Although I started my software-development career as a UNIX programmer, for the past 20 or so years, I've worked primarily in the Windows world. However, I recently started wondering about the quality and usability of Linux distributions. I was also curious about developing C# .NET programs in Linux using Mono (www.mono-project.com), a Linux implementation of the .NET Framework. In addition to Linux, Mono (which is sponsored by Novell) lets you develop and run .NET client and server applications on Solaris, Mac OS X, Windows, and UNIX.
When I installed Ubuntu Linux (www.ubuntu.com) in a Virtual Machine (VM) on my Windows machine, I found that Ubuntu was a user-friendly and attractive OS. And while .NET development is far from perfect on the Linux platform, it is certainly possible to develop C# .NET desktop programs for Linux, and the development tools are easy enough to use that they're actually fun. In this article, I walk you through the process of installing Ubuntu in a VM, and get you started writing .NET desktop applications for Linux.
Installing VMware and Ubuntu
While it's certainly possible to install Linux on a dedicated partition on your Windows machine, it's much more convenient to install it in a VM. VMware (www.vmware.com) offers two free desktop virtualization productsthe lightweight Player and more feature-rich Server. Player and Server can run Linux VMs, but only Server can create them. (You can download VMware Server 1.0.6 from www.vmware.com/download/server, but you need serial numbers from VMware. That's quick and easy.)
The following instructions cover creating a new VM and installing the OS and development tools. If you prefer to use the VM that I created, it's available online; see www.ddj.com/code/. After downloading the VM, boot it in Server, log in as user "user" with password "password," and skip to "The Sample Application" section of this article. If you're building your own VMs, download Ubuntu 8.0.4 LTS Desktop Edition (www.ubuntu.com/getubuntu/download), choose Standard Personal Computer (x86, 32-bit), and download ubuntu-8.04.1-desktop-i386.iso.
Launch Server and connect to the Local host. Click New Virtual Machine and choose Typical VM configuration. For the Guest Operating System, Select Linux and Ubuntu. In the Network Type step, specify network address translation (NAT). If you don't have Internet connectivity when you boot Ubuntu, you may need to change this option. Specify a Disk size of 10 GB, and check "Allocate all disk space now." After Server creates the virtual disk, click "Edit virtual machine settings." Select the Hardware tab and click Add. Add a Sound Adapter and choose "Use default sound adapter." Then add a USB Controller so that you can transfer files between the host and guest OS with a flash drive. The default 512 MB of RAM is sufficient, but set the number of CPUs to 2 if you have at least a dual-core machine. Select the CD-ROM device and choose "Use ISO image," and point the drive to the Ubuntu ISO file you downloaded. After you've installed Ubuntu, change this setting to "Use physical drive."
Click "Start this virtual machine" and the VM boots from the Ubuntu virtual install CD. When the Ubuntu installer loads, select your language, and pick "Install Ubuntu." Don't worry about the warning message about VMware Tools, you'll install them later. Click Forward to advance through the Install wizard. Choose the default disk-partitioning scheme. Specify a user name and password. On Step 7, click Install.
Log on when the installation completes. On the Ubuntu desktop, go to Preferences/Screen Resolution to increase the screen to a comfortable size. Enable automatic logins by going to System/Administration/Login Window. Select the Security tab and enable automatic login for the user you created. Now install VMware Tools, which will enable you to copy and paste text between the host and guest operating systems. On the VMware VM menu select Install VMware Tools. After the file browser launches, go to Accessories/Terminal. The "Terminal" is really a command shell. Enter the following commands:
$ sudo -i # cd /tmp /tmp# tar zxpf /cdrom/V*.gz # cd vmware-tools-distrib # ./vmware-install.pl
The sudo command grants the command shell the higher (root) privileges required to install software. The other commands unpack and install the software. After the install completes, set up VMware tools as a startup program. Go to System/Preferences/Sessions. In the Startup Programs tab click Add. In the Command textbox specify /usr/bin/vmware-toolbox --minimize.
Now it's time to install the development tools. Go to System/Administration and launch the Synaptic Package Manager. This utility downloads, installs, updates, and removes software packages. Click the Search toolbar button and search for "mono." Select the packages:
mono-debugger monodevelop monodoc monodoc-base monodoc-browser monodoc-gtk2.0-manual monodoc-http monodoc-manual mono-gmcs
and select Mark for Installation. When you've selected and marked them all, click the Apply toolbar button.