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Linux tips and tweaks

Run Ubuntu 11.04 Unity desktop in VirtualBox

Ubuntu Linux 11.04 has been out for over a month now and I thought it was about time I tried it. I'm currently running 10.04 LTS (long term support) and will probably continue with it, perhaps until the next LTS. However, this doesn't mean that I'm not interested in the latest version of Ubuntu and it has some interesting new features. If, like me, you don't want to replace the current operating system with a new one, you can run various Linux distros in a virtual machine using VirtualBox. You may already have this installed on your PC and if you have, you'll find that Ubuntu 11.04 installs and runs OK. The only problem is that instead of the new Unity desktop, you get the old classic desktop. There is a very simple solution to running Ubuntu 11.04 Unity desktop in VirtualBox.

The first thing that you need to do is to make sure that you have the latest version of VirtualBox. I had v4.04 and Unity desktop did not work. Downloading and installing the latest version (v4.08 at the time of writing) is the first step. You don't need to uninstall the old version, just double click the file you downloaded and it will install.

After updating VirtualBox you then need to update the VirtualBox extensions, which are basically the drivers it uses, such as the video driver. Start Ubuntu 11.04 in the virtual machine and then go to the Devices menu at the top of the window and choose Install Guest Additions. Then in a Terminal window in the virtual machine Ubuntu, navigate to the CD-Rom drive and enter sudo sh ./VBoxLinuxAdditions.run. It's in the help file if you need further help.

Ubuntu 11.04 UnityNow you've got the latest VirtualBox and have installed the latest Guest Additions, you can restart Ubuntu 11.04 in the virtual machine and it should come up with the new Unity desktop. What if it doesn't or what if you want to go back to the classic menu and desktop? What you need to do is to stop it auto-logging in, which may have been set up during installation. Right click the plus icon in the Unity bar/dock on the left and select Themes and Tweaks. Expand the Installed section and run System Settings. Run Login Screen and then select Show the screen for choosing who will log in.

Now when you start Ubuntu 11.04 and the login screen appears, click your account name and a menu appears at the foot of the screen. Choose Ubuntu for the Unity desktop or Ubuntu Classic for the old style desktop and menus.

This is useful and it means that you can upgrade to the latest version of Linux, but still carry on using the old familiar desktop. However, rumour has it that the classic interface will be dropped completely with the next update.

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