The virtual machine that can have a real impact

Ubuntu! It’s not just for the Celtics any more. Ubuntu is a Linux distribution (distro) that is based on Debian Linux, just some fun facts for you. Ubuntu is a free Open Source operating system. It is free as in beer (you can download it and use it all you want for personal use) and it’s free as in speech (you can view every line of code to see how Ubuntu and Debian works). You can read more about Ubuntu else were, but that is the basic understanding of what Ubuntu is.

Like I said, you can download Ubuntu for free. I’ll show you how to build a Virtual Machine (VM) that runs Ubuntu linux that can be your playground incase you want to learn a new OS without requiring a second computer or replacing Windows. You can run your VM on top of Windows (any version), OS X (Intel Macs), or even Linux it’s self. And if you get a new laptop, you can copy the VM along with all your other files and keep it with you. Ok, enough typing. Let’s get to it!

This is what you’ll need. Download a copy of Oracle VM’s VirtualBox. This is also open source software. You’ll need to download a copy of Ubuntu (this is the x84 desktop edition, the most common version). Once VirtualBox is done downloading go ahead and install it with all the default settings. The Ubuntu download may take a little while depending on the speed of your internets. If you are feeling nerdy, try the bittorrent download, it may be faster.

Once VirtualBox is install and your download of Ubuntu is finished, go ahead and start VirtualBox and click on the new button. This will start a wizard that will walk us through setting up our new VM.

So next we’ll need a name for the VM, I picked Ubuntu and VirtualBox automaticlly selected Ubuntu Linux as the OS. Make sure your’s also has Linux and Ubuntu as the OS settings.

Now we’ll have to pick how much RAM this VM will have accessible. I would stick with the default unless you know you can kick it up a notch.

A virtual machine, just like a physical machine, needs a hard drive. We’ll go ahead and create a new one with the default settings. It says 8GB’s but we’ll increase the size later if we want.

In the virtual disk wizard, you can pick VMDK if you think you’ll ever migrate to VMware products. But sticking with the defaults is fine as well.

Now we can change the size from the default of 8gb’s. I picked 30 gigs for my VM. If you pick the dynamic allocation, the hard drive can be 2TB’s in size but it will be only as big as the VM needs. But remember that it could get up to 2TB’s if you are not careful. So stick with 20 – 50GB’s unless you know what you getting yourself into.

So hit the continue and the Create but and you’ll be the proud owner of a VM… without any OS installed. Guess what’s next!

In the following screen that summarizes the settings in our new VM. To install Ubuntu we’ll need to have this VM boot of the ISO file that we downloaded. Click on “Storage”, EMPTY just blow the IDE controller, click on the CD icon on the right, and then click on “Choose a virtual disk file”

Now that we have the ISO for our VM to boot off of, we are ready to install Ubuntu. Just click the start button in VirtualBox and let the boot sequence happen until you get the choice of Installing or Trying Ubuntu. If you get any message boxes, just press OK.

We’ll go ahead and Install Ubuntu. This is very strait forward and is similar to the Wizard we used to create the VM. On the next screen you’ll see a confirmation that we have enough space on a hard drive, we are plugged in, and that we have an internet connection. You’ll want to click on the two check boxes below to download any updates to the install and install software that you allow you to listen to MP3 files incase you want to check that out.

Go ahead and leave the selection on the next screen to erase the entire hard drive for the install. Our virtual hard drive is new so we don’t have to worry about any data being erased.

We have only one hard drive attached to the VM, so on the next screen click “Install Now”

While the OS is installing, along with some other programs, you’ll get a prompt asking for your time zone, Language and keyboard layout, and to create a user account for yourself.

And once everything is done, you’ll see this lovely screen below! Reboot the VM and when it starts up you’ll be ready to log into Ubuntu and start in the world of Free Open Source Software (FOSS).

I’ll draw up some post about what I use my Linux VMs for. And Linux on bare metal computers. Besides Ubuntu test computers, another solution for Virtual machines is to run Windows on a Mac without booting into Boot Camp. If it’s an Operating System thats based on x86 CPU architecture, it’s a very good chance that it can live in a VM.

Feel free to leave tips and comments below!

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