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I have a freshly installed Ubuntu 9.10 server installed within a VirtualBox VM instance. From the VirtualBox menu bar, I selected Devices: Install Guest Additions...

Then performed the following commands:

> sudo apt-get install -y build-essential linux-headers-$(uname -r)
> sudo mount /dev/cdrom /mnt/
> sudo /mnt/

After some successful looking results, the following error is displayed:

Installing the Window System drivers!
(Could not find the X.Org or XFree86 Window System.)

After restarting, I was looking forward to some UI integration with my host desktop (resize window, not needing to press right-Ctrl to escape the client window, and having copy and paste functionality.

Is it possible to install the Guest Additions without the X Window overhead (I plan to only use for shell commands)? If additional packages are required, which ones?

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2 Answers 2

up vote 2 down vote accepted

I think you're going to need installed to take advantage of any of the host integration features.

The only other thing I can think of is to temporarily add the minimal packages

sudo apt-get install xserver-xorg xserver-xorg-core

then install the Guest Additions, and then remove the x packages. However, like I said, I believe you're going to need x windows to remain installed in order to take advantage of the guest additions. If you choose to keep packages you'll also want a window manager like openbox.

Alternatively, you could install the xubuntu-desktop package for a minimal gui in one step.

Update: I messed with this for quite a while and couldn't get it to work without a desktop fully installed. The xserver packages aren't enough on their own to enable the integration features. I also installed xubuntu-desktop on a fresh 9.10 server instance, doing so remotely via ssh so I could log the session and save the list of all packages it said it was installing since removing *ubuntu-desktop only removes the meta-package. I then ran the guest additions install, verified it worked, and finally uninstalled all the desktop packages by pasting the log output from install into a bash script with apt-get remove, followed by apt-get autoremove.

Not surprisingly, it reverted back to requiring a host key like rt-ctrl to un-capture the mouse and keyboard. Even if it hadn't, I certainly wouldn't recommend doing this on a guest you were using for something important. The bottom line is that the guest additions appear to require one of the desktop installations to be present, and while it's true the mouse is irrelevant without x installed, I believe that the mouse integration feature is the only way to override requiring the host key to un-capture control (including keyboard) from the guest.

Having said all that, I think that not requiring the host key ought to be a feature or preference setting for the VirtualBox program itself, rather than the guest additions. If you click on the guest's application titlebar (or on its taskbar entry) to give the guest focus, it gives the keyboard focus to the guest but not the mouse, thereby not requiring the host key to regain the mouse. It seems like there could be a preference setting to act the same way when the guest window itself is clicked, like "never capture mouse". It wouldn't need to know if the guest was cli or gui, just that you didn't want it to suck the mouse in.

Sorry to not have any better answer about this, but maybe someone at SunOracle will take note and put this in a future version.

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Apart from seamlessly moving the mouse between host and guest there should be no need for the graphical parts. – John Gardeniers Apr 27 '10 at 10:26
@John - but this is, I think, the kind of functionality he's looking for. I think the mouse integration and copy/paste between host and guest functionality depend on X as implemented in the VBox guest additions installer. But, if you have a way to do this without X or without the Guest Additions I'm sure the OP would love to hear. – nedm Apr 27 '10 at 16:50
I'm hoping someone else has a solution, because I'm also looking for it. Without a GUI the mouse integration is irrelevant. However, things like copy and paste are still very desirable and should be available for the CLI. – John Gardeniers Apr 27 '10 at 21:33
I've installed xserver and the Guest Additions installed without any errors. I restarted and have tested. After clicking in the VM instance, I still need to press right-Ctrl to return control of the mouse back to the host OS. I am beginning to wonder if the desktop is required for full integration. Any thoughts? – sutch Apr 27 '10 at 22:09
@sutch, @John - See my update above. – nedm May 1 '10 at 21:57

You'll need X for the guest additions.

If you only plan to use shell commands, why not ssh into the guest?

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