How I build an Ubuntu 10.04 LTS Drupal Development VM in VirtualBox

Posted by Jeff Beeman on Wed, 08/11/2010 - 07:22

A development virtual machine can be really handy. It gives you a sandbox of sorts where you can feel free to test and experiment knowing that in a worst-case scenario you can just delete the VM and start over. It can also be a great way to practice server configurations and sketch out "real-world" server setups. Here's the process I follow to setup my Ubuntu 10.04 LTS Drupal development VM in VirtualBox. Aside from the VM-specific steps, these instructions should work for a regular Ubuntu server (VM or not).

Download and install Ubuntu 10.04

Note: Unless otherwise specified, all commands below should be run on the guest VM (Ubuntu).

If you haven't do so already, download and install VirtualBox. Then, download the Ubuntu 10.04 LTS disk image to your host computer.

Next, Create a new virtual machine in VirtualBox. Be sure to select type of "Linux" and OS Type of "Ubuntu" and 32 or 64 bit, accordingly.

Start the machine and, when prompted to select a disk drive, click the icon to the side and open the Virtual Media Manager. Add the ISO file you downloaded to the list of disk images and select it as the media to mount. Walk through the install wizard. When asked to install software, don't choose any packages. We'll add them later. When asked to install the GRUB boot loader, go ahead and choose "yes." Once installation is complete, click on the CD icon in the VM window and unmount the disk image, then choose "Continue" to reboot into the Ubuntu server VM.

Update, upgrade, and setup SSH

Before we do anything else, let's get comfortable in the environment. Working in the small shell window that VirtualBox provides isn't ideal, and it'd be nice to be able to do the rest of the setup over SSH in the terminal of our choice. Install the OpenSSH Server package, upgrade existing packages and then shutdown the server (because we'll have likely updated "linux-headers-server" and other core OS packages, and also so we can do the next step).

If you'd like to make things easier on yourself and not have to type "sudo ..." for every command, run sudo -u root -s to become root for the rest of the session. Otherwise, be sure to add "sudo" before each of the follwing commands.

apt-get install openssh-server apt-get update apt-get upgrade apt-get dist-upgrade shutdown -h now

Get in the habit of running apt-get update and apt-get upgrade regularly. It's one way you keep your Ubuntu server patched and secure! apt-get dist-upgrade should be run if you see "The following packages have been kept back..." when you run apt-get upgrade. This means that some packages haven't been upgraded because they involve core, operating system-level updates that require a restart of the machine.

Configure networking on the host machine

On the host machine, run the following commands below. The first line sets up a handy environment variable you can use later. Just replace "Ubuntu 10.04 LTS" with whatever name you gave your VM when setting it up in VirtualBox. The commands below assume you haven't changed your network adapter type in VirtualBox from the default. If you have, you'll likely need to change the device name.

ubuntu_vm="Ubuntu 10.04 LTS" VBoxManage setextradata "$ubuntu_vm" "VBoxInternal/Devices/e1000/0/LUN#0/Config/guestssh/Protocol" TCP VBoxManage setextradata "$ubuntu_vm" "VBoxInternal/Devices/e1000/0/LUN#0/Config/guestssh/GuestPort" 22 VBoxManage setextradata "$ubuntu_vm" "VBoxInternal/Devices/e1000/0/LUN#0/Config/guestssh/HostPort" 2222 VBoxManage setextradata "$ubuntu_vm" "VBoxInternal/Devices/e1000/0/LUN#0/Config/guesthttp/Protocol" TCP VBoxManage setextradata "$ubuntu_vm" "VBoxInternal/Devices/e1000/0/LUN#0/Config/guesthttp/GuestPort" 80 VBoxManage setextradata "$ubuntu_vm" "VBoxInternal/Devices/e1000/0/LUN#0/Config/guesthttp/HostPort" 8888

Now, start the VM back up. You should now be able to SSH into your Ubuntu VM as follows:

ssh localhost -p 2222

Install Apache, PHP and MySQL

Now, install some generally useful packages that will be used for the rest of the process.

apt-get install build-essential git-core subversion cvs python-software-properties curl

Before we get to the web server setup, we need to change Ubuntu's package definitions a bit. Ubuntu 10.04 LTS is configured to pull PHP 5.3.x, but many Drupal 6.x contrib modules aren't compatible with PHP 5.3, so we need to downgrade to PHP 5.2.x. We'll follow some instructions from Khalid at 2bits. We'll take his Approach #3 by adding Ralph Janke's PHP 5.2 repository for Lucid and "pinning" the PHP version to 5.2, to make sure we don't inadvertantly upgrade to 5.3 (I've provided the apt preferences file in my Github repository, for easy access).

add-apt-repository ppa:txwikinger/php5.2 wget -O /etc/apt/preferences.d/php apt-get update

Now, we'll install the web server, PHP packages (including APC), and MySQL. Please note that you'll be prompted for a MySQL root user password. The last command below also disables some unneeded Apache modules and enables a few that are good to have for Drupal.

apt-get install apache2 php5 php5-cli php5-gd php-pear php5-dev apache2-dev apt-get install mysql-server php5-mysql a2dismod cgi autoindex a2enmod deflate expires rewrite vhost_alias pecl install apc

Configure Apache and PHP

Update PHP settings by editing both /etc/php5/apache2/php.ini and /etc/php5/cli/php.ini and setting the variables below as shown:

safe_mode = Off expose_php = Off memory_limit = 128M display_errors = Off log_errors = On
error_log = /var/log/php/php.log ; (or php_cli.log)

Update APC settings by editing /etc/php5/conf.d/apc.ini: apc.enabled=1 apc.enable_cli=1 apc.shm_segments=1 apc.shm_size=32 apc.cache_by_default=1 apc.stat=1

Create the error log files:

mkdir /var/log/php touch /var/log/php/php.log touch /var/log/php/php_cli.log chown -R www-data:www-data /var/log/php chmod -R 0755 /var/log/php

Due to the way Drupal handles URLs, in particular how it handles creating a URL to itself, we need to tell Apache to listen on port 8888. This gets around the "HTTP Request Fail" issue in the status report, among other things:

Edit /etc/apache2/ports.conf and add Listen 8888, so that the beginning of the file looks like:

NameVirtualHost *:80 Listen 80 Listen 8888

Install and configure Drush

Setup Drush and Drush Make to be used server-wide. The commands below grab the latest verison as of this writing, but you can check the Drush and Drush Make project pages to see if there are newer releases:

cd /usr/local/src wget wget tar xzf drush-6.x-3.3.tar.gz tar xzf drush_make-6.x-2.0-beta8.tar.gz mkdir /etc/drush cp /usr/local/src/drush/examples/example.drushrc.php /etc/drush/drushrc.php ln -s /usr/local/src/drush/drush /usr/local/bin/drush

Edit /etc/drush/drushrc.php to add Drush Make to include path:

$options['i'] = '/usr/local/src/drush_make';

Install Drupal

Create a database, download, and install Drupal (be sure to put a password in for the MySQL grant statement where appropriate below). I like to keep my sites in sub-directories of /var/www. These commands will prepare Apache for that working setup. I've provided a couple of files that are downloaded with wget to make this simpler, but feel free to modify them along the way if you wish.

mysql -u root -p -e "CREATE DATABASE drupal_dev; GRANT ALL PRIVILEGES ON drupal_dev.* TO [email protected] IDENTIFIED BY 'password'; FLUSH PRIVILEGES;" wget -O /var/www/drupal-demo.make wget -O /etc/apache2/sites-available/drupal-demo a2dissite 000-default a2ensite drupal-demo chown -R www-data:www-data /var/www sudo -u www-data drush make /var/www/drupal-demo.make /var/www/drupal-demo sudo -u www-data cp /var/www/drupal-demo/sites/default/default.settings.php /var/www/drupal-demo/sites/default/settings.php /etc/init.d/apache2 restart

Walk through Drupal's install wizard by visiting http://localhost:8888. Once you're done, run the following Drush command to quickly enable the modules in the demo site:

cd /var/www/drupal-demo drush en -y admin \ content content_copy fieldgroup filefield imagefield nodereference \ number optionwidgets text userreference bulk_export ctools \ ctools_custom_content page_manager views_content path search devel \ features imageapi imageapi_gd imagecache imagecache_ui masquerade \ pathauto skinr strongarm token panels_mini panels_node panels \ jquery_update vertical_tabs views views_bulk_operations views_export \ views_ui fusion_core


You're done! From here, you've got a fully-functional Ubuntu virtual machine designed for developing Drupal sites.


There are some issues to work out and other tasks to add to these instructions. Any feedback on these items would be greatly appreciated.


  • Drupal reports that it can't make HTTP requests, but it can. I believe this is because we're making requests over port 8888, but Drupal thinks it's running on port 80. Not sure how to get around this, but also not sure it's really all that important for development environments.


  • TODO: Install and configure Aegir
  • TODO: Install and configure Varnish
  • TODO: Install and configure Solr