virtually linux

These days I’m increasingly rusty techwise. After last week’s success writing a simple program in perl, I decided to try installing linux on my windows (8.1) laptop. Many years ago when I tried to doing this on an old XP box, it was a long and complicated process, involving BIOS changes, partitioning and other dark arts. I was always scared that I was going to do something wrong and make the machine entirely unworkable. I did manage to get an installation of Debian Linux running after a fashion. It often started with errors, usually with just the command line though on rare occasions it would try to launch the graphical interface (X), and mostly fail. Later, work provided me with a pre-built dual boot machine running ubuntu linux and XP.

Times have changed and dual booting is not the only way. Computers are powerful enough to run operating systems within the OS in virtual machines. These are much, much easier to install. I even found instructions for installing both a virtual machine and linux in 5 steps, easy steps they claimed. It was a wee bit harder than that with a couple of extra bits including a BIOS change but overall nothing too scary.

Following the steps which included sensible suggestions for each setup screen (not many setup screens either), the virtual box was straightforward to download and setup. However I’m running a 64 bit machine and it turns out my install of virtual box wouldn’t recognise 64 bit settings, only 32 bit. Turns out there’s a BIOS option for Intel’s Virtualisation and it was disabled by default. So I gritted my teeth, rebooted and went into the BIOS and enabled it. This ended up being easy and painless. Phew. Rebooted and now virtualbox recognised the 64 bit stuff.

Next step was to install linux itself. Having read around a bit I decided that I’d give Linux Mint a go, though I was fine with ubuntu previously. I downloaded the disc image, all 1.3Gb of it. I started up virtualbox, and created a new virtual machine and opened the disc image. This ended up being a *lot* quicker than the suggested 15 minutes, perhaps a minute or two on my machine (Sony vaio running on the i7 chipset) and started to load. Unfortunately, it didn’t quite make it all the way. Took a while to work out why and then after some googling, I came across a note that suggested increasing the memory. I had done this as part of setting up virtualbox initially but it looks like my settings hadn’t saved the first time. So I increased the memory and all good.

I now have linux mint running successfully in a window on my windows desktop. I can open a command line and use apt-get to install additional software. Amusingly, the first thing I installed was lynx, a text based web browser I used to use many years ago. This was installed from the command line by typing:

sudo apt-get install lynx

and voila:

mint2

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