Call for help: Official Ubuntu Desktop VM images

Hi all

As discussed in the desktop newsletter thread, it’s very useful if Ubuntu can provide official Virtualbox and VMWare images of Ubuntu Desktop. Ideally of all flavors.


  • Easier testing of “getting started” documentation.
  • Reproducing bugs.
  • Manual and automatic testing of Desktops and applications.
  • Easier Ubuntu development for not-yet-converted devs or people porting applications.
  • Making it easier for tech journalists to check out this Ubuntu thing.
  • Because people are asking for it on AskUbuntu.

Who’s doing this right now?

What needs to be done?

The first step is to create an automatic build process to create VM images. I contacted osboxes to see if they have something that we could use. Otherwise, kickstart seems to be the way to go, but I’ve never used it so this is just a guess.

Do you want to help put this together or do you have any idea how to go about it?

Before diving in too deep, has there been thought about:

  • Use Cases
  • How to support these images
  • Risks to Ubuntu’s reputation

I’ll leave discussion of Use Cases and guesses about real demand aside for now. I see real utility among testers and bug triagers, but that’s beside the point.

Support seems a challenge. Our current support channels don’t have a lot of skill troubleshooting VM Host and Host OS bugs. A big segment of Ubuntu’s users are unskilled, and seem unlikely to care about the difference between our OS, the VM, and the other OS. Some will simply expect Ubuntu volunteers to help them troubleshoot the entire stack.

EDIT: Oh, look, here’s an example that just happened to wander past…within 24 hours of the original post.

That’s a potential combination that risks a lot of frustration on everybody’s part. I don’t want that frustration to grow and to ruin Ubuntu’s good reputation.

I’m not eschewing the idea - I’m looking for ways to mitigate those risks.

Good point. I don’t have an immediate answer, but I have some thoughts on this.

First of all, Ubuntu server is running inside VMware all the time, so the only issues we should experience there are DE bugs. On that front, we should experience a lot less bugs in 17.10+ because Gnome doesn’t use the gpu. Even for unity, the experience is a lot better now because of unity’s low-graphics mode.

GPU accelerated Xorg is really bad in virtualbox. We should clearly state that. It is good in VMware, maybe we should state that too.

Also, I think Ubuntu is already used a lot in VM’s, even though there isn’t an official image. But it is true that there are some virtualized-desktop-specific bugs out there, so we might get more support requests. What do you think about gathering a team that has some experience with running Ubuntu inside a VM to monitor askubuntu after we release the image? I think many devs have experience with virtualbox, for testing, but I could be wrong about that. There are also some companies running desktop Ubuntu inside VM’s for remote workstations…

I really like this idea (being in QA, quite a lot) but would like to see a test server doing builds of at least one or two desktop environments.

I don’t think that there will be much of a support problem. I can’t imagine that most people would be using these for production purposes so much as development of some kind or another. The issues I’ve seen with visualization of desktop environments have mostly been related to some sort of graphics issue and they’re almost all easily circumvented.

I agree that every time an Ubuntu user has a problem with something in Ubuntu, that’s bad for Ubuntu.

But is this really any different from some other user installing Ubuntu on bare metal and having a similar problem? Taking your example, “I can’t access the Internet” has to be one of the most common new user Ubuntu issues - often because of an installation on a laptop with wifi driver issues or similar.

Many user problems on Ubuntu are hardware related. It’s a never-ending task to fix because there are so many variations of hardware out there. VMs present a much smaller variety of hardware by default, so making sure those work is easier. So if instead some of those users were inside a VM instead, wouldn’t that reduce the user experience of Ubuntu problems, rather than increase it?

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If anything, the example shows people are already using Ubuntu in VM’s, even without an official image. I’d even argue that having users install the VM manually creates more issues because Ubuntu will be running in much more diverse configurations. Having a single tested and known-to-work image reduces the amount of possible issues on the Ubuntu side, leaving mostly only issues on the host side.

On that front, osboxes have a great guide on how to configure the VM software, we should have something similar on either the wiki or as an askubuntu answer.

Also note that the VM image itself specifies the software it is compatible with. If a user tries to run the image with an incompatible version, the virtualization software will say that. This way we can reduce the number of users running the image in untested configuration.

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Not to sound snooty here, but patches welcome :slight_smile:

As far as Kickstart is concerned, I looked more into it and it’s an installation tool, not a tool to generate VMs, per se. I guess the infrastructure could use it to install a system onto a VM. I know KVM has no problem with that, but I’m not sure about VirtualBox and VMWare.

Any news from osboxes? My guess is they make theirs by hand.

No news yet, I’m afraid so too…