Install Ubuntu 7.04 on Your Intel Mac with VMware Fusion

Published on by Jim Mendenhall

The latest version of Ubuntu, Feisty Fawn, has been getting a lot of press recently. With news that Dell will soon be pre-installing Ubuntu on some of its systems, it's almost certain that Ubuntu will only become more popular in the coming months. If you have an Intel Mac and would like to experiment with Ubuntu's newest release what is the easiest way?

It seems there are 3 possible ways to try Ubuntu 7.04 on your Mac.

  1. Install Ubuntu directly to your hard drive.
  2. Install Ubuntu in Parallels.
  3. Install Ubuntu in VMWare Fusion.

Installing Ubuntu directly to your hard drive might be a good idea if you have a spare drive that you can use. From the instructions I've seen online, installing Ubuntu on a partition alongside OS X is not for the faint of heart. Personally, I'm not willing to risk all of my data and my OS X install on an experiment to see if I can install Ubuntu.

Installing Ubuntu 7.04 in Parallels is not such a walk in the park either. There seem to be some problems with the latest Linux kernels and Parallels. When trying to install, Ubuntu will not be able to properly load the cd-rom driver and will fail to install. There are some (rather odd) workarounds for this, such as telling Parallels that you're using Solaris during the install process. The guys at SimpleHelp have a tutorial that will help you get Ubuntu 7.04 installed in Parallels. Don't expect things to work perfectly once it's installed. I still experienced problems with the video drivers and screen resolution as well intermittent problems getting cd-roms to mount. The Ubuntu startup and shutdown screens also fail to display in Parallels. You're left with a black screen wondering if anything is happening during the boot process. There are other annoyances such as the virtual machine failing to full shut itself down, a bug that causes most progress bars to be transparent, and the constant need to hit a key combination to release the cursor from Ubuntu and get back to Mac OS. Features such as Coherence and dragging files between Parallels and Mac OS are also not supported.

Because of all the problems with Parallels, I decided to give the VMware Fusion Beta a try. While Parallels may have beat everyone else to the Intel Mac virtualization market, VMware have been doing virtualization for much longer. With the Fusion Beta, they bring their years of experience to the Mac platform. Does it work any better with Ubuntu? The short answer is YES!

I was able to install Ubuntu 7.04 in VMware Fusion Beta with no problems. The only thing that was a small problem was installing the VMware Tools package, which I had to mess around with for a few minutes. Once those tools are installed, VMware really starts to shine. Fusion supports features such as file drag and drop between Mac OS and Ubuntu, clipboard synchronization, automatic cursor focus as you move in and out of the VMware window, and easy screen resolution resizing (it even works with the widescreen Macbook monitor). Fusion still needs some polish (like, seriously, those huge buttons at the top of the window are UGLY), but I'm sure VMware will work these things out before the final release this summer.

So far, I couldn't be more happy with VMware Fusion, and highly recommend you download and try out the free beta evaluation.