Setting up the SMU Math Virtual Machine

This page contains instructions on setting up an Ubuntu 16.04 virtual machine on your personal computer, configured with much of the same software as is installed on the SMU Math department's Linux workstations.

Machine Requirements

You'll need to have a personal computer with at least:



  1. Unzip the disk image. It should expand to around to 7 GB. You can move this file anywhere you would like on your computer, but once you follow the instructions below on setting things up you should not movie this file.
  2. Open VirtualBox
  3. Set up the new virtual machine:
    1. Click the "New" icon
    2. Name your VM: e.g. SMUMath or UbuntuVM. Set the "Operating System" to "Linux" and the "Version" to either "Ubuntu (32 bit)" or "Ubuntu (64 bit)", depending on which VM you're using. Click "Next"
    3. Set the amount of RAM you wish to allow the VM to use. I recommend not using all of the available RAM on your system, but also that you allow at least 1 GB. I typically allow the VM to use up to half of the RAM on my computer. Click "Next"
    4. Check the box "Use existing hard disk". Click the folder icon to the right and navigate to the .vdi file that you unzipped earlier. Click "Next"
    5. Read back over the summary of your selections. If everything looks good, click "Create"
  4. Update the new VM settings: your new VM should be highlighted in the left panel of the VirtualBox Manager. Click the "Settings" icon in the toolbar. Some users may want to leave the default settings alone. Here are some that I typically modify:
    • Under "General" on the left, and then "Advanced" in the top-middle, you can allow your VM to share a clipboard (copy/paste) with your main operating system by changing "Shared Clipboard" to "Bidirectional".
    • Under "System" on the left, notice that you can adjust the amount of RAM to allow for the VM. This can be helpful if after using it for a while, you notice that the VM is a bit slow (too little RAM) or your host OS is slow (too much RAM).
    • Under "System" on the left, and then "Processor" in the top-middle, you can allow your VM to access more than just one core by sliding the "Processor(s)" bar. I typically allow the VM to use up to half of the CPUs on my computer.
    • Under "Display" on the left, you can increase the allowed video memory accessible to your VM. I typically allow the VM to use up to half of my available video memory. I also typically check the button for "Enable 3D Acceleration" if my computer and video card support 3D graphics.
    • Under "Shared Folders" on the left, you can add folders from your computer to the list so that the VM can access those same folders. I typically do this with my home folder on the computer, and check the "Auto-mount" button so that it will appear on the VM automatically. This may take some manual setup inside the Linux VM later on.
    • Once you're finished updating the settings, click "OK" at the bottom.
  5. Start your VM by highlighting it on the left panel, and clicking the "Start" icon at the top. Read any Information messages that VirtualBox shows you, and click "OK" on each to proceed. This first boot can take a while -- in the future this should proceed more quickly.
  6. When it boots, you'll be automatically logged in with the username "peruna" and password "peruna". Click the gear/wrench icon on the left to set up your Ubuntu installation.
    • I typically change my name and password away from the default. To do so, click "User Accounts" at the bottom right.
      You have two main choices: keep the username "peruna" or change it to something more appropriate to "you".
      If you wish to keep the username "peruna", then:
      • To change your password click on the dots to the right of "Password", enter your current password, "peruna", and then your new password (twice).
      • To change your displayed name, click "Peruna" at the top right and modify the name as desired. I'll note that even though you may have changed your name here, your "username" on the computer will still be "peruna".
      If you wish to create a new username for yourself, then:
      • Unlock the account manager by clicking "Unlock" at the top and entering your current password (likely "peruna")
      • Click the "+" button at the bottom left.
      • Add your name, your desired username, and your password in the relevant fields.
      • Set your new "Account Type" to "Administrator".
      • Return to the main account manager page and change which account (peruna vs your new one) is automatically logged in.
    • I've placed a shell script called "" on your desktop that will install the remaining software you'll need (for a basic install, at least). If it is not there (or if you accidentally deleted it), here is a link to the file Note: if you have another Debian-based Linux OS (e.g. Mint, ElementaryOS, etc.), you may be able to just run this script in that OS to set up the relevant software (instead of having multiple VMs taking up space on your disk).
      Alternately, if you only want a minimal install for compiling/running C, C++ and Fortran codes in parallel (no Python, no LaTeX), then you can instead download
      To run either of these scripts:
      1. Open a "Terminal" by clicking the swirly "Dash" icon at the top left of the screen. Type "terminal" and click the black monitor-looking icon on the left.
        Note: you'll be using "Terminal" a lot, so I suggest that you right-click on the newly-appeared icon on the left, and select "Lock to Launcher"
      2. Change to the Desktop folder by typing
        cd Desktop
        and pressing [Enter]
      3. Update the package repository database by typing
        sudo apt-get update
        and pressing [Enter]. It will prompt you for your password, either type "peruna" or the new password that you set above.
      4. Run my script as an administrator by typing
        sudo bash ./
        and pressing [Enter]. If you waited a while after the preceding step it may prompt you for your password again.
        Note: to perform the minimal install change the file name appropriately.
      5. It will ask whether you want to continue. Press [enter]
      6. It will take quite a while to download and install the programs, depending on your internet connection. You might want to go fetch a snack, watch a movie, do homework, ...
    • Once the script has finished running, you should reboot the virtual machine. Click the sprocket-like icon at the top right of the screen and select "Shut down" then select "Restart" on the left.
    • When it boots again, you should click the gear icon in the launcher again. At this point you should be able to adjust the video resolution to match your computer screen. Click the "Displays" icon in near the middle. Drag your window to the desired size. You may need to click the "Detect Displays" button. Explore some of the other options. Click "Apply" when you're finished, "Keep this configuration", and go back to the main settings window by clicking "All Settings" near the top of the window.
    • At this point you're ready to go! Your VM should now take up about 9 GB on your computer hard drive (with a maximum of 20 GB as you add more files). I'll note that if you end up using this VM so much that you fill up the 20 GB, then you may be able to resize your Virtual Drive, or perhaps you should just consider making your computer dual boot.

    D.R. Reynolds, 16 January 2017