Virtual Machines

Most of UWM's research computing resources run Unix compatible operating systems called CentOS Linux and FreeBSD. These two operating systems were chosen from the many available Unix systems for their common and complimentary features.

Common features:

Complimentary features:

You can experiment with either or both of these operating systems by requesting an account on our development servers (email research-computing@uwm.edu) or by downloading one of the virtual machine images below. The images are in Open Virtualization Archive (OVA) format. To use them:

  1. Install VirtualBox. ( Other VMs that support the OVA format may also work, but we only test on VirtualBox. )
  2. Download one of the images below:

    CentOS 6 OVA image
    CentOS 7 OVA image
    FreeBSD 11 OVA image

  3. Start VirtualBox, open the File menu, click Import Appliance and select the OVA file you downloaded. When the import is complete, you should be able to boot the guest operating system by selecting it and clicking Start.
  4. All virtual machines have an login account named "vmadmin" with a temporary password of "change-this-password". You can use "su" to become the root user. The temporary password is the same.

    Obviously, this password should be changed for both vmadmin and root immediately by running "passwd" as each user.

    The OVA images are updated fairly frequently, but may be behind on security updates and other patches at the time you download them. You should run "auto-update-system" as root immediately after the first boot.

    After that, run auto-update-system weekly and whenever new security updates become available.

    A 2015 study by Verizon showed that 99.9% of vulnerability exploits occurred more than a year after information about the vulnerability had been made publicly available (Verizon DBIR 2015). I.e., the hacker victim population is almost entirely made up of people who fail to keep their systems updated. This does not mean that keeping your systems updated is enough to keep you safe, but clearly complacency here causes the biggest risk.

    Anyone managing their own computer, including these virtual machines, should subscribe to the appropriate security announcements email, such as the CentOS Announcements list and the FreeBSD Security Notifications list.

  5. RAM for the virtual machines is set conservatively at 1 to 2 GiB to ensure the VMs will run reasonably well even on modest hosts. Some researchers may need considerably more and this can easily be changed in the VirtualBox settings (while the VM is not running). You'll want to leave at least 2 GiB for your host operating system, more if you plan to run big applications on the host while the VM is up. E.g. if your PC has 8 GiB of RAM, set the VM guest to use no more than 6 GiB.

    Virtual disk sizes can also be increased if you prefer this over connecting to your host filesystem. Contact us for details.

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