Ubuntu 12.10 and VMWare Workstation 9 Black Screen Kernel Panic Workaround

Ubuntu 12.04 was running just fine. I had it working quite well installed directly on my MacBook Pro 8,2 with VMWare Workstation 9 running a couple of guest OS VMs (one of which is OS X 10.6.8) but then I had to go mess it up by upgrading this morning to “Quantal Quetzal” Ubuntu 12.10. Right after the distro upgrade then subsequent updates, VMWare modules are always a moving target with update Linux kernels. I have always had to keep a version or two back on Linux laptops if I needed to run anything VMWare.

Here is the problem. Instead of a login screen for 12.10, you get a black screen.

Ubuntu 12.10 and VMWare Workstation 9 Crash


The problem relates to the 3.5 kernel and the VMWare networking and other daemons that need to run and dish the network. There is a wonderful post here that details how to work with modified kernel modules and get it working. This is a way to do it. But, an easier way is to just to run the previous kernel. I don’t really have a need to run bleeding edge, so I thought to just boot into GRUB and flip it back to the older version of the kernel. The hassle here though is that in 12.10, Ubuntu moved to GRUB 2. This is probably a good thing for whatever reason, but it is a new system of management on boot. It is no longer just editing the default entry in /boot/ for the grub configs. They have moved GRUB stuff to /etc/default/grub and /etc/grub.d which I don’t want to mess with right now if I don’t need you.

Here is an interim fix with the hope that VMWare will get better with the 3.5 kernel soon.

1. Reboot and hold-down the shift key. This takes many tries in my experience to get the GRUB 2 screen options at boot. Default now for Ubuntu 12.10 is to really make this hidden perhaps not to confuse people. You can config GRUB 2 to get a delay menu if you wanted.

2. If you eventually get into the GRUB2, you can hit Advanced Options

Choose “Advanced options for Ubuntu” to go the area where you can modify the kernel.

3. Change the default to the 3.2 kernel option.

Advanced Options for Ubuntu 12.10 in GRUB2

This is a one-time setting for this boot and will allow you to continue to run your VMWare Workstation 9 and guest OS VMs.

You can modify the GRUB2 settings to prioritize 3.2.x every time  but I am choosing not to do that with the idea that perhaps there will be VMWare support for the newer kernels soon so all of this will be a non-issue. Running the 3.2 kernel gets you back in the game for now.

OSX VM running in VMware Workstation 9 on Ubuntu 12.10




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    • Thanks!

      I have now done the patching and it was kind of a pain. If you don’t need/care about the 3.5 kernel, then reverting to 3.2 is fine.

      To get it up and going now on Ubuntu 12.10, you basically have to:

      1. Uninstall VMware Workstation 9
      2. Reboot into the 3.5 kernel
      3. Install VMware Workstation 9
      4. Play the patch that updates the VMware source
      5. Reboot and go into the 3.5 kernel again.
      6. The vm kernel mods should rebuild then for 3.5 in my testing. It didn’t seem to work when I started vmware after step 4.

      Anyway, I’m sure VMware will get some updates for Workstation 9 to handle 3.5 and up.

  • Yes Mergy, that is exactly the situation. A patch will be available, so this is a fine workaround until that moment.

    I have seen that there is already a Ubuntu bug report. And a similar situation happened with a new release of VMWare workstation (or one or two Ubuntu levels ago), when the VMWare player suddenly did not compile under Ubuntu.,

  • Hi Jonathan, just to let you know. Installed an upgrade of VMWare Player into Ubuntu 12.10 today. It was explictly said to work with 12.10. After compiling, everyhting seems to work (when Ubuntu runs on the latest / recommended Linux kernel). So, the black screen issue seems to be solved. Erwin

    • Thanks for posting!

      Because I did some of the patching with the VMware patches people did to fix the issue of VMware Workstation 9.0.0 to actually run on Ubuntu 12.10 with the 3.5.x kernel, I wasn’t able to run the upgrade to 9.0.1 in-place through the built-in sw update function.

      I suppose it was related to the modified files I did to get the it to run. If I would have stayed standard and just run the 3.2.x kernel, I bet I would have been able to run just the 9.0.1 update when VMware prompted.

      Anyway, I had to down the the full 9.0.1 installer via the free demo and run it. It removed all 9.0.0 components and installed 9.0.1. There has also been a kernel update with 3.5.x as well, but things are okay.

      Thanks again for the follow-up Erwin and posting this for others!