Ubuntu inside Mac for Development

Ubuntu is a great choice and provides much better Linux feeling than Mac OS X. And sometimes it’s painful to configure the entire OS X dev box, thus I’ve decided to run Ubuntu with VMWare Fusion for development.

VMware is much more powerful than VirtualBox in terms of virtualization technology and features. It better protects my battery so I went for buying VMWare instead of using freewares.

It took me a few hours to configure everything to the state I desired - using simple command to wake up the Ubuntu VM and ssh into it. (Just like Vagrant, but it’s a shame that they started to charge fees for vmware driver.) Also, having shared workspace / home folder between host OS X and guest Ubuntu made my life much easier.

Here’s the step by step guide:

1. Set up path for VMWare binaries

We need to add VMWare Fusion paths in order to allow command line access. Adding the folling lines to ~/.bash_profile would enable such feature.

if [ -d "/Applications/VMware Fusion.app/Contents/Library" ]; then
    export PATH=$PATH:"/Applications/VMware Fusion.app/Contents/Library"

We could checkout the VMWare library through vmrun:

$ vmrun list
Total running VMs: 2
/Users/username/Documents/Virtual Machines.localized/Ubuntu.vmwarevm/Ubuntu.vmx
/Users/username/Library/Application Support/VMware Fusion/Virtual Machines/Boot Camp/Boot Camp.vmwarevm/Boot Camp.vmx

And we could futher run / suspend virtual machines via:

$ vmrun start /path/to/file.vmx
$ vmrun suspend /path/to/file.vmx
$ vmrun stop /path/to/file.vmx

2. Install guest Ubuntu machine

This step is straight forward, and we would need to install openssh-server on the vanilla box.

$ sudo apt-get install -y openssh-server

3. Set up network

3 Types of networks are available on VMWare Fusion (official doc):

  • Bridged: Known as vmnet0, it bridges certain network adapter on host box and guest box. This is not useful unless we are in a fixed environment, with network status seldom updated.
  • Host Only: Known as vmnet1, it creates a virtual network within the host OS and the traffic is normally locked within the network.
  • NAT: Known as vmnet8, it acts similar as Hosts Only but provides routes for servers inside the network to access a wider range of network.

Here we would use NAT, or called Shared with my Mac. Rebooting network adapters on guest OS we would obtain a new IP address, under the same IP range as vmnet8 on hosting mac.

4. Static IP address

It’s necessary to manually set up IP address, so that we could always log in to the VM via SSH.

VMWare DHCP Service for vmnet8 is configured at /Library/Preferences/VMware Fusion/vmnet8/dhcpd.conf, and we would neet to add the following lines to the bottom of file:

host ubuntu {
    hardware ethernet 00:0C:29:30:66:BA;

MAC address of guest box is stored at each vmx file under the property ethernet0.generatedAddress.

Through rebooting VMWare Fusion app, we will be able to apply latest network changes.

5. Shared folders

Before using sharing folders, we would need to set up VMWare Tools (click that item from menu), folloed by the steps:

$ su -
$ apt-get install -y gcc linux-headers-$(uname -r) make
$ mount /dev/cdrom /mnt/cdrom
$ cd /tmp
$ tar zxpf /mnt/cdrom/VMwareTools-5.0.0-<xxxx>.tar.gz
$ umount /dev/cdrom
$ cd vmware-tools-distrib
$ ./vmware-install.pl

Sharing a folder is also straight forward. Detailed methods are descirbed here. I’m sharing my home folder with Linux so that it could access nearly everything I need.

6. Linking default home folder

We would need to edit the home folder via /etc/passwd, where you find your username and home folder separated by :. We could simply the path /home/{username} to /mnt/hgfs/{username}.

However such an operation, on Ubuntu with VMWare Tools installed, will have files and folders belong to 501:dialout, which is nearly impossible for us to do further operation. Followed by Viraj’s instruction this is resolved by:

  1. sudo vim /etc/vmware-tools/services.sh
  2. Search for vmhgfs_mnt="/mnt/hgfs". After this line add: vmuser=${VMWARE_MNT_USER:-root}
  3. Then search for vmware_exec_selinux "mount -t vmhgfs .host:/ $vmhgfs_mnt" and replace it with following section:
    uid=`id --user $vmuser`
    gid=`id --group $vmuser`
    vmware_exec_selinux "mount -t vmhgfs .host:/ $vmhgfs_mnt -o uid=$uid,gid=$gid"
  1. sudo vim /etc/init/vmware-tools.conf Before the “pre-start” and “post-stop” lines add:
    env VMWARE_MNT_USER="[guest-user]"
  1. sudo reboot

As mentioned by Viraj, we would need to set it up again after upgrading VMWare Tools.

7. SSH Configuration & Shortcuts

To improve efficiency, we may need to create shortcut for SSH access. Firstly we need to configure ~/.ssh/config file via injecting those lines on host OS X:

Host ubuntu
User [guest-user]

And also saving authorized_keys on host OS X (since the home folders are linked):

$ cat ~/.ssh/id_rsa.pub > ~/.ssh/authorized_keys

We may also want to specify host name at /etc/hosts    ubuntu.localhost

8. Disable suspension (Enable running in background)

We need to add this to the .vmx file: suspend.disabled = "TRUE"


After all those procedures, we could code happliy via ssh ubuntu.