More from: VMWare

Puttin’ On the (Oracle) VirtualBox

john-headsetOver time people change. Over time corporations and their philosophies change. Managers must anticipate what the impact will be on their own operation and take proactive steps to ensure business continuity and profitability.

Virtual Machines (VMs)

Teaching handouts often require fair use (‘Teaching” under the Copyright Act of 1976, as amended) screen shots of the actual computer screens. The VM allows one to run a sand boxed OS and collect such information as is needed to put screen shots in teaching handouts, especially screens that do not have any convenient means of saving a screenshot such as the GRUB boot loader. They are also used to test software, create a safe(r) place to try new apps which might contain malware or spyware, and to run a different OS than the one in general use on the computer.

For example, to access one Indiana medical reporting system, care providers are required to use only Microsoft Internet Explorer — no other browser will work right. If the care provider uses some distribution of Linux on all their computers for reasons of cost control, reliability, and security then they would be excluded from inputting their work into this system and as such would never get paid. They can create a VM and buy one Windows license to install in it so that they can use IE in this one situation.

Note 20181104:  Microsoft has their own entry into the virtual machine arena. In an email to me from Blake Miranda, the Outreach Manager for Cloudwards, she writes:

My colleague Steve recently put together a pretty comprehensive article on Hyper-V; what it is, and how users can improve their productivity through its applications.

The post is here:

This also keeps all their highly private client data isolated from all their other computer systems, thus making it far less likely that they will run afoul of patient privacy legislation such as HIPPA and its uglier, more vicious step sister 42 CFR Part 2. One disclosure of patient information not covered by a specific signed permission form can result in a cost of $240,000 to the care provider, per unauthorized disclosure. Imagine if a care provider’s client data were stolen and published on the Internet. Since the VM is totally isolated from all other systems, and is not even turned on except when it is needed to enter data in the State system, this provides much less opportunity for unauthorized disclosure from within or without the agency. Since a VM is physically just files, it can be on a removable disk or memory stick and locked in a drawer (or safe) when not in use. Web Service providers often use VMs for each web server so they can maximize efficiency of their physical hardware and also so that they can recover entire web servers from backup in a matter of minutes.


We have used VMWare Workstation and later VMWare Player since 2003. However lately there seem to be changes at VMWare: The CEO (who helped found the corporation) was fired by the Directors and an ex-Microsoft executive hired to replace her. Wikipedia says:

VMware, Inc. is an American software company that provides cloud and virtualization software and services,[2][3][4], being the first who managed to virtualize the x86 architecture.[5] It was founded in 1998 and based in Palo Alto, California, USA. In 2004, it was acquired by EMC Corporation and now operates as a subsidiary.

VMware’s desktop software runs on Microsoft WindowsLinux, and Mac OS X, while its enterprise software hypervisors for servers, VMware ESX andVMware ESXi, are bare-metal embedded hypervisors that run directly on server hardware without requiring an additional underlying operating system.[6]

VMWare does have a lot of trial and free downloads available, but I don’t find the free VMWare Player any longer. There is a new VMWare Player Plus. There are concerns about the eventual impact should the license terms become unacceptable to me. VMWare has a much larger number of products now than they did in 2003 when I purchased my first VM supervisor from them, and honestly I do not grasp all the intricacies of each. I am really quite comfortable with VMWare Player and Workstation, but I have no idea where VMWare is going, and that concerns me.


In 2010 our favorite hardware manufacturer and protagonist for the free OpenSource office suite OpenOffice and for the free OpenSource database MySQL (which is used on 90% of the web servers on the Internet), Sun Microsystems, was bought by the for-profit database giant Oracle. Oracle has long been recognized as the absolute best of the best so far as high performance secure corporate database systems is concerned: the name Oracle is synonymous with “high quality professional database”.  Says Wikipedia:

Oracle Corporation is an American multinational computer technology corporation headquartered in Redwood City, California, United States. The company specializes in developing and marketing computer hardware systems and enterprise software products – particularly its own brands of database management systems. Oracle is the third-largest software maker by revenue, after Microsoft and IBM.[3]

OpenOffice seems to have then gone on hold after the transfer of ownership and some of the OpenOffice project personnel forked the project to start LibreOffice. However, Oracle Corporation does not seem to have totally rejected the concept of OpenSource software, libre (free) computing, and related social movements, rather they have many Communities and seem to have some interest in supporting new OpenSource, or at least free, software development. There are free downloads. VirtualBox is one of the Oracle projects that has come to the public mind in the last two years or so. It is a substitute product for the VMWare Player and possibly Workstation.

The Install

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As such, it is time for me to be proactive and learn how to use the new Oracle VirtualBox. To install VirtualBox is straight forward — choose VirtualBox in the Ubuntu Software Manager.

Once installed, I changed the default folder for storing Virtual Machines to something I liked better than the default. The other preferences I left alone.

I clicked the NEW icon in the upper left corner of the box, then set up a Windows 7 Home machine. From there I simply followed the prompts and had a VM in about 10 clicks.

Next I installed the Windows 7. I converted the Windows 7 Home DVD into an .iso, as .iso files on the disk tend to work much faster than DVD drives. Then I connected the .iso as the cd drive. Click Settings in the top tool bar. Under the storage area I deleted the CD (- icon at bottom) and added a new CD using the .iso image file. If you have done this in VMWare it is similar — you’ll find your way around easily.

Total Windows 7 Home install time was about 3 minutes, including the obligatory reboot. As I learn more about VirtualBox I will update or post more.


Notes: 20130807 2338

1. You can resize the VM window to fit the unused space on your desktop and have Windows respond by changing its resolution to use the full area.

2. Use of system resources is light.

3. Remember to install “Guest Editions” to get full functionality, such as shared folders. At the top menu bar click Devices, then at the bottom of that menu select Install Guest Editions.

Why Unity?

We received some insite today on the reason Canonical forced Unity upon us. Apparently Canonical is trying to implement voice commands and will restore the menu system next month in the April release of Ubuntu 12.04. They will also add a new “HUD” which seems to be a cross between the Unity “Dashboard” (the red circle at the top of the launcher bar which is used to search for apps that are not on the launcher bar) and a search engine. Of course, you mostly need to know the exact NAME of the program you want to run for that to help you much. The ultimate goal of this new “HUD” is voice actualization. The article can be read at

“We’ll resurrect the  (boring) old ways of displaying the menu in 12.04, in the app and in the panel. In the past few releases of Ubuntu, we’ve actively diminished the visual presence of menus in anticipation of this landing. That proved controversial. In our defence, in user testing, every user finds the menu in the panel, every time, and it’s obviously a cleaner presentation of the interface. But hiding the menu before we had the replacement was overly aggressive. If the HUD lands in 12.04 LTS, we hope you’ll find yourself using the menu less and less, and be glad to have it hidden when you are not using it. You’ll definitely have that option, alongside more traditional menu styles.

Voice is the natural next step

Searching is fast and familiar, especially once we integrate voice recognition, gesture and touch. We want to make it easy to talk to any application, and for any application to respond to your voice. The full integration of voice into applications will take some time. We can start by mapping voice onto the existing menu structures of your apps. And it will only get better from there.”

Well, you guys have a good idea there but thank-you for humoring us boring old customers with a menu until you have a voice operated menu that works well.  Hopefully Zoom and VMWare will also work, and oh by the way, it would be nice if we could go back to having as many workspaces as we wish, and a simple workspace switcher on our task bar again. I run a minimum of three workspaces daily and have been known to use eight when things get busy. Chopping off my desktops at no more than 4 and making me play with that aggravating “Workplace Switcher” on the Unity launcher was disappointing.

Practical Ubuntu — Part 2 of 2


In “Practical Ubuntu — Part 1 of 2” we installed Ubuntu Oneiric Ocelot on an HP 6910p notebook alongside the existing Microsoft Windows Vista, set the administrator “root” login to a password we know, added openssh-server so we can work on it remotely instead of needing to stand right there beside the computer while updating it, and ran the automagic update routine “apt-get dist-upgrade” to update all the software to the current versions.

In this module we want to install the Google Chromium Web Browser, the Compiz Zoom feature so we can magnify any section of the screen in class for demonstration purposes, the GNOME Desktop in case Unity is not wanted for some reason, and the VMWare Player module so we can teach multiple OSs without needing to reboot every time. We will also create a simple Virtual Machine (VM) using an open source DOS-like Operating System: follow the same steps to install whatever system is needed on each VM. Pay attention to license terms if you use proprietary software.

Chromium Web Browser

Google Chrome (and the related Ubuntu version Chromium) are currently the leading competitor to Microsoft Internet Explorer. It has certain very nice features, such as all the most popular codecs and flash are included already thus you don’t need to install or maintain them as an extra step. This means that after installing Chromium you can simply browse to web sites that use flash and it will work and it will never need “a newer version of flash that is available”. Chromium also has a very nice method of protecting the user from cross-site scripting attacks by leaving javascript off for unknown sites and turning it on when desired by clicking a single icon that appears in the URL address bar.

The easiest way to install “Ubuntu supported” software is to just use the Ubuntu Software Center and click.

Click to see full picture

The other way to do this is to know in advance that the package name for the chromium browser is “chromium-browser” and install it from the command line with “apt-get install chromium-browser”. Either works.

root@dad:~# apt-get install chromium-browser
Reading package lists… Done
Building dependency tree
Reading state information… Done
The following packages were automatically installed and are no longer required:
linux-headers-3.0.0-15 linux-headers-3.0.0-15-generic
Use ‘apt-get autoremove’ to remove them.
The following extra packages will be installed:
chromium-browser-l10n chromium-codecs-ffmpeg libnss3-1d libxss1
The following NEW packages will be installed:
chromium-browser chromium-browser-l10n chromium-codecs-ffmpeg libnss3-1d
0 upgraded, 5 newly installed, 0 to remove and 0 not upgraded.
Need to get 21.7 MB of archives.
After this operation, 86.8 MB of additional disk space will be used.
Do you want to continue [Y/n]?

Install Compiz

One of the problems we reported after installing Ubuntu 11.04 “Natty Narwhal” is that the Zoom feature stopped working. We use zoom daily in teaching as it allows us to magnify content on the five foot monitors at the front of our classroom so that students can see the small items, such as menu selections, and follow what we are instructing them to do. The loss of the ability to zoom would mean the students would have to get up out of their seats and walk to the front of the room. We discussed this for Ubuntu 11.04 “Natty Narwhal” in a previous article.

The easiest way to install compiz is to use the Ubuntu Software Center, type compiz in the search box, and click the package when it comes up.

Click to see larger picture

Alternatively you can install from the command line with “apt-get install compizconfig-settings-manager”

root@dad:~# apt-get install compizconfig-settings-manager
Reading package lists… Done
Building dependency tree
Reading state information… Done
The following packages were automatically installed and are no longer required:
linux-headers-3.0.0-15 linux-headers-3.0.0-15-generic
Use ‘apt-get autoremove’ to remove them.
The following extra packages will be installed:
compiz-plugins compiz-plugins-main python-central python-compizconfig
The following NEW packages will be installed:
compiz-plugins compiz-plugins-main compizconfig-settings-manager
python-central python-compizconfig
0 upgraded, 5 newly installed, 0 to remove and 0 not upgraded.
Need to get 2,862 kB of archives.
After this operation, 12.2 MB of additional disk space will be used.
Do you want to continue [Y/n]?

To make this work, you must enter the command CCSM in terminal or in the little catchall area at the top of the launcher bar — the place where all the programs NOT on the launcher bar can be found. The settings I used are:

Zoom in: <Super>Button4
Zoom out: <Super>Button5
Zoom box: <Super>Button2

Click each image to see larger picture.

For more information on this feature you can browse the library at You can get most of the Zoom functionality in Unity. Go to the on/off symbol at top right, click System settings, then click CompizConfigSettings Manager. Under Accessibility find Enhanced Zoom Desktop, enable it, and set the Zoom In and Out as stated above. Zoom now works everywhere except the launcher bar on the left. Zoom will not work in the Unity 2D session — it must be a full Unity session.

I have seen cases where, even though this worked for us here, it still didn’t work. The best suggestion I can offer is to be sure you have updated all packages to their latest version as I also noted this did not work initially, and it magically started working after a few months (and updates).

Some notes on using the Unity launcher bar.

To put a program, such a Chromium, on it run the program, and while it is still running you will see an icon representing it in the Unity launcher bar. Right Click that icon and from the pop-up menu select “Keep in Launcher”. After that there will be a button in the launcher which you can click to start the program.

To re-arrange the order of icons on the launcher bar is easy but non-intuitive. Click and hold the icon that you want to move, then 1. drag it off the launcher bar to the right but don’t let go, 2. drag it up or down to where you want it, 3. drag it left back onto the launcher bar, and then 4. let go. You can’t just drag straight up or down — that moves the bar. Drag the icon off to the right, up to where you want it, and back onto the bar.

In Case Unity brings Division…

You can install the classical GNOME session interface if you so desire and select it at the time you are loging in. There is a gear or star icon next to the login name box: you click that gear and then click the kind of session that you want. To install the GNOME session run the command “apt-get install gnome-session-fallback”.

root@dad:~# apt-get install gnome-session-fallback
Reading package lists… Done
Building dependency tree
Reading state information… Done
The following packages were automatically installed and are no longer required:
linux-headers-3.0.0-15 linux-headers-3.0.0-15-generic
Use ‘apt-get autoremove’ to remove them.
The following extra packages will be installed:
alacarte gir1.2-panelapplet-4.0 gnome-applets gnome-applets-data gnome-panel
gnome-panel-data libpanel-applet-4-0 python-gmenu
Suggested packages:
gnome-netstatus-applet deskbar-applet cpufrequtils evolution
epiphany-browser desktop-base
The following NEW packages will be installed:
alacarte gir1.2-panelapplet-4.0 gnome-applets gnome-applets-data gnome-panel
gnome-panel-data gnome-session-fallback libpanel-applet-4-0 python-gmenu
0 upgraded, 9 newly installed, 0 to remove and 0 not upgraded.
Need to get 9,486 kB of archives.
After this operation, 40.3 MB of additional disk space will be used.
Do you want to continue [Y/n]?

A reboot is required before it will take effect. You can also install “apt-get install gnome-shell” for another session format, which I personally feel is rather nice. Another good article on this is available at Another tip on the session interface: using the Gnome task bar at top of the screen you use ALT-right click now to move things.

 VMWare Player

The steps above solved most of our issues for Oneiric Oscelot. The only remaining significant issue is installing VMWare Player so that we can quickly demonstrate the same job skill / principal across several popular environments. In our case we buy volume licensing for several Microsoft products, including Windows XP, Vista, and Windows 7. We demonstrate using these in class together with Ubuntu Linux because any of these systems could be encountered by a job applicant seeking work. To do this effectively we install one of our licenses in each virtual machine and we can then use that VM  under Linux to demo the skill in Windows. This is not quite as nice as having three separate computers all hooked up to the projector, but it is a very good compromise, and together with the Zoom feature it seems to get the job done.

To get the VMWare Player software, you must go to the web site and log in. Player is free but they require you to agree to terms. On go to Products, then Desktop Virtualization Products, then on the right vertical nav bar click VMWare Player. At the top left, click the big blue DOWNLOAD button. There will be a table with the links to click to download: you may need to scroll down to see it. Click Download again, login to your VMWare account or create an account, and on the next page click on the link to download the binary for the VMWare Player version that fits your computer. The download on my notebook if a FiOS 5/2 (5MHz download, 2MHz upload) connection required on the order of ten (10) minutes.

In your download folder, find the file: it will be one big script. It was 129.7MB when I downloaded it. Make the file executable (right click, permissions, check the execute box). Open a terminal window with CTRL-ALT-T and shell to root. Run that script to install the VMWare Player.

Welcome to Ubuntu 11.10 (GNU/Linux 3.0.0-16-generic x86_64)

* Documentation:

Last login: Sat Feb 18 18:23:43 2012 from pops.local
jdnash@dad:~$ su –
root@dad:~# cd /home/jdnash/Downloads/
root@dad:/home/jdnash/Downloads# ls
root@dad:/home/jdnash/Downloads# ./VMware-Player-4.0.2-591240.x86_64.txt

You must agree to their EULA to install, so answer the prompts in terminal as they appear, and eventually it will be installed. Items in [brackets] at the prompts indicate that is the default answer — you just press ENTER to accept it. For the EULA you must type “yes” but otherwise ENTER will do. If you don’t know, you run a script such as this by typing “./” followed by the file name. You may press the tab key to help — if you start off the name of the file and press the TAB key, then Linux will try to figure out which file you want and type the rest of the file name for you. For example, in the terminal windows shown below I only needed to type “./VM” and then I pressed TAB: the system could see only one executable file which started with the letters “VM” so it typed the rest of the name for me “ware-Player-4.0.2-591240.x86_64.txt”. Very convenient.

root@dad:/home/jdnash/Downloads# ./VMware-Player-4.0.2-591240.x86_64.txt
Extracting VMware Installer…done.
You must accept the VMware OVF Tool component for Linux End User
License Agreement to continue. Press Enter to proceed.

Do you agree? [yes/no]: yes

Would you like to check for product updates on startup? [yes]:

Would you like to help make VMware software better by sending
anonymous system data and usage statistics to VMware? [yes]:

The product is ready to be installed. Press Enter to begin
installation or Ctrl-C to cancel.

Installing VMware Player 4.0.2
[######################################################################] 100%
Installation was successful.

To run VMWare Player, use the little black square at the top of the floating launcher bar (Dash Home) and type VM into the search box. You will see VMWare Player under the Installed Apps. Click it, accept the EULA (again), and the main VMWare Player screen is before you with no virtual machines in it (yet). Next we will create a VM. You can keep an icon for VMWare Player in the Unity launcher bar by right clicking its icon now and checking “Keep in Launcher”. In the old (GNOME) menu it used to be under Applications / System Tools.

Click image for larger picture

Making a Virtual Machine under VMWare Player

Before we make a VM, we need to install CD or DVD, or an .iso file which contains the install. In this document we will use the open source program Free DOS which is a Linux based DOS clone. You can download it from It is a small file, under 40MB and downloaded in 1-2 seconds. The filename when I downloaded it for this document was “fd11src.iso”. If you are installing VMs from other CDs, you can insert the CD or DVD into your Linux computer’s CD/DVD reader and when the drive opens up close the window, then right click on the associated icon on your desktop and select “Copy Disk”. Copy it to an image file instead of to another CD/DVD. You now have the necessary electronic .iso file to use for installation. You can install from a physical CD, but electronic is much faster. I made the statement before, but I will repeat it again here: be sure you have proper proof of the right to use the software if you are installing proprietary software. This is not a problem for Open Source.

There are many pre-made VMWare “appliances” available for download from the web site. To use one of them, download it, then in VMWare Player click File, Open Virtual Machine and browse to the VM Appliance. In the following exercise we will make our own Free DOS VM.

Start the VMWare Player. Click Create a New Virtual Machine. Click the Radio Button for Installer Disk Image File and browse to the file. Follow the rest of the prompts. Done.

Click image for larger picture

Click “Play virtual machine” to run the VM and watch it install your OS.

Click image to see larger picture.

VMWare Player

We use VMWare Player in class to demonstrate various versions of Windows as need arises. Since we teach both Linux and Windows, and Windowx 7 and Windows XP are still used in industry, this allows us to manage our mission without needing to create special partitions for each possible configuration.

However, whenever Linux upgrades, the VMWare becomes unusable for a month or two until VMWare catches up. To run, the VMWare Player must be compiled with the current Linux headers — and recomiled every time Linux is upgraded or updated. After teh upgrade to Ubuntu Oscelot 11.10 there was another glitch: no headers: this stops the whole process cold.

If you upgraded to 11.10 and lost your headers, run the command line

sudo apt-get install build-essential linux-headers-$(uname -r)

to install them again. Then download the current (free) version of VMWare Player from and run that downloaded file as a script. You may need to chmod to make it executable.

Ubuntu 10.10 for Netbook and Smart Phone

In their article today “Ubuntu 10.10 (“Maverick Meerkat”) Review” discussed their testing of the new Ubuntu 10.10 for netbook and smart phone, including their new cloud which provides 2GB storage free, with more for a low price. I recommend the read.

It has multi-touch (assuming your hardware does a minimum of four-finger multi-touch)

Free 2GB cloud storage

A client for Microsoft windows so you can use your free cloud on older Microsoft PCs

They have a mobile plan for $3.99/month so you can access your cloud from your iPhone or Droid phone, for example to stream your music. No limitations to usage.

It has “Unity”, a feature that lists icons for your most used apps down the left side of your screen, like a phone. They expect if netbooks are going anywhere they will need to include touch screens. Thus they are a little ahead of the game: you touch the app to launch instead of browsing through menus. The menus are still there: you don’t need them most of the time.

Of course the workspace switcher is still there so you can not only have multiple windows open at a time, you can have multiple desktops each with multiple windows open. I use this a lot when I am being interrupted — just click on the workspace switcher to pick a currently unused workspace, deal with the interruption, then click back on the workspace you were using before to return to exactly where you left off. Also good for quickly switching from reading the comics to reading email when someone walks up to chat.

I can not say how the cloud stuff works from my own experience, although I can tell you it simply appears like any other network disk in your Computer window. I guess I just don’t trust putting my files out on the Internet, no matter who promises me nothing will happen. Still, the inherent ability for Linux (for years) to simply connect to any other *ix type computer  tells me it should be no problem — it just opens in your file manager / navigator like everything else.

I did upgrade my Ubuntu desktop 10.04 automagically to 10.10 some time ago — it took a while but it was painless and automatic, AND I could continue to use the PC even while it was being upgraded. I also like the GWibber feature which lets me watch my FaceBook and Twitter unobtrusively while I work — if something new comes in the launcher will blink to tell me so. The only downside I experienced was on my desktop at work I heavily rely on VMware, and VMWare did not compile in the latest release — a common problem with VMWare — so I was forced to fall back to the prior version. VMWare will eventually catch up, it is just irritating that I pay these people money and then must wait a few months before I can use the product again.

Hope this Helps!


Another article you may enjoy is the “8 Reasons to Build Your Own PC”. You can find it here.