Tag Archives: virtualbox

Testing the new Fedora 36

Fedora 36 has just been released, and I couldn’t resist trying it right away. I had already started using Fedora 35 daily (though I have several Linux distributions installed), and I’ve been enjoying it so far.

Before upgrading my Fedora 35 installations, I decided to install Fedora 36 on a virtual machine with VirtualBox.

These are a few screenshots of the installation procedure.

As usual, you’re greeted by a dialog for installing or trying Fedora, and I went for the latter.

The installation procedure is available from the dock:

To be honest, I’m not a big fan of the Fedora installer: compared to other installers like Ubuntu and EndeavourOS or Manjaro, I find the Fedora installer much more confusing. Maybe it’s just that I’m not used to such an installer, but I never had problems with Calamares in EndeavourOS or Manjaro, not even the very first time I tried Calamares.

For example, once a subsection is selected, the button “Done” is at the upper left corner, why I would expect buttons at the bottom (right).

I appreciate that you can select the NTP server time synchronization (at my University, I cannot use external NTP servers, and in fact, the default one is not working: I have to use the one provided by my University). Unfortunately, this setting does not seem to be persisted in the installed system. UPDATE 12/May: Actually it is persisted: I thought I’d find it in the file /etc/systemd/timesyncd.conf but instead it is in /etc/chrony.conf. Well done!

Since I’m installing the system on a VM hard disk for the partitioning, I chose the “Automatic” configuration. On a real computer, I’d go for manual partitioning. Even in this task, the Fedora installer is a bit confusing. Maybe the “Advanced Custom (Blivet GUI)” is more accessible than the default “Custom” GUI, or, at least, it’s much similar to what I’m accustomed to.

Finally, we’re ready to start the installation.

Even on a virtual machine, the installation does not take that long.

Once rebooted (actually, in the virtual machine, the first reboot did not succeed, and I had to force the shutdown of the VM), you’re greeted by a Welcome program. This program allows you to configure a few things, including enabling 3rd party repositories and online accounts and specifying your user account.

Then, there is the Gnome welcome tour, which I’ll skip here.

Here is the information about the installed system. As you can see, Fedora ships with the brand new Gnome 42 and with Wayland by default:

Fedora uses offline updates, so once notified of updates, you have to restart the system, and the updates will be installed on the next boot:

The installation is not bloated with too much software. Gnome 42 new theme looks fine, with folder icons in blue (instead of the old-fashioned light brown). Fedora also ships with the new Gnome Text Editor. Differently from the old Gedit, the new text editor finally allows you to increase/decrease the font size with Ctrl and +/-, respectively. I cannot believe Gedit did not provide such a mechanism. I used to install Kate in Gnome because I was not too fond of Gedit for that missing feature.

Instead, Fedora does not install the new Gnome terminal (gnome-console) by default. I installed that with DNF, and I wouldn’t say I liked it that much: with Ctrl +/-, you can zoom the terminal’s font, but the terminal does not resize accordingly. For that reason, I prefer to stay with the good old Gnome terminal (gnome-terminal).

First impressions

First of all, although I tried this installation in a VM, Fedora 36 seems pretty responsive and efficient. I might even say that the guest Fedora 36 VM looked faster than my host (Ubuntu 22.04). Maybe that was just an impression 😉

Since I chose the Automatic partitioning, Fedora created two BTRFS subvolumes (one for / and one for /home) with compression, and a separate ext4 /boot partition:

It also uses swap on zram:

I soon installed the extension “AppIndicator, KStatusNotifierItem and legacy Tray icons support to the Shell” by Ubuntu (https://extensions.gnome.org/extension/615/appindicator-support/) and it works in Gnome 42.

However, after installing Dropbox, while the icon shows on the system tray, clicking on that Dropbox icon (left or right-click or double-click) does not make the context menu appear, making that unusable. I seem to understand that it is a known problem, and maybe they are already working on that. For the time being, if you need the Dropbox context menu for settings like “selective sync,” you’re out of luck. However, you can use the dropbox command-line program for the settings. In that case, I first ignore all the folders and then remove the exclusion for the folders I want to have in sync.

For example, I only want “Screenshot” and “sync” from my Dropbox on my local computer, and I run:

On a side note, I find the Dropbox support for Linux a kind of an insult…

I look forward to upgrading my existing Fedora 35 installations on my computers, and maybe I’ll get back with more impressions on Fedora 36 on real hardware.

For the moment, it looks promising 🙂

How to install Linux on a USB drive with UEFI support using VirtualBox

That’s the third post on installing Linux on a USB drive!

Remember that the idea is to have a USB drive that will work as a portable Linux operating system on any computer.

In the first post, How to install Linux on a USB drive using Virtualbox, the USB drive with Linux installed could be used when booting from a computer with “Legacy boot” enabled: it could not boot if UEFI were the only choice in that computer.

In the second post, How to install Linux on a USB with UEFI support, I showed how to install Linux on the USB drive directly, without using VirtualBox, while creating a UEFI bootable device. However, you had to be careful during the installation to avoid overwriting the UEFI boot loader of your computer.

In this post, I’ll show how to install Linux on a USB drive, with UEFI support, using VirtualBox. In the end, we’ll get a UEFI bootable device, but without being scared of breaking the UEFI boot loader of your computer, since we’ll do that using a virtual machine.

The scenario

First of all, let’s summarize what I want to do. I want to install Linux on a portable external USB SSD. I don’t want a live distribution: a live distribution only allows you a little testing experience, it’s not easily maintainable and upgradable, it’s harder to keep your data in there. On the contrary, installing Linux on a USB drive will give you the whole experience (and if the USB drive is fast, it’s almost like using Linux on a standard computer; that’s undoubtedly the case for an external SSD, which are pretty cheap nowadays).

In the previous post, I described how to create such an installation from VirtualBox. As I said, you can boot the USB drive only in Legacy mode. This time, we’ll be able to boot the USB drive in any UEFI computer.

I’m going to perform this experiment:

  • I’m going to use VirtualBox installed on a Dell XPS 13 where I already have (in multi-boot, UEFI), Windows, Ubuntu, Kubuntu, and Manjaro GNOME
  • I’m going to install Ubuntu 21.10 into an external USB SanDisk SSD (256 Gb)
  • then I’m going to install on the same external USB drive also EndeavourOS (an excellent distribution I’ve just started to enjoy) along with the installed Ubuntu

I have already downloaded the two distributions’ ISOs.

I’ve installed VirtualBox in Ubuntu following this procedure

and then reboot.

By the way, since the second distribution will take precedence over an existing UEFI configuration on the USB, it’s better to start with Ubuntu and then proceed with EndeavourOS (Arch based). While an Arch GRUB configuration has no problem booting other distributions, Ubuntu cannot boot an Arch-based distribution. Of course, the second distribution’s GRUB menu will let you also boot the first one. We could solve the booting problem later, but I prefer to keep things easy and install them in the above order.

In the screenshots of the running virtual machine, the USB SanDisk is /dev/sda.

I will boot a virtual machine where I set the ISO of the current distribution as a LIVE CD. I’m going to use a different virtual machine for each distribution. Maybe that’s not strictly required, but since the two OSes are different (the first one is an Ubuntu OS, while the second one is an Arch Linux), I prefer to keep the two virtual machines separate, just in case.

Create the first virtual machine and install Ubuntu on the USB drive

I’m assuming you’re already familiar with VirtualBox, so I’ll post the main screenshots of the procedure.

Let’s create a virtual machine.

We don’t need a hard disk in the virtual machine since we’ll use it only for installing Linux on a USB drive, so we’ll ignore the warning.

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Now it’s time to configure a few settings.

The important setting is “Enable EFI” to make our virtual machine aware of UEFI, and the booted Live OS will also be aware of it. As we will see later, the booted Live OS will correctly install GRUB in a UEFI partition.

We also specify to insert the ISO of the distribution (Ubuntu 21.10) so that when the virtual machine starts, it will boot the Live ISO.

Let’s start the virtual machine, and we will see the boot menu of the Live ISO.

We choose to Try Ubuntu, and then we plug the external SanDisk in the computer, and we make the virtual machine aware of that by using the context menu of the USB connection icon and selecting the item corresponding to the USB hard disk (in your case it will be different)

After that, the Ubuntu Live OS should notify about the connected disk. We can start the installation, and when it comes to the disk selection and partition, I chose to erase the entire disk and install Ubuntu:

Of course, you can choose to partition the hard disk manually, but then you’ll have to remember to create a GPT partition table, and you’ll also have to create the FAT32 partition for UEFI manually. By using “Erase disk and install Ubuntu,” I’ll let the installer do all this work.

You can see the summary before actually performing the partition creation. Note that we are doing such operations on the external USB drive, which, as I said above, corresponds to /dev/sda.

Now, we have to wait for the installation to finish. In the end, instead of restarting the virtual machine, we shut it down.

Let’s restart the computer with the USB drive connected. Depending on the computer setup, you’ll have to press some function key (e.g., F2 or, in my Dell XPS 13, F12, to choose to boot from a different device). Here’s the menu in my Dell XPS 13, where we can see that the external USB (SanDisk) is detected as a UEFI bootable device. It’s also detected as a Legacy boot device, but we’re interested in the UEFI one:

We can then verify that we can boot the Ubuntu distribution installed in the USB drive.

By the way, I also verified that, without the USB drive connected, I can always boot my computer: indeed, the existing UEFI Grub configuration is intact (remember, I have Windows, Ubuntu, Kubuntu, and Manjaro GNOME; the grub menu with higher priority is the one of Manjaro):

Create the second virtual machine and install EndeavourOS on the USB drive

Let’s create the second virtual machine to install on the same USB drive EndeavourOS, along with the Ubuntu we have just installed.

To speed up things, instead of creating a brand new machine, we clone the previous one, and we change a few settings (basically the name, the version of Linux, which now is Arch, and finally we change the Live ISO):

Let’s start the virtual machine and land into the EndeavourOS Live system

As before, we have to connect the USB drive to the computer and let the virtual machine detect that (see the procedure already shown in the first installation section).

We start the installer and choose the “Online” version so that we can choose what to install next (including several Desktop Environments). The installer is Calamares (if you used Manjaro before, you already know this installer).

When it comes to the partitioning part, we make sure we select the SanDisk external drive (as usual, /dev/sda). Note that the installer detects the existing Ubuntu installation. This time, we choose to install EndeavourOS alongside:

And we use the slider to specify how much space the new installation should take:

Let’s select a few packages to install (a cool feature of EndeavourOS)

And this is the summary before starting the installation:

Once the installation has finished, we shut down the virtual machine and reboot the computer with the USB drive inserted. This time we see the EndeavourOS grub configuration, including the previously installed Ubuntu. Remember, these are the installations in the USB drive (as usual, note the /dev/sda representing the USB drive):

And now we have a USB drive with two Linux distributions installed that we can use to boot our computers! However, some drivers for some specific computer configurations might not be installed in the Linux installation of the external USB. Also, other configurations like screen resolutions and scaling might depend on the computer you’re booting and might have to be adjusted each time you test the external USB drive in a different computer.

I hope you enjoyed the tutorial!

Happy installations and Happy New Year! 🙂

How to install Linux on a USB drive using Virtualbox

In this tutorial I’m going to show how to install Linux on a USB drive using Virtualbox. I find this useful to test a LInux distribution. Note that using a live distribution only allows you a small testing experience, while installing Linux on a USB drive will give you the full experience (and if the USB drive is fast it’s almost like using Linux on a standard computer).

You can use this procedure to install Linux on any USB drive, that is, both a USB stick or an external USB hard drive.

You could burn a live image on a USB stick, boot it, and then install Linux on a second USB stick from the live system, but using Virtualbox is faster and does not require you to create a live USB stick just to install it on a second USB stick.

I’m going to use Ubuntu (17.10) as the main system and install Fedora on a USB stick (I’ve already downloaded the 27 iso).

First of all, let’s install Virtualbox:

Add your user to the Virtualbox users, or you won’t be able to use USB 3 in the virtual machine: run this command and reboot:

Then run Virtualbox and create a new Linux machine (increase the memory a bit, depending on your actual physical memory).

Since we’ll use this machine only for booting the live iso, there’s no need to create a disk

Now let’s go to Settings of the newly created machine, and in “USB” select USB 3.0:

In “Storage” select the “Empty” disk icon and in “Optical Drive” “Choose a virtual optical disk file…” and select the iso image of the Live distribution you want to boot the machine (in my case the Fedora 27 ISO I’ve already downloaded), then check the “Live CD/DVD” checkbox

Now “Start” the virtual machine (which will boot the Live ISO).

You’ll be asked to confirm the virtual optical disk file you had previously specified in the settings.

From now on, you’ll boot the live system into the virtual machine, and this depends on the distribution you choose (in my case Fedora). You should be already familiar with that procedure if you’ve installed a Linux distribution before starting with a Live system.

For example, we choose “Try Fedora” and we can perform some tests (for instance, that we can access the Internet from the virtual machine; being able to access the Internet might be crucial later when installing the distribution on the USB stick since the installation might want to download some upgrades).

Now let’s connect the USB stick where we want to install Linux; then in the Devices menu of the Virtualbox machine, you should select the USB stick you’ve just inserted (in my case it’s a SanDisk):

Now the USB stick is mounted in the virtual machine, and it will be the target disk of our installation.

We can now start the Fedora installation in the virtual machine; again, this assumes you’re familiar with the installation of this distribution. The important part will be to select the USB stick as the target of the installation. Actually, the USB stick should be the only available option (unless you manually mounted other drives in the virtual machine):

Continue the installation and once it’s done, you can reboot the computer and make sure to boot from the USB stick.

Enjoy your new Linux installation on the USB stick 🙂