Getting Started – Virtualization The Beginning

I wanted to get started with Linux without making much of fuss with the existing windows setup I had. There are several ways that we can do this but the easiest way has to got to be Virtualization.

Virtualization is the creation of a virtual (rather than actual) version of something, such as an operating system, a server, a storage device or network resources.

These days most corporate companies use this technique to deploy multiple servers in an instant, well not in an instant really but yes at much shorter period of time as well cost. Virtualization is not just big companies to flex their muscle but also for small timers like us who can test an Operating System without a fuss. With Virtualization gone are the days where we needed to burn the OS Image onto a CD or DVD for installing the OS. Gone are the days where we peered into the screen trying to figure out what how much space needs to be partitioned in such a way that the existing partition/OS does not get affected.

There are many Virtualization software that are available and for our purpose we will use Virtual Box, a Free – Open Source Virtualization tool. Most of the Operating System’s available today can be installed using Virtual Box. To get a list of all the OS’s supported by Virtual Box you can browse through this page.

For the purpose of this article we will install the latest Ubuntu version 10 onto Virtual Box. To do that we need to download Virtual Box first. After downloading, we can install the tool with its default options provided in the setup. Once done, when we run Virtual Box we should see a screen similar to the below screen shot

Starting screen for Virtual Box

As seen in the above screen, there is no Virtual HD’s that have been created. We will not proceed to to create one based on Ubuntu. For that the first step is to download Ubuntu ISO onto the local drive. The latest ISO can be found here. Download the ISO and we can get cracking on installing Ubuntu on the Virtual Machine.

Click on the “New” button on Virtual Box or if you are a Keyboard maniac, press “Ctrl + N”. Once we are in the screen we should see the screen where Virtual Box welcomes us to its “New Virtual Machine Wizard”. Click the “Next” button and we can see the screen where we have the basic information like the Virtual Machine name and the OS we are installing on the Virtual Machine.

Virtual Machine Information

Click on the “Next” button to proceed with the wizard. In this step we will determine the RAM (Random Access Memory) that needs to be allocated to the virtual machine.

Virtual Machine Memory Configuration

In the next step we will proceed to create the a new boot hard disk. If this is the first time you are using Virtual Box you can select the option “Create new hard disk” radio button on the screen as seen below

Virtual Machine Create New Hard Disk

Once we click “Next” on the current step, we will find another wizard showing up that will help us to create a new “Virtual Disk”. Click next on the screen and the wizard will ask what type storage is needed for the Virtual Disk. There primarily two types of storage, the first being “Dynamically expanding storage” which increases as the size of the Virtual Disk claims disk space. The second is the “Fixed-size storage” which does not grow as the previous type. The recommended type is “Dynamically expanding storage” as it gives better performance over the “Fixed-size”.

Virtual Hard Disk Storage Type

Once we are done with that, in the next step we will configure how much of disk space is needed. By default it allocates 8GB space for the Virtual Hard Disk. Unless you have compelling reason to change, I would suggest you retain the default values. In the same step the wizard also allows us to specify a location where the Virtual Hard Disk needs to be created. By default it is created at “C:\Documents and Settings\\.VirtualBox” where is the logged in user.

Virtual Disk Location and Size

We are nearly done, the next shows us a summary of what has been done using the Wizard. It shows us what type of storage has been configured and where the Virtual Disk is created and last but not the least the size of the disk. Click the “Finish” button to complete the wizard. Once done, the earlier wizard (Virtual Machine Wizard) will show us the summary of configurations done including the size of the Virtual Disk and the RAM allocated to the Virtual Machine. Click the Finish button to complete the wizard process.

Virtual Box will now show us the Virtual Machine that has been created and configuration settings that has been used for that particular virtual machine.

Virtual Machine Configuration

When we “Right Click” on the Virtual Machine that we just create we see couple of options and some of them are

  • Settings
  • This option allows us to change or view the configured settings on the virtual machine that we just created. For the Keyboard savvy crowd this option can be easily accessed via “Ctrl + S”.

    Virtual Machine Settings

  • Delete
  • This option allows us to delete the created Virtual Machine. If we have multiple Virtual Machine and want to clean up the older ones this option allows us to do that. For the Keyboard savvy crowd the option can be triggered using “Ctrl + R”

  • Start
  • This option allows us to start the Virtual Machine and let’s us into the OS that we will be installing onto the Virtual hard disk.

    We will now start with the Hard Disk and leave options aside for another detailed article. The “Start” option is available either on the toolbar or right click on the virtual machine. Sadly there is no shortcut key associated with “Start” option so mousing is the only way to go. Once we click on the start option we can see that the Virtual Machine that we just created is getting life of it’s own.

    We can see the following instruction on the newly running Virtual Machine that tell us how to interact with the Virtual Machine. The Host Key is “Right Ctrl”. The host key helps us in moving the mouse pointer in an out of the Virtual Machine. Since we are running the Virtual Machine for the first time, we will be presented with “First Run Wizard”. The wizard is provided to help us install the necessary operating system (Ubuntu in our case) into the Virtual Machine.

    The wizard will ask us to select Drive where the Ubuntu ISO is hosted. Remember we can use Daemon Lite to host the Ubuntu ISO that we have. Daemon Lite is a free for personal use so you can easily download and install. I am going to assume that you already know a little about Daemon Lite. In any case I will be writing another article on Daemon Lite and how to install the tool. The tool is actually pretty easy to install and use, most of the instructions or configuring in the tool is very user friendly. Well, after hosting the media, we have to select the drive that has the ISO hosted on it. In my case I have mounted the ISO on E drive as seen below

    Virtual Machine Installation Media

    Click Next on the step and proceed with the wizard. The next step shows a summary of the configuration we have done. Click “Finish” on the said screen and we will be presented with Installation screen for Ubuntu.

    Virtual Machine Installation Start

    And Ladies and Gentlemen we are ready to install Ubuntu as Virtual Machine’s OS. I will freeze for now and write another article on installing Ubuntu until then Happy Virtualization !!

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