Getting involved with the Fedora project – Part 2

In part one of this series one explained how to download and install Oracle’s VirtualBox software.  Part two (this post) focuses on downloading the latest Fedora operating system and then explains the steps needed to set-up VirtualBox in preparation for installing Fedora.

Downloading Fedora

Installing Fedora is pretty simple; however, you will first need to get a copy of Fedora.  In my experience the easiest way to get a copy of Fedora is to download the latest version directly from the Fedora website.   At the time of writing this post the latest version was Fedora 16 and the download page can be found at the following URL http://fedoraproject.org/get-fedora.

The page should look similar to this:

Downloading Fedora

Hit the big blue download button.  This action will trigger your browser to download Fedora Linux operating system’s Desktop Edition ISO.  The ISO format is support by VirtualBox, so no physical CD/DVD is required.  The size of the download is about 650Mb so it may take sometime to complete.  If your Internet connection is too slow to obtain the download within a reasonable time there are alternative ways of obtaining a copy such as buying one of the many Linux magazines from you local shop, or, you could even convince a friend to download it on their supper fast connection.

Creating a virtual machine in VirtualBox

The main interface for VirtualBox is a nice user-friendly GUI.  It can be started by selecting the “Oracle VM VirtualBox” option from your Windows start menu.

Starting VirtualBox

It also worth noting the Oracle provide a full user manual in both CHM and PDF format.  I’ve not read it, but, I am sure it is worth a read. Once start VirtualBox should resemble the following:

Installing Fedora in VirtualBox

There is nothing exciting to report here; the main window provides the more menu and toolbar seen on most Windows applications.  Below that, the left of the screen has an empty list which will contain your virtual PCs once your created one or more and on the right is a nice welcome message.  We will dive straight in and create our virtual machine for our Fedora Linux image.  These steps are akin to purchasing the individual components of a physical machine e.g. how much memory do you want, what type and size of disks etc. Start the virtual machine wizard by clicking the New button on the menu.  The following screen will be displayed:

VirtualBox Welcome page

Press Next to process onto the Next step:

Assign the name and os type in VirtualBox

The step above allows you to choose a name for you virtual machine and choose the type and version of operating system you intend to install.  The name of the machine is used to name the machine and should aim to be fairly description. For example, do not call it “Fedora” if you intend on install future releases e.g. Fedora 17.  In this example I’ve called it “Fedora 16” and chosen the Linux operating system and the “Fedora” version.  Press Next once you have made the selection:

Choosing Memory in VirtualBox

The step above allows us to choose the amount of memory out virtual machine should have.  The memory available should be at least 768Mb as per the minimum specification recommended by the Fedora team.  If you host machine can spare more I would assigned at least 1GB.  After choosing the desired amount click the Next button:

The next step within the wizard allows you to set-up the size and type of your virtual machine’s hard disk.  Ensure the “Create new hard disk” option is selected and press the Next button:

Diskspace

The step above allows you to choose the format of your virtual hard disk.  Each virtual hard disk is actually stored as a file (albeit a large file) on your host machine.  The file format is only important if you wish to use you virtual disk with other leading virtualisation software such as VMWare – a compatibility feature.  In this instance we’ll stick with the default and simply press Next.

Fixed or Dynamic disk option

The option available in the step above allows you to choose either a fixed or dynamically allocated disk.  This basically means do you want VirtualBox to reserve the space needed for the entire virtual hard disk upfront (fixed), or, would you like VirtualBox to take the space when needed (dynamically).  Allocating the disk-space during the initial set-up is probably best as the virtual machine does not have to wait for the disk to be dynamically sized when more space is needed!  However, I am going to leave the default and press Next:

Choosing disk-space

The step above allows you to size your virtual disk and choose the location that it will be store on your PC.  The complete collection of package available within Fedora Linux can occupy over 9 GB of disk space, so if you are intending on installing everything choose at least 10GB.  Once you’ve selected the right choice press Next.

Disk selection summary

The disk creation wizard will then display a summary of the options you have selected.  Double check these match what you entered and press the Create button if you are happy:

Virtual machine summary

The virtual machine wizard will now display the summary of the options you have applied to the machine e.g. the memory, operating system type.  Again, check these match what you entered and press the Create button if you are happy:

Virtual machine wizard complete

The virtual machine creation wizard will then perform the actions we’ve asked it to do.  Once complete you will be returned to the main VirtualBox window which will now show the newly created virtual machine within the list on the left.  The panel on the right should also display a summary of the virtual machine.  We can now start the virtual machine and install Fedora.  Before powering on the virtual machine we first need to insert a CD into the virtual machines CD/DVD drive.  Under the summary options click the word “Storage”.  This will open the storage settings window:

Virtual machine setting window

The storage settings window allows you to put a CD/DVD into you newly created virtual machine.  The storage tree will list the virtual IDE and SATA controllers.  Under the IDE controller is an icon of a CD.  This is the CD/DVD drive that will be connected to your virtual machine.  Click this icon and the attributes for the virtual device will be displayed on the right hand panel.  If you are new to virtualisation you may find this confusing.  In simplest terms this window allows you to insert CD/DVD into you virtual machines drive – just as you would with a physical drive in your PC.
To insert the CD into the virtual drive click the CD icon next to the CD/DVD drive drop-down list.  This should show a list that is similar to the following:

VirtualBox inserting a CD

From the menu select the “Choose a virtual CD/DVD disk file”.  The result of selecting this option will allow you to choose a virtual CD/DVD disk file to insert into your virtual machine’s CD/DVD drive.  Browse to the Fedora ISO file we downloaded earlier and press OK e.g.

Back at the storage setting windows the details of the loaded ISO will be displayed:

Fedora ISO loaded into VirtualBox

We have now successfully inserted our virtual CD (downloaded Fedora image).  Press the OK button which will close the window.  The virtual machine is now ready to power on!
In part three we will power on the virtual machine and install Fedora.
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