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.


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




You can try virtualboximages.com - 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.


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.)


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: http://www.vmware.com/appliances/

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


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.


  • 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.

  • "...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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