Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Fixing the resizing problem with Ubuntu on VirtualBox on Windows

Here's an interesting moment in the history of computing: there are so many conflicting web-answers to a problem, a problem that shouldn't even arise in the first place, that everyone needs to spend an hour, in a constrained trial-and-error exploration, to install the simplest and most-likely virtual machine combination. A million person-hours were probably wasted on this. So, this bug is responsible for the death of two lifetimes of work. Is our current era of extreme technical dysfunction really the right time to train young computer people? Isn't that somewhat sadistic?

Oracle supports a free VM hypervisor called VirtualBox. I'm using version 4.3.28 on Windows 7. I want to put Linux on it. Ubuntu is one of the few Linux distros that offers an .iso image download. I download Ubuntu 14.04.02.

Out-of-the-box, the install comes with a problem. The display is too small, 640 x 480, to even see the entire display settings screen. There are no options for making it bigger, or for making it resize automatically.

Systems are so unbundled, dependency building is so unreliable, conflicts are so common, that it's unclear if my solution would work for even a slight variation on the above situation.

But here's my solution. When I found it, I deleted the virtual machine and tried the same installation procedure again, just to be certain.

  1. install Ubuntu on the virtual machine
  2. at the top of the VirtualBox guest operating system desktop window, click Devices->Insert Guest Additions CD Image … 
  3. you will be prompted to run the Ubuntu Guest Additions CD. Do it. 
  4. then shutdown from within the virtual desktop, and reset from the dashboard. Resizing should now work.

The dozen other solutions are probably just out-of-date. But, again, computing is in such a irresponsible state that it is not possible to know this for sure, without an extensive research initiative.


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