Enabling VirtualBox 5.2.6 advanced guest features (Ubuntu 17.10 guest)

Decided to write a post about setting up advanced guest features in a Ubuntu 17.10 guest. Host is Windows 10 Home, running VirtualBox 5.2.6. Some features ‘just work’ (automatic change of screen resolution, mouse integration), as there are some modules included with Ubuntu.

I’m assuming you’ve done the base install, and brought everything up to date etc.

You can configure your clipboard, drag’n’drop, and shared folders in Virtualbox:

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but they won’t work without the VirtualBox Guest Additions provided with this version of VirtualBox. Installing the Guest Additions provided by VirtualBox replaces the modules that come as part of Ubuntu. Before we can install them, you need to install some packages. In a terminal:

sudo apt install gcc make perl

It will take a few moments to get the packages and install them. Once it’s done, go to the Devices menu of VirtualBox and click on Insert Guest Additions CD image.

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A dialogue box appears asking if you want to auto-run, I clicked cancel. In the terminal again (replace tom with whatever your username is):

cd /media/tom/VBox_GAs_5.2.6
sudo ./VBoxLinuxAdditions.run

I guess the auto-run probably just runs that script, but I like to see the output. Again it will take a few moments. In order for shared folders to work properly, you need to add your username to the vboxsf user group. In the terminal (replace tom with your username):

sudo usermod -a -G vboxsf tom

Reboot the guest and you’ll find that any shared folders are auto-mounted, under /media.


Enable shared folders in a VMware Ubuntu guest

I was recently playing around with Ubuntu 17.10 (Artful Aardvark), using it as a guest operating system in VMware Workstation.

When creating the virtual machine, VMware offered to do its Easy Install thing, which (on a whim) I elected to use. It has good and bad points. It speeds the install process up a bit, but doesn’t let you select region and keyboard layout, so if you want something other than English (United States) then you’ll have to manually change it later.

As part of the Easy Install, it also installs the open-vm-tools and open-vm-tools-desktop packages automatically. For whatever reason, shared folders don’t get enabled properly.

If the VM is a throwaway and you only need shared folders as a one-off then, in a terminal:

sudo mkdir /mnt/hgfs

sudo mount -t fuse.vmhgfs-fuse .host:/ /mnt/hgfs -o allow_other

If you want a more permanent solution:

sudo mkdir /mnt/hgfs

sudo sh -c ‘echo “.host:/ /mnt/hgfs fuse.vmhgfs-fuse allow_other 0 0” >> /etc/fstab’

Reboot, and your shared folders will be in /mnt/hgfs.

Installing Oracle Virtualbox 5.2 on Ubuntu 17.10 (Artful Aardvark)

Thought I’d do a quick post on installing Virtualbox 5.2, using Ubuntu 17.10 as the host operating system.

We can use apt to manage the process. First we need to add a line to the sources file. In a terminal:

sudo sh -c ‘echo “deb https://download.virtualbox.org/virtualbox/debian artful contrib” >> /etc/apt/sources.list’

Next we need to add Oracle’s public key for apt-secure to use:

wget -q https://www.virtualbox.org/download/oracle_vbox_2016.asc -O- | sudo apt-key add –

Now we can use apt to install Virtualbox:

sudo apt update

sudo apt install virtualbox-5.2

Oracle suggests that it might be beneficial to install the dkms package, so that if future package updates result in your kernel version changing, the Virtualbox host kernel modules will also be updated properly:

sudo apt install dkms

That’s it, Virtualbox should be ready to go.

Office365 Office 2016 Version 1708 (Build 8431.2079) update breaks cell highlighting in Excel

Recently Office 2016 updated itself (Office365 subscription so it uses ClicktoRun) to version 1708 (Build 8431.2079) and this appeared to break cell highlighting in Excel worksheets that have headers and footers. Cells that you highlight turn black. Scrolling down and back up to hide/reveal the cells removes the black fill and doesn’t show the actual colour.

It turns out Microsoft are aware of the issue and a fix has been released as Version 1708 (Build 8431.2094). The advice on the page is to manually force it to update.

However, that does not work for me and it simply reports that the latest version is already installed. When looking at the installed version number in Excel there is a line that says “Monthly Channel” so maybe I’m supposed to wait for the update to be released to me?

I decided to disable updates and see if I could force a manual update to the new version from the command line. This did not work, it reported that the latest version of Office approved by your system admin (whoever that is?) is installed on your computer.

So I was left with no choice but to roll back to a previous version.

I opened a command prompt and changed directory to C:\Program Files\Common Files\Microsoft Shared\ClickToRun

I ran the following command: OfficeC2RClient.exe /update user updatetoversion=16.0.8326.2058

Thanks for not properly testing your updates before releasing them, Microsoft.

Office365 Office 2016 Version 1702 (Build 7870.2024) update breaks Outlook search

Edit: As of 27/03/2017 Microsoft has released Build 7870.2031 of Office 2016 which appears to have fixed the issue. It has for me anyway.

Recently Office 2016 updated itself (Office365 subscription so it uses ClicktoRun) to version 1702 (Build 7870.2024) and this appeared to break searching emails in Outlook 2016.

I thought that maybe the index was corrupt, so I tried triggering a rebuild, but this did not resolve the issue.

To see what version you’re running, have a look in the Account section of a programme in the Office Suite. For example, in Excel open a blank workbook, then click on File on the ribbon, and choose Account in the list on the left-hand side:

There you can see it lists info about the current version, in this case Version 1702 (Build 7870.2024), and lets you alter update options.

As a temporary workaround I disabled automatic updates, and then rolled back to a previous version.

To disable updates, click on Update Options > Disable Updates. I’m in Windows 7, and I got a UAC prompt to confirm the action.

Click on Update Options > View Updates to get to the version history web page. This page shows what’s changed through the different versions. Scroll down near the bottom and you’ll see a Previous Releases section where you can look at the different versions released in previous months.

I decided to try going back just one version, which is listed as Version 1701 (Build 7766.2060).

In order to roll back to a previous version, open a command prompt, enter cd “%programfiles%\common files\microsoft shared\clicktorun” and hit return.

Now you can run the ClicktoRun client and tell it to update to a specific version (using the build number we found above; 7766.2060).

Type in OfficeC2RClient.exe /update user updatetoversion=16.0.7766.2060 and hit return. There won’t be any output in the command line to look at, you’ll just be taken back to the prompt:

Very soon, if not immediately, you should see something like this showing that updates are being downloaded:

Once it’s done, open Outlook and try a search. To start with I got a warning about the index not being complete, so I guess it triggered a rebuild.

In Windows 7 the indexing process slows down when it detects someone is using the computer but you can disable this if you find it is taking a long time to rebuild.

Enabling Rec. Playback audio recording device on a Dell M6600

I wanted to pull a snippet of audio from a video I was watching in my browser to send to someone, but couldn’t find a suitable recording device listed to allow me to do this easily. A lot of sound cards support this feature and will have a recording device called Stereo Mix, or Rec. Playback, or Record What You Hear, or something similar. Using the device allows a program to record any audio that is playing on the machine. After a bit of head scratching and some googling, it became apparent that the features you are allowed to use are determined by the drivers that ship with the machine.

The Dell M6600 has an IDT High Definition Audio CODEC sound card. There is a basic driver, provided by Microsoft, that gets installed automatically when installing Windows 7. This driver does not allow access to the Rec. Playback device that is available on the sound card.

A look on the dell support website did not turn up any results, at first. For some reason known only to Dell they don’t list any audio drivers unless you scroll down and choose the option to browse all available drivers for the M6600. Then an Audio category appears in the list, with a link to a page that provides a driver by IDT.


I downloaded the driver, installed it, rebooted, and then Rec. Playback appeared as a recording device.