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The installers that Astronaut uses are packaged for one of several Linux operating systems.

  • Debian/Ubuntu/Kubuntu (.deb) Linux
  • Red Hat/Fedora (.rpm) Linux

While you can install any operating system in a virtual machine, these instructions are oriented towards Ubuntu users (who will use the .deb version of Astronaut VistA). The virtual machine (within Windows) will be used to run the Ubuntu server operating system as well as the VistA server program.

The VistA clients (which are Windows-based) are then able to directly access the Ubuntu/VistA server running in the virtual machine.

In this fashion, an entire self-contained VistA EHR can run on a single computer.


Install a virtual machine in Windows

There are several choices of virtual machine programs that can be run in Windows. All are satisfactory.

  • Virtualbox
  • VMWare
  • QEMU
  • Parallels

Install Virtualbox in Windows

Virtualbox (by Sun) has some advantages and disadvantages. There is a free proprietary edition as well as a subscription-based enterprise edition. The free edition only allows usage of a 32-bit operating system (as the guest OS) whereas the subscription edition allows a 64-bit guest OS. (Both require registration.) There is also has a free open source edition, but this is not easy to install in Windows (unlike in Linux). Virtualbox is available for all operating system platforms, and therefore a virtual machine created in one operating system (Windows, Apple, Linux) can be used in another. Furthermore, it is possible to convert virtual machines created in Virtualbox to VMWare and vice versa.

I find both the installation process and the interface for Virtualbox quite user friendly (as I do VMWare). So far I have had few difficulties with Virtualbox and recommend it.

Install Ubuntu server in a virtual machine

There is a version of the Ubuntu server that is optimised for usage within a virtual machine. It is provided on the Ubuntu Server edition LiveCD. The LiveCD image (.iso) found here can be downloaded onto your hard drive. It can then be installed directly into your virtual machine from the hard drive. Alternatively, you can also burn the .iso image onto a CD and install Ubuntu Server into the virtual machine from the CD. Both methods work identically during the Ubuntu Server installation process.

The free version of Virtualbox only allows the use of a 32-bit operating system as a guest OS, so you should download the 32-bit Ubuntu server (.iso) image.

  • Start the virtual machine you created in the previous step.
Virtualbox -> Ubuntu Virtual Server (highlighted) -> Start
The "First Run Wizard" will prompt for the location of the installation disk -> Next ->
CD/DVD-ROM device (ticked) ->
Media Source:
  • select the CD-ROM drive (if you burned the LiveCD (.iso) image onto a physical CD), or
  • browse for the folder where you stored the (.iso) image onto your hard drive (if you did not burn it to a physical CD)
-> Next ->
  • Install Ubuntu server virtual machine edition:

The First Run Wizard will automatically start the LiveCD from the location you indicated, and you will see the Ubuntu Server LiveCD screen.

  • Choose language: English ->
  • Important: note this step carefully! Select the minimal virtual machine installation mode:
* Click the F4 (modes) key -> Install a minimal virtual machine ->
  • Install Ubuntu Server
  • Select your installation options. When asked about partitioning, use the guided partitioning method and use the entire disk. This uses the entire virtual machine disk (which is 8 GB or whatever size you created when creating the virtual machine), not the entire physical hard drive disk.
  • Task selection. A menu will appear to select options for additional packages to be installed along with the server. Now is a good time to install two packages that will be required by WorldVistA: the LAMP (Linux, Apache2, MySQL, and PHP) server package, and the OpenSSH package. Make sure these two packages are starred (use the space button to select them) before completing the installation.
  • You will be prompted to enter an MySQL root user password during the LAMP server package installation. This password becomes important later on (in some instances). Record your chosen MySQL password in a safe location. Do not use your primary user password as the MySQL password; it ought to be unique.
  • Finish the remainder of the Ubuntu server installation. At the conclusion the Ubuntu system will automatically reboot within the virtual machine. When it restarts, you will then have a fully function Ubuntu Server within the virtual machine. Immediately update the operating system:
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get upgrade

Install a desktop

This is a decision that is difficult to make. Having an Ubuntu or Kubuntu GUI desktop is nice, but it also slows down the virtual machine server considerably and takes a large chunk of the 8.00 GB virtual disk (which may need to be dynamically expanded and thereby occupy more space on your hard-drive).

If you intend to use many of the features of Ubuntu or Kubuntu, this is worthwhile. Install a desktop:

sudo apt-get install ubuntu-desktop
sudo apt-get install kubuntu-desktop
  • After all the packages are installed, restart the OS within the virtual machine and you should now boot into the GUI desktop.

Install pre-requisites if no desktop installed

To run the WorldVistA server, a GUI desktop is not needed. But to do this, several packages that are normally installed with the desktop must be installed individually:

  • Install wget (to retrieve packages) and iptables (firewall rules):
sudo apt-get install wget iptables

Install WorldVistA

Other alternatives

In addition to the method outlined above (using a Virtualbox virtual machine, Ubuntu Server, and Astronaut WorldVistA server), other WorldVistA server solutions exist.

  • The WorldVistA EHR Personal Toaster is a self-contained appliance for Windows that includes a bundled QEMU virtual machine, a Damn Small Linux operating system, and a WorldVistA server (it does not use the Astronaut format). All are installed in a one-step process.
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