In our department there’s a course that includes lab sections on programming fluid dynamics simulations in OpenFOAM, which isn’t supported by the University’s IT services. We’ve traditionally gotten around this by installing the required environment in a virtual machine image and running it with VMWare under MS Windows, but there are infrastructural headaches associated with this approach: the image is several gigabytes in size, and so distributing to all of the machines and importing it into VMWare manually on a large number of machines is time consuming and tedious. The research fellow who runs these lab sections asked me to help him come up with a solution to this problem, so my suggestion was to create some minimal virtual machine images that users could download and import into VMware quickly, and have the root file system shared out from a server over NFS. I’ve decided to document the process of creating these images here, on the off chance it might turn out to be useful to someone else. The commands documented below were run on an Ubuntu 12.10 system.