i’ve been playing with several Linux distros lately, running them as virtual machines with Windows 7 64bit as my host OS. my first attempts at getting the latest Ubuntu (11.10 “Oneiric Ocelot”) and then Linux Mint 12 “Lisa” installed and fully working with VMware tools were a little chaotic. so i thought i would document the process for any other VMware/Linux newbies.
if you’re new to Linux, you probably haven’t even heard of Mint… so why Mint? well i first started playing in Ubuntu, which is a fork of Debian designed to be the “mainstream, friendly Linux”. Linux Mint is based on Ubuntu and is even more focused on usability. to the dismay of some purists, it includes some components that aren’t open source (like Adobe Flash player). to quote Wikipedia, “Linux Mint favors Open Source technology but also considers proprietary alternatives, the user experience of the desktop being the main concern with licensing coming second”. i found Ubuntu pretty easy to setup and use, but so far Mint is even better.
onto the install & configure…
browse to http://linuxmint.com and head over to the download page for Linux Mint 12 “Lisa”. you want “The full-featured standard version”. i chose the 32-bit version even though I’m running in 64 bit Windows. (i’m going to be doing some cross compiling for arm-linux and i had read somewhere that doing so on a 64bit version can make things even more complicated.)
you have to pick a mirror to download from, the direct link i used was:
while Mint is downloading, you’re going to want to install latest version of VMware Player (4.0.1 at this moment).
“VMware Player” is currently the name of the free basic version of VMware. You CAN actually create and manage VM’s (unlike the name suggests, it doesn’t just “play” existing VM images).
a note, if you have an older 3.x version of VMware player, selecting “Help” > “Software Updates” will NOT get you the latest version. in fact, if you have the final 3.x.x release, it will tell you that you are up-to-date! not sure if this is a bug or whether it’s just intended to check for minor updates WITHIN a major version?
here’s the direct link to the 4.0.x player download page (the VMware site is about as usable as a laptop ducked-taped to a wild boar): http://downloads.VMware.com/d/info/desktop_end_user_computing/VMware_player/4_0
it’ll require you to give up precious personal info. if you object, you can search for the file on other sites like this one: http://www.filehippo.com/download_VMware_player/
getting it installed will require at least 1 reboot (2 if you are upgrading an older version).
once installed, right-click on the VMware Player icon in the start menu, and choose “Properties”. in the properties dialog, click the “Advanced” button, and check the “Run as Administrator” option. i don’t know if this is required, but i’m in the habit with Vista/Win7 of turning this on for any development tools, low level utilities, or hardware-intensive apps to just proactively prevent head-scratching weirdness later.
setup the Linux Mint 12 virtual machine
launch VMware Player and choose “Create new virtual machine”.
Choose the “Installer disc image file (iso)” option and browse to the Linux Mint .iso file you downloaded earlier.
you’ll get a warning that the player doesn’t know what OS this is, no biggie.
on the next screen choose “Linux” for the guest os and “Ubuntu” for the version. (or Ubuntu 64 if you downloaded the Linux Mint 64-bit version).
pick the machine name and where to put the VM file on your disk, etc.
for “size” i upped mine to 40GB since i know that i’ll be installing several development apps that could eat up some space quickly.
i also selected the “Customize Hardware” button and pumped up the RAM to 2gb of my 6gb, and change to 2 processor cores.
click the “Finish” button when ready, you’ll get a small player window with the Linux Mint desktop background and a “Rebooting in x seconds” countdown msg. then you’ll see some bootup text on a black screen, and then comes what appears to be Mint suddenly fully installed and running – don’t be fooled!
at this point you’re really just running a blank machine that booted from the virtual DVD. You can testdrive Mint, but you’re missing quite a few options and any changes you make aren’t saved between boots.
to actually finish installing Linux Mint, double-click the “Install Linux Mint” CD icon on the desktop.
make sure you are connected to the internet for the simplest experience. VMware Player enables NAT between the host and guest by default, so you should be good as long as the host OS (Windows 7) is online.
the setup wizard will start… when you get to the “Installation Type” screen, choose “Erase disk and install Linux Mint” (don’t worry, it’s only talking about the VIRTUAL disk!)
finish the wizard (location, computer name, username, etc.) the only change I made to the default options was to choose “Log in automatically” for quicker boot.
when you finally get the “Installation Complete” dialog, choose “Restart Now”. the VM will reboot, i got what looked like an error msg on the black boot screen (sorry not fast enough with the screen capture) and it appeared to hang for about 10 seconds, then suddenly it rebooted again and launched up into the full blown Linux Mint OS.
you should see a “Welcome to Linux Mint” dialog. you can now click the “I’m Finished Installing” button in the banner at the bottom of the VMware Player window.
at the top of the player window, choose the “Virtual Machine” > “Install VMware Tools…” menu option. a “VMware Tools” DVD icon should appear on the Linux Mint desktop.
open this virtual DVD, then right-click on the “VMwareTools-8.8.1-528969.tar.gz” file and select the “Extract to…” context menu option. choose the Desktop for the location and click the “Extract” button.
you’ll now have a “VMware-tools-distrib” folder on the desktop. right-click on this folder and choose “Open in Terminal” from the context menu.
in the Terminal window that opens, type “sudo ./VMware-install.pl” and press enter. type you password when prompted and press enter again. then just press enter an insane number of times to accept each of the default options as prompted. once finished, you’ll see the “…Enjoy, — the VMware team” text.
shutdown the VM by clicking on your username at the top right of the screen and selecting “Shut Down…” from the menu (and then click the “Shut Down” button on the dialog).
after shutdown you should be back in the VMware Player screen. select your Linux Mint VM and click the “Edit virtual machine settings” option.
in the dialog that opens, select “Options tab” > “Shared Folders” > “Always enabled”. Click the “Add…” button and use the wizard to add a folder from the host OS that you want to share with your Linux Mint VM. Click the “OK” button when done and start your Linux Mint VM back up (“play” it).
once the Linux Mint desktop is back up, choose the “Computer” option from the “Places” menu at the top of the VM screen.
navigate to “File System” > “mnt” > “hgfs” and you should see all of the folders you shared from your host os.
to create links (shortcuts) on your desktop to often-used folders, hold the CTL + Shift keys and drag the folder to your desktop (you should see a small chain link icon overlay while dragging to indicate you are making a link, versus a plus or arrow icon for copy/move operations).
thanks to the VMware Tools, you can now also copy-n-paste between the host OS and this VM. unfortunately you won’t get the snazzy interface with transparency that you see in all the Mint 12 screenshots, apparently it’s due to VMware not supporting OpenGL.
it’s ok to go ahead and delete the “VMware-tools-distrib” folder that you extracted to the desktop earlier, it’s no longer needed.
you’ll probably have a shield icon with an “i” in a blue sphere on top of it near the top right of the VM screen, you’ll want to click this which will bring up the “Update Manager”. go ahead and let it install all of the recommended updates before you start trying to get any other apps configured and running.
that’s it – you’re done! start playing around with Mint. webpages with Flash already work, DVD’s and mp3z just play like they should, simple low level utilities like “unrar” are already there too. this is the beauty of Mint, it pretty much just works in a way that years of using Windows or Apple products have taught us to expect.
a few tips
right away you should consider making a backup of the VM before you go crazy testing out installs and messing up paths and generally learning/breaking the OS. to do so, just shutdown the VM, exit VMware Player, and then make a copy of the entire VM folder (or create a ZIP/RAR of the whole thing). if you ever need to revert, just delete the existing folder and copy the backup in place of it.
if you are a fan of keyboard shortcuts in windows like WIN+E, or WIN+R, etc. – set up similar ones in:
Applications > System Tools > System Settings > Keyboard > Shortcuts tab
since your host OS is probably already taking care of screen saver and screen-locking tasks, disable this stuff in the guest os:
Applications > System Tools > System Settings > Screen
(change “Turn of after” to never, and slide the “Lock” button to “OFF”)
maximizing the player window goes full screen with the guest os and automatically adjust the monitor settings to work at that resolution. however, usually i run in a windowed mode still, but want a larger one. to accomplish this, just change the resolution in the guest os and the player window will automatically re-size to fit:
Applications > System Tools > System Settings > Displays
checkout Applications > Other > Advanced Settings to tweak the UI. not sure why this isn’t in the “System Settings” window.
Applications > Other > Software Manager is the simplest way to find and install software. just be aware this is searching several databases, and those might not always have the latest versions of what you want. you can’t blanket say whether to always use this or never use it though. for example, Google Chrome isn’t even listed, so you gotta use the installed Firefox to go download and manually install it. however, installing something with lots of dependencies like a toolchain might be easiest using the Software Manager.
remember that Linux Mint 12 is built on top of Ubuntu 11.10 – when getting software you’ll rarely see an option for Mint, but the Ubuntu specific versions and/or instructions for things will usually work.