Getting Gnome Shell going for Fedora 16 running in VirtualBox

There are a number of complaints out there about how hard it is to get GNOME Shell running for a Fedora 16 installation in a VirtualBox virtual machine. As with earlier versions of Fedora, preparation remains a matter of having make, gcc and kernel-devel (kernel headers, in other words). While I have got away with just those, adding dkms (dynamic kernel module support) to the list might be no bad idea either. To get all of those instated, it is a matter of running the following command as root or using sudo:

yum -y install make gcc kernel-devel dkms

The -y switch ensures that any Y/N prompts that usually appear are suppressed and that the installation is completed. Just leave it out if you are inclined to get second thoughts. Another item that has been needed with a previous release of Fedora is libgomp but I haven’t had to add this for Fedora 16 if I remember correctly.

Once those are in place, it is time to install the VirtualBox Guest Additions.  Going to Devices > Install Guest Additions… mounts a virtual CD that can be used for the installation of the various drivers that are needed. To do the installation, first go to where the installer is located using the following command:

cd /media/VBOXADDITIONS_4.1.6_74713/

Note that this location will change according to the release and build numbers of VirtualBox but the process essentially will be the same other than this. Once in there, issue the following command as root or using sudo:


Hopefully, this will complete without errors now with the precursor software that has been added beforehand. However, there is one more thing that needs doing or you will get the GNOME 3 fallback desktop instead. It pertains to SELinux, an old adversary of mine that got in the way when I was setting up a web server on a machine running Fedora. It doesn’t recognise the new VirtualBox drivers as it should so the following command needs executing as root or using sudo:

restorecon -R -v /opt

Doing this restores the SELinux contexts for the /opt directories within which the VirtualBox software directories are found. The -R switch tells it to act recursively and -v makes it verbose. When it has done its work, hopefully successfully, it is time to reboot the virtual machine and you should have a GNOME Shell desktop interface when you log in.

Getting Fedora working in VirtualBox

After a hiatus induced by disk errors seen on start up, I have gone having a go with Fedora again. In the world of real PC’s, its place has been taken by Debian so virtualisation was brought into play for my most recent explorations. I could have gone with 10, the current stable version, but curiosity got the better of me and I downloaded a pre-release version of 11 instead.

On my way to getting that instated, I encountered two issues. The first of these was boot failure with the message like this:


As it turned out, that was easily sorted. I was performing the installation from a DVD image mounted as if it were a real DVD and laziness or some other similar reason had me rebooting with still mounted. There is an option to load the hard disk variant but it wasn’t happening, resulting in the message that’s above. A complete shut down and replacement of the virtual DVD with a real one set matters to rights.

The next trick was to get Guest Additions added but Fedora’s 2.6.29 was not what VirtualBox was expecting and it demanded the same ransom as Debian: gcc, make and kernel header files. Unfamiliarity had me firing up Fedora’s software installation software only to find that Synaptic seems to  beat it hands down in the search department. Turning to Google dredged up the following command to be executed and that got me further:

yum install binutils gcc make patch libgomp glibc-headers glibc-devel kernel-headers kernel-devel

However, the installed kernel headers didn’t match the kernel but a reboot fixed that once the kernel was updated. Then, the Guest Additions installed themselves as intended with necessary compilations to match the installed kernel.

The procedures that I have described here would, it seems, work for Fedora 10 and they certainly have bequeathed me  a working system. I have had a little poke and a beta of Firefox 3.5 is included and I saw sign of OpenOffice 3.1 too. So, it looks very cutting edge, easily so in comparison with Ubuntu and Debian. Apart from one or niggles, it seems to run smoothly too. Firstly, don’t use the command shutdown -h now to close the thing down or you’ll cause VirtualBox to choke. Using the usual means ensures that all goes well, though. The other irritation is that it doesn’t connect to the network without a poke from me. Whether SELinux is to blame for this or not, I cannot tell but it might be something for consideration by the powers than be. That these are the sorts of things that I have noticed should itself be telling you that I have no major cause for complaint. I have mulled over a move to Fedora in the past and that option remains as strong as ever but Ubuntu is not forcing me to look at an alternative and the fact that I know how to achieve what I need is resulting in inertia anyway.