A Newbie Installing VirtualBox

Ubuntu 16.04 with the Unity desktop is installed on a co-worker’s workstation. On a user level the person is familiar with mainstream Ubuntu but not comfortably knowledgeable about the inner workings of a Linux operating system.

The co-worker was unfamiliar with VirtualBox but was able to install the package.

The reason for installing VirtualBox was to start testing the GNOME desktop because the next LTS version would not contain the Unity desktop. The co-worker’s workstation has a dual core Intel 64-bit CPU. The co-worker could not find a 64-bit ISO image. The reason? Package naming.

The co-worker thought that an ISO image using amd64 in the name was for AMD processors and not Intel. I explained the silly naming history and that packages with that string snippet in the name were for Intel CPUs too.

I don't know if all distro maintainers still use this naming convention. I primarily use Slackware at home and the naming conventions use x86_64 to identify 64-bit packages. I support CentOS at work where x86_64 is used. Perhaps the naming convention is a Debian quirk.

With that short history lesson the co-worker tried installing the Ubuntu 17.10 amd64 ISO image. Failure. I noticed 64-bit virtual machines were not supported. I discovered the workstation's CPU did not support virtualization extensions. I shared how to find that information using /proc/cpuinfo. We verified the lack of virtualization support with a data sheet on the web.

For the co-worker that meant only 32-bit distros could be used despite now understanding the silly package naming convention.

Oops — the Canonical folks no longer provide a mainstream 32-bit desktop distro.

Time for a side trip. The Ubuntu 16.04 LTS repository still uses VirtualBox 5.0.40, which no longer is supported by the Oracle developers with security patches. Not broken. Just not supported. I helped add the Oracle repository to sources.list to obtain the latest supported release.

I removed the dkms package. The latest version of VirtualBox would not launch correctly until removing that package and rebuilding the kernel modules.

Back to actually installing an ISO image. I explained that one option was to use Ubuntu MATE, which still provided a 32-bit ISO. We downloaded the Ubuntu MATE 17.10 32-bit ISO. The live image launched but the desktop was corrupted and unusable. This known bug still exists. We used the nomodeset option to boot the ISO. I shared my frustration with the co-worker that such a stupid bug is not yet resolved.

Remember the original goal? The co-worker wanted to test the GNOME desktop. The only remaining option was using the Minimal ISO, which was still available in 32-bit. I tested that latter option at home. I discovered the 18.04 ISO failed to recognize the network controller in VirtualBox. As 18.04 is beta and many weeks away from official release, there is no standing to complain.

The 17.10 ISO installed just fine. I sent an email sharing my installation steps.

In all, another standard example of using free/libre software and why the Year of the Linux Desktop does not arrive.

Posted: Category: Usability Tagged: General, Ubuntu

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