Running Ubuntu 9.10 on an iMac

For the last three years our desktop work environment has consisted of a 14″ IBM ThinkPad running Ubuntu Linux.  We loved the mobility, reliability and no-nonsense work ethic of this combination.  Sadly, we realized that things had to change when we began contemplating our first purchase of reading glasses.

We’re pleased to inform you that we managed to postpone the reading glasses by purchasing a brand new 27″ iMac instead.  However, we can’t imagine working without access to a real Unix/Linux system and this post will cover the simple steps needed to run the latest Ubuntu release as a virtual machine on your Mac.

Here is the setup we’re starting with:

  • 27″ iMac w/ 3.06 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo, 4GB 1067 MHz RAM
  • Mac OS X 10.6.2
  • VMware Fusion 3

1) Install VMware Fusion

You can purchase VMware Fusion online or sign up for a 30-day free trial.  If you buy it from a retail store be sure to get the latest update after installation.  Support for Ubuntu 9.10 was only announced in December, 2009.

2) Go to and download ubuntu-9.10-desktop-i386.iso.  The image file may be automatically unpacked and placed on your desktop but the raw image file will still be found inside your ‘Downloads’ folder.

3) In VMware Fusion 3, use the New Virtual Machine Assistant (File -> New) and point it at the Ubuntu image file.

Screen shot 2009-12-10 at 9.30.01 PM

4) Follow the instructions in the New Virtual Machine Assistant.  Accept the automatically chosen operating system and select Easy Install.

Screen shot 2009-12-10 at 9.30.38 PM

5) Here’s what we have for default settings.  You can always give the virtual machine more memory after installation.

Screen shot 2009-12-10 at 9.31.00 PM

6) VMware Fusion will crunch for a while, creating a virtual machine from your CD image file but will eventually display the login screen below. Don’t type anything at this point. Just wait for Easy Install to finish and present you with the default Ubuntu login screen.

Screen shot 2009-12-10 at 9.39.09 PM

7) When you go to log on to your new virtual Ubuntu system, the initial login information will be the same as your Mac login.

That’s all there is to it.

Now you have 2560 x 1440 pixels to play with and can put off those reading glasses until another day.  Learn to use VMware Fusion in Unity mode to get the best of the Mac and Ubuntu worlds on the same screen.  The hardest part now will be choosing between  iPhoto and Gimp. ;-)


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