If both are loaded at the time I do one of these things (over the wireless--this does not happen if I do this over the wired Ethernet even if they are both loaded into the kernel):
- Acquire a DHCP lease using 'dhclient'.
- Set Pidgin from an offline to an online state.
I do see that the stack trace involves the 'vmnet' and 'iwl3945' kernel drivers, and strangely some UDP-related functions from the kernel network core are involved (I understand then why DHCP triggers it, I suppose, but Pidgin I don't get). The kernel's ultimate dying gasp is:
"Kernel panic - not syncing: fatal exception in interrupt"
Strangely, simply unloading the VMware modules (/etc/init.d/vmware stop) and then performing one of these two tasks (acquiring a lease from the wireless network, or signing on to instant messenger), then reloading the service, if necessary, causes no problems. Including, I'm assuming, any DHCP renew activity that might be going on--my home network has something like a 12 hour lease period but I am pretty sure the network at school is much shorter.
The kernel is an updated 2.6.27 from kernel.org, compiled largely using Debian's stock .config file from linux-image-2.6.26-686 and VMware is Workstation 6.5.1. This started happening around the 2.6.26 time frame, it was not a problem before then.
Any clues, anyone?
Edit: another interesting data point--the iwl3945 driver, since it is based on the mac80211 subsystem, can do bridged wireless networking with VMware 6.5--meaning you can acquire an IP address on the physical external network for your virtual machine and it appears as another real computer on that network. If you do this, DHCP activity by the guest does not trigger this problem, however signing on with an IM client does, including one that is not libpurple-based (Trillian). Not sure what to make of that one.