Installing Ubuntu

Historically, Linux has required its own private space on your hard disk. Achieving this required making some fairly fundamental alterations to the files on your hard disk that could result in all your data being lost if anything went wrong (although I've never known this happen). We will install it in a much safer way. If you don't already have Linux installed on your machine, I would recommend installing it as a “Virtual Machine” – you run a program that pretends to be a separate computer and then install Linux on this “virtual” computer. Although this method of running Linux requires a more powerful computer than would be required to run it on its own, there are many advantages: you don't have to reboot your computer to use it, and you can use your normal programs at the same time as Linux programs (and indeed copy things between them). If you decide you don't require Linux any more, virtual machines are easy to delete.

Obtaining files required
Running Linux as a virtual machine can be done on a computer running either Windows or Mac, or indeed Linux1, and these instructions should work for all platforms although what you see on the screen may vary. We need to download two pieces of software: the virtual machine program and a Linux install “CD”. We will be using the VirtualBox virtual machine software and the Ubuntu version of Linux; the following paragraphs describe where to find these files. VirtualBox is produced by Oracle can be obtained from Visit the download page and download the version appropriate for your computer, listed under VirtualBox Platform Packages. If you are installing on a Windows machine, you need “VirtualBox for Windows hosts”; on a Mac, “VirtualBox for OS X hosts”. The Ubuntu download page ( has several options for installing, we want the “Download and install” option which will allow us to download a CD image. This will download a large file (~700MB) containing the entire contents of a CD. The other options are: “Try it from a CD or USB stick” or “Run it with Windows”; my experience with running Linux directly from a CD is that it is painfully slow and impossible to do any realistic amount of work but running from a USB stick may provide a better experience. The third option provides an alternative to using a virtual machine for the Windows platform. We should now have have two files: VirtualBox-4.1.8-75467-win.exe and ubuntu-11.10desktop-i386.iso (the actual file names may vary depending the exact version downloaded). The VirtualBox software is easy to install: do this, getting help from your system administrator if necessary.

1 It's penguins all the way down.

The virtual machine wizard Run the VirtualBox program and a window like the one shown in Illustration 1 should appear. and there is plenty of documentation available. but following is an illustrated guide to take you through the process. . ready to create a new virtual machine.Creating a virtual machine and installing Ubuntu After installation. There is nothing inherently difficult about this. we need to create a virtual machine on to which to install Linux. Illustration 1: Opening screen for VirtualBox. opening a window like the one shown in Illustration 2. Click on the New button to start the process of creating a new virtual machine.

We will call this virtual machine “Ubuntu”: the Illustration 3: Naming the virtual machine. or even run. allow us give the virtual machine a name to distinguish it from any others we might install (and there is no reason why multiple machines couldn't be installed. see Illustration 3.Illustration 2: The "Wizard" (helper) to create a new virtual machine. The next window. simultaneously). .

. although it can be changed later. Choose the amount of memory After clicking “Next”. Recent version of Ubuntu recommend 1GB (=1024 MB) of memory. we need to create a hard disk (actually a file on your current hard disk that the virtual machine is allowed to alter). we create a new “disk” but we could reuse an old if we already had created one. The virtual hard disk Having chosen the right amount of memory for the virtual machine.operating system and version are filled in for us automatically but these are just labels to help organise things and are of little consequence. Once the virtual machine is running. Illustration 4: Amount of memory to reserve for the virtual machine. a window like Illustration 4 asks how much memory should be reserved for the virtual machine. as in Illustration 5. because it requires balancing how much the operating system to be installed on the virtual machine requires compared to the operating system the virtual machine is being installed on requires. Picking the right amount of memory is tricky. all of this memory (plus a little extra) is used by the program and so not available for any thing else. You may have to reduce the amount if your computer has less than 2GB. This is done in several steps: firstly. so this is what has been chosen here and this is a reasonable if your computer has 2GB memory or more.

Next we are asked for the type of virtual hard disk we would like to create. this is just a list of formats that different virtual machine programs use and the Illustration 6: Type of virtual hard disk to create .Illustration 5: Virtual hard disk for machine. As shown in Illustration 6.

The window shown in Illustration 7 allows to choose between a fixed size hard disk (the entire Illustration 7: How storage is to be allocated. file is allocated at once) or a dynamic size (the file gets larger as needed but will be no larger than the size we ask for. The recommended minimum amount for Ubuntu is 15GB. . which is enough for a toy Linux installation but probably not enough for real work.default option (VDI VirtualBox Disk Image) is perfectly fine. Illustration 8 Is a dialogue asking for the size of the hard disk to create (either dynamically or fixed) – we'll choose 8GB. There is a slight performance advantage to a fixed size but we'll choose dynamic size so we don't create a huge file on the hard disk straight away. You might use the other options if you were creating a disk image for somebody else who used different virtual machine software.

.Illustration 8: Size of virtual hard disk. Click on the Create button to start the process (this has to be done in two windows on some versions of VirtualBox). Illustration 9. Ready to create a new virtual machine Finally. so it may take a little time before the virtual machine is ready for use (Illustration 10). Illustration 9: Ready to create virtual machine. The virtual hard disk (a large file) will be created at this time. we are ready to create the virtual machine.

.Illustration 10: The machine is ready to start.

. Click on settings. bring up the dialogue in Illustration 11.Altering a few settings Before we start the virtual machine (by selecting the virtual machine and clicking the start arrow) there is one final change to make to get the best performance out of the machine: Ubuntu is quite graphics intensive and the default is not good enough. to Illustration 11: Changing the graphics capabilities. and select Display and increase the amount of video memory to 64MB (or more) and select “Enable 3D Acceleration”.

Starting a virtual machine for the first time brings up a window like that in Illustration 12. . your mouse may disappear. right control key on Windows) frees both the keyboard and mouse so they will work as normal again. We would like to boot from the Illustration 12: Select media to install from. 2 Clicking on the virtual machine window captures all the keyboard input so things like using the keyboard to change windows may not work. Also. Illustration 14 shows the virtual machine ready to boot the install CD. where you select what to boot from initially. see Illustration 13. Pressing the key mentioned in the window (left “apple” key on a Macintosh. Clicking on the yellow folder-like the righthand side brings up a file selection window.Starting the virtual machine The virtual machine we've created can be started by selecting it and the clicking on the green Start arrow. find the CD image and open it. Ubuntu icon on Ubuntu Ubuntu installation CD image that we downloaded earlier. although there be an intermediate window informing you about “auto capture keyboard”2.

you will be asked if you'd like to use the whole hard disk to install Ubuntu. Installing Ubuntu from here is left as an exercise and there is plenty of documentation available to help (e. with suitably dire warnings about everything else being deleted.ubuntu.Illustration 13: Selecting the Ubuntu CD image. In particular. it means the whole of the virtual hard disk and not your computer's hard disk Illustration 14: Ubuntu image is selected.g. Note: whenever the installation refers to “your computer” or “your hard disk”.com/support). http://www. see Illustration 15. Here. . it is taking about the virtual machine and it's disk not your computer.

when you are asked about using the whole hard disk. depending on the speed of your computer. The are two ways you can confirm this: firstly. Installing Ubuntu will take about 30 minutes or it is safe to say yes. Illustration 15: Warning dialog. Note that no operating system is detected. Ubuntu notes that there is no operating system currently installed (your real hard disk would have). the hard disk to be installed on will be called “VBOX HARDDISK” and will be quite small (we asked for about 8GB) compared to your real hard disk. In the following window. . which is probably several hundred GB.