Running Ubuntu as a Virtual OS in Mac OS X

Our intrepid writer installs and tests Ubuntu Linux within both VMware Fusion and Parallels Desktop on Mac OS X. Can you really run both Linux and Mac OS X simultaneously and achieve nirvana?
Did It Work and Was It Worth It?

In the end, I did have a fully functional Ubuntu Linux running within each of the two virtualization environments—one was sufficiently fast that when I put it into full-screen mode on my 2.3GHz MacBook Pro running Mac OS X Leopard 10.5.1, I really could use it for editing documents, surfing the Net and experimenting with Ubuntu and Linux graphical apps. In fact, I was rather surprised by how snappy the operating system was within these environments, as I'd run Microsoft Windows XP and Windows Vista within the virtualization world and had found it functional, but not comparable to a real PC. Linux within the virtualization world, however, was quite pleasantly snappy and very usable.

This leaves us the fundamental question with which we started, why? If you have a logical reason to run a full Linux distro on your Mac for testing or experimentation, or to gain access to applications not otherwise available within the Mac OS X world, this is a satisfying path to travel.

Dave Taylor has been involved with UNIX and Linux since 1980 and was a contributor to BSD 4.4, among other distributions. He runs a popular tech blog at www.AskDaveTaylor.com and also writes the shell scripting column Work the Shell for Linux Journal. You can reach him on-line at www.intuitive.com.

______________________

Dave Taylor has been hacking shell scripts for over thirty years. Really. He's the author of the popular "Wicked Cool Shell Scripts" and can be found on Twitter as @DaveTaylor and more generally at www.DaveTaylorOnline.com.

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Mac OS X's Unarchive Utility and Passwords

lowell's picture

Wow. I think he gets the message. Mac OS X is UNIX, not Linux because of its NeXTSTEP origins.

Anyways, you /didn't/ have to re-download anything. Mac OS X's default unarchiver can't handle password protected archives (though it never explicitly warns of that) - and it looks like you inadvertently invoked that instead of whatever app you had intended. Next time, remember (and use) either the app's shortcut key or control-click and use the context menu to unarchive to make sure you invoke the right program. Or you can reassign the filetype altogether in cmd-I.

I just wanted to say that

Anonymous's picture

I just wanted to say that having the vote star ajax thing above the article prompted me to just try it out and give it one star. it should be placed below the article so people might read before voting...

Mac OS X is built around a

Teddy's picture

Mac OS X is built around a *fully* compliant 100% certified UNIX kernel. There is no Linux there. Apple is the world's largest supplier of UNIX-based machines...

VirtualBox?

David Herron's picture

You left out VirtualBox -- which also runs on Mac OS X. I use it quite a bit with various operating systems and it does a really good job as well.

I just wanted to say that

Anonymous's picture

I just wanted to say that having the vote star ajax thing above the article prompted me to just try it out and give it one star. it should be placed below the article so people might read before voting.

not only does X11 run on

Anonymous's picture

not only does X11 run on unix, that's where it was fucking created. linux is the late comer to this game. i like linux as much as the next engineer, but seriously, the opening lines of this article were so inaccurate i gave up and stopped reading.

OS X = Unix
linux ≠ Unix
linux is "unix-like", and linux isn't a fucking OS, it's a KERNEL. get it through your fucking heads.

It took me until he said all

Anonymous's picture

It took me until he said all operating systems were free except for Windows. Last I checked, there was a price tag on Leopard.

sounds like a pissed off asshole to me.

Anonymous's picture

Who pissed in your corn flakes? You seem like the type to "help" users by giving code to wipe out drives. Go smoke some weed.

or maybe ....

Anonymous's picture

Or maybe someone who gets tired of misleading information, especially when it comes from an authority like Linux Journal.

Compiz...

Anonymous's picture

Not being able to have desktop effects via Compiz is what bugs me most about running virtual.

Why virtualize?

Anonymous's picture

Although Mac OS X is built upon BSD, I was having some trouble getting some bioinformatics C++ code to compile on my Mac. As such, I used VMWare Fusion and Ubuntu 7.10 Server, and it worked great (I already had a few other Ubuntu servers doing the same thing). I was able to allocate one of the quad-cores as well as 4 GB of RAM just to that virtualization.

I haven't used Parallels, so I can't speak to that, but certainly here is at least one example of why someone might want to virtualize Linux on a Mac.

Nice article!

Mallory not Hillary

Anonymous's picture

Just a little correction - the quote you allude to in the 3rd paragraph "Because it is there" was made by George Mallory not Sir Edmund Hillary.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Mallory

Wow! Thats amazing ! You

Anonymous's picture

Wow! Thats amazing ! You used a virtual machine to store...a...virtual machine...

Next up you should open up the chess app to see if it really plays chess!

Free alternatives to Fusion and Parallels.

Narcoblix's picture

i know of at least two free alternatives to Fusion and Parallels. One is VirtualBox, and the other is Q. I would recommend VirtualBox over Q, as VirtualBox is much more polished, but Q is lighter weight, and can be installed without admin privileges. Check both out if you don't have the cash, or just want to experiment without investment.
http://www.kju-app.org/

http://www.virtualbox.org/

Parallels is not a "Mac-only company"

Withakay's picture

There is a version of Parallels for Windows too

http://www.parallels.com/products/workstation/

There is also Parallels Server and Parallels Virtuozzo Containers.
It does not inspire confidence when an article has this many basic errors...

Yawn, OS X as a guest OS and

Anonymous's picture

Yawn, OS X as a guest OS and Linux as the host OS using Virtual Box, now there is a worthy article.

Use Sun VirtualBox, works GREAT

Mr. Save My Money's picture

Save all your money. Use Sun VirtualBox (FREE) and Unbutu (FREE) on OSX and it runs great.

I have it running right now! Works great.

Mac OS X is built on top of UNIX not Linux.

Anonymous's picture

Mac OS X is built around a *fully* compliant 100% certified UNIX kernel. There is no Linux there. Apple is the world's largest supplier of UNIX-based machines.

"Built atop NetBSD, there's

Anonymous's picture

"Built atop NetBSD, there's quite a bit of Linux sitting there..."
Mac OS X is built atop the Mach kernel, using FreeBSD userland tools and the Objective C based interface from NeXT/OPENStep(to the best of my understanding) and again there is no Linux "sitting" there...

well said A. Seda

Wrong

AriX's picture

There are a couple of inaccuracies in this story... Mac OS X is NOT built off of Linux, it is built off of Unix. Please correct this, as the open source fanboys do NOT like it when you mistake the two.

Secondly, not only is Mac OS X 10.4 called Tiger and NOT Panther, you can NOT download Boot Camp for Tiger from Apple's web site. Boot Camp is currently only available for Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard.

How much RAM

shampoo's picture

How much RAM do you have on your Mac Book and how much did you dedicate to Ubuntu ?

Clarify...

A. Seda's picture

I think you might want to clarify some things in your second paragraph.

"...already has a very nice Linux distro hidden beneath Mac OS X..."
In all cases what is beneath Mac OS X is Unix or Unix like, not Linux.

"Built atop NetBSD, there's quite a bit of Linux sitting there..."
Mac OS X is built atop the Mach kernel, using FreeBSD userland tools and the Objective C based interface from NeXT/OPENStep(to the best of my understanding) and again there is no Linux "sitting" there...

Overall is very nice article....

Virtualization software

Anonymous's picture

As well as Parallels & VMware, there's the free, open source virtualization software called VirtualBox (http://www.virtualbox.org)

Also, you can just download a LiveCD of the distro of your choice and install that way (no matter which virtualization software you use), straight from the .iso file - no need to download a virtual disk.

Wow, you missed the point.

Anonymous's picture

Wow, you missed the point. Sure, you could download a live cd, but Dave's method saves you the install. You aren't downloading a 'virtual disk', but a pre-configured VM w/ guest tools installed already.

confused

Anonymous's picture

You might want to clarify your opening paragraphs; it almost sounds like you're saying that NetBSD and Linux are the same things. OS X is built on top of a Mach kernel derived mostly from FreeBSD, with some chunks from NetBSD as well. X11 runs on the BSDs and other Unixes as well as Linux.

After that, well done :)

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