Ubuntu 'Gutsy' Server on VirtualBox

Thanks to peeyush for his post where he talks about VirtualBox, I could install Ubuntu desktop _and_ server (both 7.10) on the office machine. Now, since I work for an organisation, where installations-that-require-admin-privileges are not appreciated at all, this was a big feat! (Though, I have the admin privileges too. *wink*)

About VirtualBox:
VirtualBox provides a virtual environment to “install” a range of other OSs on your base OS. The base OS is referred to as HostOS. The “other OS” is called GuestOS.
The good thing about VirtualBox is that it does away the need to have a CD/DVD drive on your machine, by giving you an option to directly boot from cd-image files (.iso), which was very helpful in my case. (Yes, we don’t have CD-ROMs too!)
Secondly, switching between the real (host) and virtual (guest) OSs is just a touch of a button — which I liked a lot.
Apart from the above, there are a number of other features aimed at making the integration of guest, and host look seamless.

OK, after the VirtualBox installation, I faced some minor issues in installing the Ubuntu server. Apparently, the issue was because the non-availability of PAE module, in the simulated environment causes a crash when the machine reboots after the (server) installation process. This has been reported as a bug in VirtualBox, but seems like both VirtualBox and Ubuntu are pointing fingers are each other.
Some forums, however, suggested a solution, which worked for me, and which I present here, so that Linux newbies (like yours truly) don’t have to go through an ordeal.

The issue:
When the server boots from the hard-disk, the following fatal error is thrown:
"PANIC: CPU too old for this kernel"

Why?:
VirtualBox does not support PAE, which the Ubuntu server assumes to be present on the platform it’s being installed. When the installation is over, and the machine reboots, it in for a surprise…woah…no PAE?!!

The resolution:
1. Boot from the CD (or the mounted image), and choose the rescue mode and get a shell in the / (root). (Rescue mode gives you an option of getting an ‘installer shell’ or an ‘installed shell’. Choose the latter.)
2. Install linux-generic (instead of the default linux-server). This can be done by:

sudo apt-get install linux-generic

[Make sure you’re connected to the Internet (and proxies are configured), so that you get the latest packages.]

3. Remove linux-server:

sudo apt-get remove linux-server

4. Exit the root shell, and reboot the machine.

[Some people said that they had followed the same approach and had to fix the file corruption (sync) issues manually using fsck. I’m not sure, because I didn’t face any such issue.]

That’s about it! Oh, and there’s a there-just-one-more-thing:
5. If you find the boot menu irksome, you could edit:

/boot/grub/menu.lst

Hash-out the bad bad linux-server part.
[As a general advice (which would save me a number of curses too): Please backup each file prior to editing it!]

Links/References:
1. http://www.virtualbox.org/wiki/Downloads : Get VirtualBox
2. http://www.ubuntu.com/products/WhatIsUbuntu/serveredition : Get Ubuntu Server 7.10
3. https://bugs.launchpad.net/ubuntu/+source/virtualbox-ose/+bug/126863 : Bug description for Ubuntu
4. http://tombuntu.com/index.php/2007/09/05/making-ubuntu-server-work-in-virtualbox/ : A more straight-forward approach to the same issue. Which I saw after having written this post. 🙁

Confessions of a Linux newbie

Well, it happened again (to be versed on the lines of a famous track)! And I was awed by the charms of Ubuntu 7.10.

Being the newbie that I am in Linux, I was looking for a distribution which would leave little for me to do, when it comes to installation, and getting the hardware working. I remembered hearing the name ‘Debian’ a number of times from some Linux pros. I downloaded 4.0_r2, burnt the basic installation, and tried installing.

Set-up wasn’t a hassle, apart from some minor hiccups. It’s later that I realised that those hiccups would actually pose a bigger issue. Once installed, the poor OS, couldn’t detect the graphics card, and X crashed. Some googling made me download Linux-specific drivers for the card.
But since, my Debian install was a basic one, I couldn’t build it. That led me to another issue. Using ‘apt’ required the setting up the wireless card. And to get the drivers running for the wireless, there’s a dependency on a MAC package. Building MAC package required, probably, Debian source to be available. Which takes us back to the issue of Debian being a basic install (Chicken-and-Egg?)

After hours of effort, and no progress, I finally gave-up!

I also had the Ubuntu 7.10 disk downloaded ‘just-in-case’. My case, it seemed, was strong enough to give it a try. And that’s the basis of the awe that I mentioned in the beginning.
With absolutely no hassle, almost every hardware on the machine got detected. Even the wireless, which I expected the least! The only issue is getting sound to work, which, I presume would take little effort (aka googling.) I am glad.

I loved the GUI, and the fact that it’s supported for free by a group of people who are enthusiastic about free software. Can’t help them much technically, but I guess there are other ways I could. Let’s see. Once installed, the Synaptic updater got me the latest recommended security patches.

Aside to the above: Seems so cool, when you show-off your Linux installation to the Windows junta. The other day, I was telling someone…that I do an ESR in this office, just because I worked in NCST for some time. 🙂

Anyways, final word: if you’re new to Linux, do give Ubuntu 7.10 a try. You’ll love it!

References (apart from the links included above):
1. http://www.linux-on-laptops.com/hosted/Dell-Vostro-1400-Ubuntu-Gutsy.html: On how to get Ubuntu working on Dell laptops (the write-up is for Vostro, but I guess it would be more or less the same for Inspiron/Latitude range)
2. http://www.ubuntu.com/getubuntu: Get Ubuntu
3. http://www.ubuntu.com/products/whatisubuntu/desktopedition: Ubuntu info
4. http://www.debian.org/distrib/: Get Debian.