I decided the best solution was a strategic retreat to Ubuntu 11.04, which is the latest version which is a supported host for VMware workstation 8.06. VMware have a good compatability matrix tool for this kind of thing.
I had no strong like of Ubuntu 12.04 LTS (see earlier post) but I must confess I had more respect for it after using Windows 8. Nevertheless I originally installed it without knowing the VMware requirements for Workstation and ended up having to build a special kernel to support it. Something I don’t have time for now.
Since there was no data in the host layer itself, it was a relatively easy task to install 11.04 over the top of 12.04 although I did fall foul of the error:
(initramfs) Can not mount /dev/loop0 (/cdrom/casper/filesystem.squashfs) on //filesystem.squashfs
for which there are many online references but no clear solution. On a second attempt the install worked so I put it down to flakiness of Ubuntu.
Happily, the installation of Workstation 8 worked fine and I was able to bring up the original VMs. Not so happily, my daughter’s French homework wasn’t there after all. And I thought I had taught them to always make two copies. Well there’s another useful lesson.