Thanks for the replies, guys!
I think I'll go with VMWare for the time being. I may even consider ESXi and then virtualize XP for work, but I'd prefer not to muck around with my laptop that much! My main reason for this choice is that we use it a bit at work and I have (slightly) more experience with it!
Hardware isn't going to matter as such. Your guest OS will be presented with "virtual" hardware supplied by your virtualisation software. This means that the only tuner card that you may be able to use will be a USB one. Do note that you won't have any sort of decent graphics as the gfx card as presented virtually is very basic.
From my point of view, this is good. I am not too worried about tuners in this case (they won't work anyway on a plane!).
As for your DHCP question. You can just create 2 virtual networks. One internal that is a "virtual" only network and the external one that can connect to what ever network your laptop is on.
Humm, that's what I thought, but when you install VMWare (server) it creates a few virtual networks. What I've found (unless I'm going about this the wrong way) is that the DHCP setting seems to be "all on" or "all off", not "On on network A and off on network B" Can you advise?
I am currently running VMware. It's nice and simple and quite slick.
Given that it's virtual hardware, would it be possible to zip up your working MCE system and send it to me? This would be as a last resort if I really can't get it to install myself!
vmware server has an unusable ui, so unresposive you cant even get to a bios screen in the vm.
You are correct that when you start a VM, by the time the console opens the BIOS POST has finished, but you can still get in to the BIOS. I can't remember the sequence off the top of my head and will check as soon as I'm in the office - just in case anyone else has the problem!