Linux on the Mac

I was interested in installing Ubuntu on my MacBook Pro. In the past I found Ubuntu had too many problems running directly on the laptop: it wouldn't go into sleep mode, for instance. But the free VirtualBox let me install Ubuntu and run it on a virtual machine. It took a while to adjust screen resolution though.

Using a Virtual Machine

My present interest is running Linux on a virtual machine while my Mac runs its native OS X.

I've been looking over directions to install Ubuntu on a virtual machine running on a Mac.

Christina Warren writes on

Today, I set up a virtual machine of Ubuntu 8.10 in both VMware Fusion 2.0 and VirtualBox 2.04. Parallels Desktop works with Ubuntu, but I had problems trying to get Ubuntu 8.04 installed and am still reading reports of problems with 8.10. Parallels might work just fine with Ubuntu 8.10, but keep in mind that it might be kludgy.

She notes that VirtualBox is freeware. According to VirtualBox's site:

VirtualBox is a family of powerful x86 virtualization products for enterprise as well as home use. Not only is VirtualBox an extremely feature rich, high performance product for enterprise customers, it is also the only professional solution that is freely available as Open Source Software under the terms of the GNU General Public License (GPL). See "About VirtualBox" for an introduction.

Presently, VirtualBox runs on Windows, Linux, Macintosh and OpenSolaris hosts and supports a large number of guest operating systems including but not limited to Windows (NT 4.0, 2000, XP, Server 2003, Vista), DOS/Windows 3.x, Linux (2.4 and 2.6), Solaris and OpenSolaris, and OpenBSD.

Christina provides these instructions:

If you have ever installed a Windows virtual machine, using Parallels, Fusion or VirtualBox, the process for installing Ubuntu is almost exactly the same. Download the Ubuntu 8.10 ISO image (a slow process today with the demand for the new release; it should speed up next week, and there are Bittorrent seeds for faster service) and then select that image for the virtual CD drive when creating your VM. The process, depending on your system, should take under 20 minutes from beginning to end.

My Experience

I downloaded and installed VirtualBox with no problem, and then proceeded through VirtualBox's OS installation process. At the appropriate window I specified I wanted to install Ubuntu, and it asked me for the location of the disk image (simply the *.iso file I'd downloaded from the Ubuntu site).

Installation of Ubuntu took a little while but proceeded smoothly. Only two complications: adjusting the screen resolution (Ubuntu offered only 640x480 and 800x600) and installing VirtualBox's "Guest Additions."

I tackled the second problem first (not the best order) by modifying the X configuration file:

sudo gedit /etc/X11/xorg.conf

with something like the following:

Section "Screen"
Identifier "Default Screen"
Device "VirtualBox graphics card"
Monitor "Generic Monitor"
DefaultDepth 24
SubSection "Display"
Depth 24
Modes "1280x800" "800x600" "640x480"

and restarting. But since I hadn't installed Guest Additions (I tried but the autorun didn't work) the config file change did nothing except confuse Ubuntu.

So I tried Guest Additions again:

username@computer-prompt:/media/cdrom$ sudo sh ./
Verifying archive integrity... All good.
Uncompressing VirtualBox 2.0.4 Guest Additions for Linux installation.........................................................................................................................................................................................
VirtualBox 2.0.4 Guest Additions installation
Building the VirtualBox Guest Additions kernel module...
Building the shared folder support kernel module...
Installing the VirtualBox Guest Additions...

Successfully installed the VirtualBox Guest Additions.
You must restart your guest system in order to complete the installation.

Thanks are due to a forum post by webknecht. Some may find another thread on the site useful too.

(There was one final glitch: restarting or switching out of full-screen mode also switched screen height. I eliminated all 1280 and 1024 resolution widths aside from 1280x800, as seen in the xorg.conf example. Upon restart they were dropped from the list of resolutions and the full-screen problem disappeared.)


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