I have finally given up on Ubuntu 9.10. I should have done that some time ago.
I've switched to Fedora Core 12, which I was loathe to do because of some very bad experiences with previous versions. I'm happy to report that FC 12 suffers from none of the problems I saw in Ubuntu.
It's a more "expert developer friendly" distribution than Ubuntu which I would assume also explains why the quality of forum posts about Fedora Core seems to be much higher than Ubuntu.
I am running on a Dell Vostro 400n; it's a cheap consumer grade SATA machine with an nVidia card:
[root@humility kernels]# /sbin/lspci -nn | grep 'VGA\|NV'
01:00.0 VGA compatible controller : nVidia Corporation GeForce 8600 GTS [10de:0400] (rev a1)
The installation did not seem to include 3d drivers. This is the one place where the Ubuntu install process was smoother than the Fedora one.
After some googling around I came across this guide:
Which seemed to work like a champ.
However, it upgraded the kernel to Linux version 188.8.131.52-67.fc12.i686.PAE.
I went to run VMware expecting it to "just work" and encountered the:
"c header files matching your running kernel were not found"
I did some more searching and there's some talk on the VMware community site that getting VMWare Workstation 7.0.1 to work with the Linux 2.6.32 kernel requires some patches, but there was no mention anywhere that I could find about the kernel headers issue.
Based on a old post for some ancient distribution, I figured out that I needed to install the kernel-PAE-devel package to get the right headers:
yum install kernel-PAE-devel
which installed the kernel-PAE-devel-184.108.40.206-67.fc12.i686 package that included the /usr/src/kernels/220.127.116.11-67.fc12.i686.PAE/ directory.
I re-ran vmware initially as a normal user and it failed to start any compilation. I then re-ran it as root and it compiled the new drivers correctly. Everything seems to work once again.