Accessing a public Internet connection from a virtual machine without getting charged twice

Last night, I stayed away on business in a hotel with broadband Internet access in my room (1.5Mbps according to a bandwidth speed test). Having paid almost as much for a 24 hour connection as I pay for a month at home, I decided to remain in my hotel room this morning and take advantage of a fast connection, rather than competing for a meagre amount of bandwidth in the office.

That sounds fair enough, but as I’m now working (rather than just surfing the ‘net and writing new blog posts) I also need to access corporate applications and data. My notebook PC is running Windows Vista but my corporate desktop runs in a Windows XP virtual machine using the VMware Player, so whereas last night I’d been using the host machine to access the Internet, this morning I need to use the virtual machine too.

The host PC is still working with the hotel ISP‘s systems but when I originally connected with the virtual machine (which is normally configured for bridged networking to logically separate the guest and host machines so it has it’s own IP address) I was presented with a welcome page which invited me to pay again for access.

Quickly changing the VMware Player’s Ethernet connection from a bridged connection to a NAT connection, disconnecting and reconnecting the Ethernet connection and then running ipconfig -release and ipconfig -renew in the virtual machine gave the Windows XP guest a new NATted IP address and me the ability to access the Internet from either the virtual guest or the physical host machine. Unfortunately I still can’t create a VPN connection to the company network (probably something to do with the NAT) but I can live with that for a few hours.

Introducing VMware Player

I just read on Owen’s blog that VMware have released a a free player that enables PC users to easily run any virtual machine on a Windows or Linux PC. According to VMware, VMware Player runs virtual machines created by VMware Workstation, GSX Server or ESX Server and also supports Microsoft virtual machines and Symantec LiveState Recovery disk formats.

I haven’t tried it yet, but it sounds interesting. Could this be a master move that leaves Microsoft’s Virtual PC dead in the water?