Creating Your First Virtual Machine: Ubuntu Linux (Part 2)

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Running your Ubuntu Linux VM

This is going to be the most entertaining section of the article: you’ll get to play with your brand-new Ubuntu Linux virtual machine! If you haven’t used Linux before, I’d definitely recommend that you browse through the Ubuntu documentation at https://help.ubuntu.com/9.10/index.html.

Time for action – running Ubuntu Linux

The best way to test your new virtual machine is experimenting, so let’s get on with it!

  1. Open VirtualBox (in case you closed it after the last section’s exercise), select your UbuntuVB virtual machine, and click on Start to turn it on:

    VirtualBox 3.1: Beginner's Guide

  2. Ubuntu will start to boot in your virtual machine. Eventually, the Ubuntu logo will show up along with the progress bar and, after a few seconds (or minutes, depending on your hardware), the Ubuntu login screen will show up. Click inside the virtual machine screen to capture the mouse and keyboard, type the username you assigned in the installation process, and hit Enter to continue.
  3. Now type the password for your username, and hit Enter again. Ubuntu will start to load. When finished, you’ll see the Ubuntu GNOME Desktop screen:
    VirtualBox 3.1: Beginner's Guide
  4. One of the first things you’ll notice is the Update Manager dialog. This dialog shows up when your Ubuntu system needs software updates. Click on Install Updates to start the updating process. Normally, the Update Manager will ask for your administrator password. Type it, press Enter, or click on OK and then wait for the Update Manager to finish its job so you can work with your Ubuntu system fully updated.
  5. If the Update Manager asks you to restart your Ubuntu system after updating, click on the Restart Now button, and wait for your Ubuntu virtual machine to reboot.

What just happened?

Isn’t it cool to have a little Ubuntu system running inside your real PC? Just like a pregnant mother feeling her baby’s first movements! Well, not as touching, but you get the point, right?

Ubuntu is one of the friendliest Linux distributions available. That’s why I decided to use it for this article’s exercises. Now let’s go and test the Internet connection on your new Ubuntu virtual machine!

Web browsing with Mozilla Firefox

One of the best things about the Ubuntu Desktop edition is that you can use Mozilla Firefox out of the box. And the Ubuntu Update Manager keeps it updated automatically for you!

Time for action – web browsing in your Ubuntu VM

You have your virtual machine installed. What’s next? Let’s surf the web! After all, what could be more important than that?

  1. Open the Applications menu on your Ubuntu virtual machine, and select Internet | Firefox Web Browser from the menu:

    VirtualBox 3.1: Beginner's Guide

  2. The Mozilla Firefox window will show the Ubuntu Start Page. Type virtualbox.org on the address bar and press Enter:
    VirtualBox 3.1: Beginner's Guide
  3. The VirtualBox homepage should appear as an indication that you have Internet access in your virtual machine. You can close Mozilla Firefox now.

If you cannot connect to Internet from your virtual machine, check your host’s network settings. If you can connect from your host, try using another virtual network adapter type in your virtual machine to see if the problem disappears.

What just happened?

Well, this exercise is not really hard, right? But this is a cool way to test if your new virtual machine has Internet enabled by default. Later on, we’ll talk about the different settings related to virtual network interfaces and VirtualBox. You can also know if your virtual machine can connect to Internet through the Ubuntu Update Manager because it will issue a warning if it cannot access the Ubuntu software sources. For now, it’s good to know we can surf the web! Now let’s see how you can do some real work inside your Ubuntu VM…

Using OpenOffice.org in your virtual machine

Ok, we have Internet enabled on our Ubuntu virtual machine; what else could we ask for? How about some word processing, a spreadsheet, and some presentations, for starters? I know it’s boring, but some of us also use VirtualBox to work!

Time for action – using OpenOffice.org

Ubuntu comes with OpenOffice.org, the open source productivity suite that has proven to be an effective alternative to MS Office for Linux users. Now let’s try it out on your new Ubuntu virtual machine…

  1. Open the Applications menu on your Ubuntu virtual machine, and select Office | OpenOffice.org Word Processor from the menu:

    VirtualBox 3.1: Beginner's Guide

  2. The Untitled 1 – OpenOffice.org Writer window will appear. You can use OpenOffice Writer as if you were on a real machine:
    VirtualBox 3.1: Beginner's Guide
  3. Now go to the Applications menu again, and this time select the Office | OpenOffice.org Spreadsheet option.
  4. The Untitiled 2 – OpenOffice.org Calc window will show up, overlapping the Writer window. You can also work with it as in a real PC:
    VirtualBox 3.1: Beginner's Guide
  5. And now, go back to the Application menu, and select the Office | OpenOffice.org Presentation option.
  6. The Presentation Wizard screen will show up. Select the Empty Presentation option, click on Next twice, and then click on Create to continue. The Untitled 3 – OpenOffice.org Impress window will show up, overlapping the other two windows:
    VirtualBox 3.1: Beginner's Guide
  7. Now you can close all the application windows inside your virtual machine.

What just happened?

How about that? A complete office productivity suite inside your main PC! And Internet access too! So, if you always wanted to learn about Linux or any other operating system but were afraid of messing up your main PC, VirtualBox has come to your rescue!

Now let’s see how to turn off your virtual machine…

Have a go hero – trying out Ubuntu One: your personal cloud

Now that you have an Ubuntu virtual machine, you would likely benefit from trying out the Ubuntu One service, where you can back up, store, sync, and share your data with other Ubuntu One users. And the best of all, it’s free! To open an account, select Applications | Internet | Ubuntu One, and follow the instructions on screen.

Have a go hero – sharing information between your VM and your host PC

Use your Ubuntu One account to transfer some files between your virtual machine and your host PC. If you’re using Windows, you can work with the Ubuntu One web interface at http://one.ubuntu.com.

Shutting down your virtual machine

I know you’re thinking, “Geez, I can’t believe this guy! He’s actually going to spend an entire subsection of this article just to show us how to shutdown a virtual machine! Aw, come on!”

Now it’s my turn: Remember we’re talking about a virtual machine here, not a real PC! You need to consider several things before shutting this baby down!

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