Use VMplayer, and yes it is free as in beer.
The Browser Appliance is actual Ubuntu , you can use it or one of the community built appliances. It is even possible to use a LiveCD ISO.
Or you can use
to create your vmx and other files.
I have PCLinuxOS,PC-BSD, and Fedora Core5 set up and able to run from inside winXP.
I have also ran XP from inside PCLinuxOS. The VMWare forum is a great place to go if you need help.