Using a GUI Version of Ubuntu

If you want to use a GUI-based editor, or just have the experience of interacting with a GUI-based Linux system, you can do a full install of Ubuntu in VirtualBox. Here’s how I usually do it.

  1. Install VirtualBox. (If you installed Vagrant previously, you probably have it already.)
  2. Download one of the Ubuntu ISO images from their website. I’d suggest installing Xenial—it’s fairly new, a LTS (Long Term Support) version, and we’ve package the OS/161 toolchain for it. Given that you want a desktop, you want a desktop version, and probably a 64-bit one.
  3. Create a new virtual machine in VirtualBox. The number of CPUs and memory you add to the machine are not that critical since they are easy to change later. However, it is a real PITA (though possible) to add disk space later. So choose a disk size that is appropriate. The Xenial installation that I did this morning required ~5GB just for the base system. 8GB is tight, but workable; 16GB should be plenty. VirtualBox also allows you to set up the disk so that it expands as needed up to the maximum capacity, which is the default option and a good one.
  4. The first time that you start your new VM it will prompt you for a disk. Point it at the ISO image that you downloaded in step 2 and it will start the installation process as if you were installing on bare metal.
  5. Once you finish the install, your VM will run faster and smoother if you install what are called the guest additions. These allow the guest OS to communicate and interact more efficiently with the host OS. VirtualBox has instructions on how to do this. You can also just install the virtualbox-guest-dkms package using apt-get. I did that earlier and it worked fine, and is easier than installing the additions manually.
  6. At this point follow the instructions on how to install the os161-toolchain package from our PPA. And then continue with the rest of the tutorial. You may need to install other software packages as well—my version lacked Git. But that’s easy. Usually apt-get install <whatever you want> will do the right thing.