way of rewarding customers that upgrade to their latest and greatest. Read carefully the documentation for using Unity Mode, and it wants you to check that you have Windows XP or later. Makes no mention of lacking or retiring Linux support. This gets more confusing as internet search engines also indexed support documents for older VMWare versions and those all seem to support Unity Mode with Linux just fine.

On the other hand, I realized after all this time wasted that all I really wanted is a terminal and editor for Linux. All these desktop environments add very little value for me and I imagine for anyone else that wants to use Linux. After all, if an user is really interested in GUI-driven applications then both Windows and OS X offer a much better experience.

VMWare and Ubuntu together have, in latest versions of their software, taken away my favorite features. There is a lesson here I learned: if you give users a feature, don't take it away unless you have something more useful. And don't forget to leave a note that is obvious and easy to find. Because people depend on software behaving the way they remember and expect; there is nothing worse than wasting your users' time with such a terrible surprise.