March 2009

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I frequently need to package software for install on Ubuntu systems. If you manage only one server, don’t upgrade often, and don’t need to uninstall, then you may be happy with the ancient “untar, make, make install” method. But if you’re like me you prefer to create .deb packages and install those.

I run Ubuntu 8.04 “hardy” on my servers. Hardy is almost a year old now, and although it has up to date security fixes it no longer has the latest releases of software. This is fine for most purpose, but sometimes I want an updated version of some software and I’m willing to risk the slight chance that it has bugs.

The best traceroute tool around is mtr. The version in Hardy is 0.72, but Jaunty now has a package for 0.75. So let’s backport it with pbuilder.

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Update 2012-05-16: These instructions have been superseded by a new version of this guide. Follow that document instead.

Update 2010-08-18: These instructions are still valid as of VirtualBox 3.2.8 and Ubuntu 10.04 “Lucid Lynx”. VirtualBox now creates a “vboxnet0” interface by default, but this is not a bridge.

I use VirtualBox every day. The satellite world is infested with bad Windows-based management tools that fail to run in Wine. So I often run those apps in a Windows virtual machine, safely sandboxed the way Windows belongs.

Note to hardware developers: if your network-based device does not have a standards-compliant HTTP interface, you lose. If it has a Windows-based management tool instead, you lose twice. I will buy your product only if I have no other choice.

I imagine running Windows apps is what 90% of VirtualBox users use it for, but it can do so much more than that. I also run several Linux-based VMs, and use them to test server configs, or even whole networks before rolling out the real thing. If you do this, you probably want to use more than the basic NAT networking that VirtualBox uses by default. For instance, wouldn’t it be nice to install an SSH server in the VM, minimise the VirtualBox GUI, and SSH in from a terminal just like you would a real server?

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