[Teaching] [wg-windows] Minimal virtual machine for OCaml

Anil Madhavapeddy anil at recoil.org
Wed Sep 2 21:34:13 BST 2015

On 1 Sep 2015, at 04:20, Thranur Andul <thranur at gmail.com> wrote:
> While OPAM for Windows is not ready, I'm considering some teaching experiments using Linux virtual machines running inside Windows.
> I suppose it has already been tried by some people here, so maybe someone could share their experiences with that approach.
> In particular, one of my main issues is disk space: how much space would be necessary for a minimal Linux install with a graphical interface (XFCE, LXDE or even lighter) and the dependencies needed to install OCaml and the most common OPAM packages (e.g. Core, 
> js_of_ocaml, Coq, etc.)? Is there already a Linux distribution made for that?
> Also, related details about virtual machine experiences (issues, limitations, recommendations, etc.) are welcome.

One fairly easy way to get the VM images that is portable across operating systems is to use Vagrant.  One that has been recently updated (by the CS3110 folk at Cornell) is at:

https://github.com/cs3110/vagrant-opam <https://github.com/cs3110/vagrant-opam>

That sets up a common development environment and OPAM.

It's tricky to get things more lightweight than this when using VMs.  One option I'm investigating is the feasibility of using Docker containers (via Boot2Docker) in order to have a CLI-only interface to the environment.  The user experience with this is to install the recently released Docker Toolbox on either Windows or MacOS X, and then use a CLI to get a Linux container.  Some more work is needed to expose a graphical interface, so it's not quite ideal for student use yet.

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