VirtualBox + Ubuntu + SSH + x11

My hands got itchy today, so I thought of having Unix available remotely, since I do almost everything remotely. I had an old version of VirtualBox (1.6 I think) installed on one of my (remote) Windows box, so I downloaded an Ubuntu 8.10 image and threw it in as a guest. It installed perfectly, and had immediate network access, but the guest additions wouldn’t work. At first it appeared to be a privilege problem, so I went to Terminal and ran the following:

cd /media/cdrom
sudo ./

and it failed with an Xorg can’t be installed error. So I pulled the new VirtualBox 2.1.2 and did the same thing, this time it passed without a glitch. The additions are like “drivers” for the VirtualBox “hardware”, giving the guest a larger screen resolution than 800×600.

SSH was a breeze too, with this line:

sudo apt-get install openssh-server

Now problem 2 was getting the Guest machine to accept incoming connections. And this guy gave the best solution for me:

> cd \Program Files\Sun\xVM VirtualBox
> VBoxManage setextradata Intrepid 
VBoxInternal/Devices/pcnet/0/LUN#0/Config/ssh/HostPort 22
> VBoxManage setextradata Intrepid 
VBoxInternal/Devices/pcnet/0/LUN#0/Config/ssh/GuestPort 22
> VBoxManage setextradata Intrepid 
VBoxInternal/Devices/pcnet/0/LUN#0/Config/ssh/Protocol TCP

This sets up port forwarding such that incoming connections on port 22 on my Windows host will go into the Ubuntu guest, which hosts the SSH server. All was good, after a VM restart and I could PuTTY in smoothly.

Next, problem 3. I had Xming installed, but wasn’t very sure how to use it. I had hoped it wouldn’t be difficult to use or configure. Fortunately, Wikipedia had a nice link to a video tutorial for my exact situation.

The steps:

  1. Install Xming with Portable PuTTY. Make sure the Xming server is started.
  2. On the Intrepid guest, edit /etc/ssh/sshd_config, search and make sure “X11Forwarding yes” is uncommented. For my case this was already forwarded by default, so I didn’t even bother to restart my sshd.
  3. Fire up your PuTTY, go to the SSH > X11 tab, Enable X11 forwarding and specify “localhost:0” as the X display location. Connect to the Ubuntu guest.
  4. Start up a GUI application, such as “gedit &”.

In X11, the client is the Unix machine, and the server is the display where the GUI will appear.

Now I have what I wanted, it was fun, I hope some point in time I’d need such a configuration. Probably when I need quick Unix access for testing. Otherwise it’ll be for helping to answer other people’s Unix questions!

VirtualBox vs VMWare

Although I run Ubuntu, I seriously need Windows simulation for some reasons, such as running my company VPN client. So I’ve been looking at VMWare which I used to run Windows as guest on a Windows box. I’m resisting to building software myself, as I’m trying to use Ubuntu as a Windows user — and Windows people don’t build software (as in compile themselves). So I had problems with VMWare. I looked at WINE briefly, but I didn’t install it as I was not convinced that its model would allow me to run my VPN client on Ubuntu. I checked out alternative VPN solutions (vpnc) but it didn’t work out.

Today I found a preferable alternative: VirtualBox. Its free, open source, and light. I attempted to install it from Synaptic, but I couldn’t start the VM due to this error: “kernel driver not installed” and prompted me to install virtualbox-ose-modules-generic. I tried to do that but it wouldn’t allow me, saying its dependency was not fulfilled.

By luck I went to check my kernel version with “uname -r” and found that my kernel is “2.6.24-19-generic”, and Synaptic was trying to install “2.6.24-20-generic”, as the default module installs the latest, which is 20. I manually selected and install the “virtualbox-ose-modules-2.6.24-19-generic”, and it worked!

(Note: some additional steps I took were to add myself to the vboxusers group and relogin before start VirtualBox, and to mount the CD after starting up the VM. I write this in case the next time I reinstall my OS I forgot what I did)

So while I’m waiting for XP to install I’m noting all these down. At the minimum I know I will have XP running as guest on my Ubuntu.


My aMSN wouldn’t login today. Went to aMSN forums, and read that MSN has changed its server protocol, and they had released patches in 0.97.2 to address that.

My aMSN was installed using Synaptic, but when I tried to update it, it says I already have the newest built version 0.97. I understood that they could not release the new version just as fast as the source, and they need someone to build and test it, before they can announce it available on the “official” repository.

Fortunately I found a site which bridges that gap. It sacrifices possible quality issues for a faster release (so that I don’t have to build the updates from source). produces Ubuntu builds for new applications that has not been released in the official repository yet. Best of all, it is released as debs which integrates into the package manager beautifully. The almost one-click process takes me through removing the older aMSN, replaces it with the new one, and retains my settings (my email id on the login screen and chat history were intact and accessible). Of course, I was able to log in peacefully after the upgrade.

+1 for Ubuntu.


I have finally taken the effort to upgrade my Dapper 6.06 LTS to Hardy 8.04 LTS. I’ve been waiting for Hardy for quite some time, mainly because its an LTS and it’ll be more popular and supported. The experience is pretty good so far, I’m actually evaluating it from the perspective of a Windows user, so its about bringing the Windows pattern to Ubuntu and running the corresponding software here. The steps to get stuff set up will be documented in “The Ubuntu Experience“.

The improvements from Dapper was tremendous, in particular novice usability and software support. In Dapper I often had to get down to the terminal to hack stuff and get things working, but stuff in Hardy just works. Out of the box that is. For example, these were quite important to me:

  • Wireless adapter support
  • WPA (saw but not verified)
  • Bluetooth enabled by default
  • SCIM (although no Chinese input by default)
  • NTFS read/write

Installation was a breeze, no more fumbling with custom partitions, the LiveCD installer takes care of it for me. Also since all the software was available through Synaptic, so far it all works pretty stably. I’ve added in aMSN, SCIM Chinese, Compiz, JRE, and desktop customizations. Next to explore will be CD/DVD writing, media player, start button and VMWare.

In Dapper all those were quite painful, and I didn’t manage to get VMWare working. Also because of Compiz I could not shut down normally, and had to use a script every time. VMWare would still be critical this time, for my VPN client and alternatives when the software or website only supports Windows.


Flipped open the Wired magazine at a bookstore just now, and saw Ubuntu listed as one of the “Ways to ditch DRM”. Guess it’s another prompt for me to shift to the new OS. Been experiencing Ubuntu for the past few weeks and I felt that it’s a good OS for a Unix newbie like me.

I’ve already downloaded a copy of the OS itself, and phishie also gave me the free CD they sent him today. So now I’ll just have to backup my current stuff, pop the OS in and hope that there’s sufficient support for the hardware on my laptop…