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Long story short, I am trying to find a pre-made Linux development environment for VirtualBox so I don't have to worry about installing a distro, getting all packages installed, and so forth, since last time I did that it took me a full day to get something that remotely did what I wanted.

I've got a few semi-weird requirements, which doesn't help...

  • Preferably SSH only, no slick GUI etc installed, as the laptop host is not endowed with a lot of HD space or RAM. (Which is also why I cannot dual boot, so please do not suggest that option.) I intend to do pretty much all using PuTTy, as it is a workflow I'm already accustomed to.
  • Basic gcc, automake etc are all I need.

I really don't care about the distro itself, or the packaging system, or anything else really. I just want to download it, set up some mounts, and be ready to go.

If such a thing doesn't exist, I'd still appreciate suggestions of the best distro to use that will get me to my requirements fastest without a lot of tweaking.

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Turnkey linux has a number of preconfigured server images that will work in virtualbox

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You can try - they have plenty of distros, but they charge a token sum ($.99-3.99) per download - which, i assume, goes to cover their bandwidth costs.

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If such a thing doesn't exist, I'd still appreciate suggestions of the best distro to use that will get me to my requirements fastest without a lot of tweaking.

I don't believe you'll easily find anything prebuilt that matches your requirements. I'd suggest Ubuntu Server to build your own. Install it without anything extra, then run aptitude to get these packages:

  • openssh-server — SSH server
  • screen or tmux — per your choice
  • vim or another editor — the vim-tiny package omits many features
  • gcc, g++, gdb, etc.
  • make, automake, autoconf, etc.
  • manpages-dev, manpages-posix-dev — useful
  • mercurial, git-core, bzr — you'll want at least one

Plus any other packages you want. The list above should already meet and exceed the requirements you've mentioned.

(Use "/" in aptitude to search using a regex, "n" and "N" for the next and previous matches. Use "+" to mark for installation, which also marks dependencies, then "g" to preview the selection and "g" on the preview to download and install. You'll need to run aptitude via sudo.)

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VirtualBox can run VMWare VMDK images, which gives you a lot more options. (There are also ways to convert VMDK virtual hard drives to native VirtualBox format.) You can almost certainly find what you want here:

Why not intstall the VirtualBox support software and just use shared folders and the console to develop in Linux, instead of ssh?

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If I understand your question correctly, you are wanting a VBox image that is a pre-made linux distro that you will run, but ssh into to communicate, to do some non-gui development? But you do not have a lot of RAM?

I guess my first concern is that even with just running a CLI interface, won't VBox take up your RAM anyways? Do you have enough to run vbox in the first place (which I believe is the amount needed for you host system + the amount needed for your virtual instance)?

Second, though no pre-made distros come to mind (bearing, I have done no research), it seems given your unique circumstances it might be to your benefit to download something like Debian-minimal and install the core system and the utilities you need on top of that. It will require a one-time setup, but once it's done, you can just reuse your own custom image.

At this point in linux's development, I am all for package-managed systems, even when space is a concern.

I know this doesn't directly answer the question at hand, but I hope it helps a little.


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Yeah, Vbox works fine, especially if I tell it to only offer so much memory to the guest OS. The problem with the GUIs is they have a much larger and unneeded footprint on both memory and my HD, and I really want to avoid that. Thanks for the debian-minimal suggestion, if nothing better answer comes up I'll take a close look at it. – Stigma Oct 15 '10 at 5:53

Linux from Scratch

I just finished doing just what you want to do, to have a base very minimal Linux OS for dev work. I did the install by hand because I wanted to, but they have automated installers for it. Final disk use is around 700MB.

Normally I'd just use Gentoo and call it a day, but I wanted even more minimal, and it worked well.

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"...and call it a day" full of only compiling? :P – Roger Pate Oct 29 '10 at 15:11
Gentoo and LFS do have that in common, yes. :) – SleighBoy Oct 31 '10 at 15:27

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