Edit: There’s now a more thorough guide over at HowToForge
I started with a server install of Ubuntu, and to install VMWare server you need a desktop, a compiler, kernel headers and a few other odds and ends
Easy way to get a desktop is go the whole hog and a give a home to a Gnome…
sudo apt-get install ubuntu-desktop
Reboot and experience Ubuntu in all its brown chocolately glory. Next you need some build tools, none of this stuff comes by default, so go get it..
sudo apt-get install build-essential
The install wants inetd or xinetd, I went with xinetd…
sudo apt-get install xinetd
Now get your kernel version with uname
Linux hostname 2.6.15-23-server ...
Use that info to fetch the kernel headers you need
sudo apt-get install linux-headers-2.6.15-23-server
I found it useful to go and symlink the headers to the place the VMWare installer expects to find them
sudo ln -s linux-headers-2.6.15-23-server linux
Now you are ready to install VMWare Server. Grab the Linux tarball from the VMWare site, unpack it, and run the installer
You should be able to accept the defaults for most questions unless you have specific virtual machine networking needs. Once installed, start the VMWare console from the Applications -> System Tools menu.