VMWareFB OpenStep display driver -- run OpenStep and NeXTStep in VMWare in high color and high res
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VMWareFB OpenStep Display Driver for VMWare

The code here may be used/distributed under the terms of the standard XFree86 license.

Note: This project is no longer actively maintained. If you're interested in taking ownership of this code, contact David Crosby (crosby@atomicobject.com).


VMWareFB is an OpenStep display driver written to support the virtual display hardware in VMWare. It was originally written and tested against VMWare Workstation 3.0 on Linux, Windows 2000 and Windows XP.

The driver works very well on Linux, especially in full screen mode. There are some problems with initialization of the device on Windows XP, but once running, it seems very stable.

Support for other versions of VMWare is unknown. Please report any experiences with the Express and Server versions.

Building the Source

VMWareFB can be built using Project Builder on NextStep 3.3. It will NOT compile on OpenStep! Make sure to build for a i386 architecture if compiling on a non-Intel architecture.


You can download a precompiled driver as a compressed config from


The VMWare Display Driver installs just like any other OpenStep display driver. The quick-start method is:

1. Open /NextAdmin/Configure.app and remove the current display driver.
   Save. Confirm the warnings. Quit.
2. Double-click on VMWareFB.config, and confirm the installation
   (or update) of the driver.
3. Select the Display tab. The Add Display Devices... panel should pop
   up automatically (if not, click Add). "VMWare Display Adapter"
   should automatically be detected. Click Add.
4. Click Select to choose your display resolution. All the modes
   are shown as 32-bit depth, but the actual depth used will depend
   on the host system on which VMWare is running. The driver has only
   been successfully tested at a maximum of 1280x1024x32bpp. Higher
   resolutions should work, though.
   OPENSTEP CRASHES. Let it reboot, rather than powering off and
   on the virtual machine when it crashes. When it eventually boots
   successfully, it should be stable.

Known Issues

* Panics on startup. Occasionally, usually after first installing
  the driver, OpenStep will crash with a panic just after the driver
  finishes initializing. The specific crash is usually a problem
  with "pmap_remove_range 2". These crashes have rarely occurred on
  Linux or Windows 2000. On Windows XP the crashes happen _very_ often
  (every cold power on). After one or two reboots it does work,
  even on XP.

  Once booted up OpenStep seems to run just fine. It is recommended
  that you use the Suspend and Resume to start and stop the VM.

* No Acceleration. This driver does not use the command FIFO in the
  VMWare device to accelerate updates of the screen. On Windows, and in
  a window on Linux uses a "trace" mode in VMWare to update the
  display. This method is inherently slow and occasionally leaves bits
  of graphical garbage on the screen which do get cleaned up and don't
  affect operation of the virtual machine. But performance is generally

  On Linux in fullscreen mode updates go directly to the video hardware,
  and these performance and visual problems don't happen.

* Limitations on host color depth. OpenStep (or at least this driver)
  can only handle 12/16, 15/16 or 24/32 depth/bits-per-pixel. Because
  the VMWare display must run at the same depth as the host, this
  limitation may require you to change the display properties of the
  host. On Linux, this usually involves running X at 15 or 24 bpp.
  On Windows, 32 and 15 depth should always work, 24 or 16 depth might,
  depending on the specific video hardware (whether 24bpp is actually
  3 bytes per pixel or 4, and if 16 uses a 555 or 565 color weight).

  The driver will give up if it finds itself on an unsupported depth,
  and the Default VGA driver will be used. The reason will be logged.

  8-bit pseudocolor mode is currently unsupported.

Supported Video Modes

As of 1.1.0, Video modes now supported (all @60Hz, with color space RGB:888/32):

480 x  640
600 x  800
768 x 1024
864 x 1152
720 x 1280
768 x 1280
800 x 1280
960 x 1280
1024 x 1280
768 x 1366
900 x 1440
1200 x 1600
1050 x 1680
1080 x 1920
1200 x 1920
1440 x 2560
1600 x 2560
1773 x 2364


  • David Crosby (crosby@atomicobject.com)

  • Bill Bereza (bereza@atomicobject.com)

  • © 2002-2011 Atomic Object

  • More Atomic Object open source projects


  • This work wouldn't have been possible without Laurent Julliard and his website describing how to install OpenStep in VMWare: www.moldus.org/~laurent/GNUstep/OS42_Install.html

  • Alex and Jeremy at VMware (www.vmware.com) were great resources for any questions we had.

  • Thanks to Andreas Grabher and others at www.nextcomputers.org for rounding up knowledge and submitting the patch for increased video mode support above 1024x768.

  • Valley City Linen (www.vcl.com) funded the development of this driver.