Much of the material in this document is taken from Appendix H.1 in the book A Primer on Scientific Programming with Python, 4th edition, by the same author, published by Springer, 2014.
A virtual machine allows you to run another complete computer system in a separate window. For Mac users, I recommend VMWare Fusion over VirtualBox for running a Linux (or Windows) virtual machine. (VMWare Fusion's hardware integration seems superior to that of VirtualBox.) VMWare Fusion is commercial software, but there is a free trial version you can start with. Alternatively, you can use the simpler VMWare Player, which is free for personal use.
The following recipe will install a Ubuntu virtual machine under VMWare Fusion.
.isofile with the Ubuntu image.
Ctrl+backslash, in the Switch to next source using field. Then you can use the shortcut to quickly switch keyboard.
gnome-terminal, right-click its new icon in the left pane and choose
Lock to Launchersuch that you always have the terminal easily accessible when you log in. The
gnome-terminalcan have multiple tabs (
Ctrl+shift+tto make a new tab).
You now have a full Ubuntu machine, but there is not much software on a it for doing scientific computing with Python. Installation is performed through the Ubuntu Software Center (a graphical application) or through Unix commands, typically
Terminal> sudo apt-get install packagename
To look up the right package name, run
apt-cache search followed by
typical words of that package. The strength of the
of installing software is that the package and all packages it depends on
are automatically installed through the
apt-get install command.
This is in a nutshell why Ubuntu (or Debian-based Linux systems)
are so user-friendly for installing sophisticated mathematical software.
To install a lot of useful packages for scientific work, go to
http://goo.gl/RVHixr and click on one of the following
files, which will install a collection of software for scientific work
install_minimal.sh: install a minimal collection
install_rich.sh: install a rich collection (takes time to run)
Terminal> cd ~/Downloads Terminal> bash install_minimal.sh
The program will run for quite some time, hopefully without problems.
If it stops, set a comment sign
# in front of the line where it stopped
The Ubuntu machine can see the files on your host system if you
download VMWare Tools. Go to the Virtual Machine pull-down menu in
VMWare Fusion and choose Install VMWare Tools. A tarfile is
downloaded. Click on it and it will open a folder
normally in your home folder. Move to the new folder and
sudo perl vmware-install.pl.
You can go with the default answers to all the questions.
On a Mac, you must open Virtual Machine - Settings... and choose
Sharing to bring up a dialog where you can add the folders you want
to be visible in Ubuntu. Just choose your home folder. Then turn on
the file sharing button (or turn off and on again). Go to Ubuntu and
check if you can see all your host system's files in
If you later detect that
/mnt/hgfs/ folder has become empty,
VMWare Tools must be reinstalled by first turning shared folders
off, and then running
Terminal> sudo /usr/bin/vmware-config-tools.pl
Occasionally it is necessary to do a full reinstall by
sudo perl vmware-install.pl as above.
Documents/Virtual Machines/Ubuntu 64-bit. Backing up the Ubuntu machine means backing up this folder. However, if you use tools like Time Machine and work in Ubuntu during backup, the copy of the state of the Ubuntu machine is likely to be corrupt. You are therefore strongly recommended to shut down the virtual machine prior to running Time Machine or simply copying the folder with the virtual machine to some backup disk.
If something happens to your virtual machine, it is usually a straightforward task to make a new machine and import data and software automatically from the previous machine.
Instead of running Ubuntu in a virtual machine, Windows users also have the option of deciding on the operating system when turning on the machine (so-called dual boot). The Wubi tool makes it very easy to get Ubuntu on a Windows machine this way. There are problems with Wubi on Windows 8, see instructions for how to get around them. It is also relatively straightforward to perform a direct install of Ubuntu by downloading an Ubuntu image, creating a bootable USB stick on Windows or Mac, restarting the machine and finally installing Ubuntu. However, with the powerful computers we now have, a virtual machine is more flexible since you can switch between Windows and Ubuntu as easily as going from one window to another.