tired of instability in virtualbox, lack of linux support in microsoft virtual pc, and high cost of vmware, i started poking around for a lightweight, no maintenance virtual machine.
turns out vmware makes a ‘player’ that will boot .vmx files (virtual machine images). i fired up the app and was presented with two options, 'open’ or 'download’. download? download what? i clicked it and was taken to vmware’s repo of images you can download for free! ridiculous. no installs or anything. just download the image and open it with the player.
the one i downloaded was created by a hobbyist. his site contains dozens of images, each catering to a different type of machine. heavy security, super lightweight, bioinformatics, etc, with the necessary apps all preloaded!
have a look. it was a very painless solution to my problem.