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The Goal: Getting A Wacom Intuos4 Pen Tablet to work under an XP virtual machine using Virtualbox 3.2 running Ubuntu 10.04 Lucid as the host

This is an ugly, long title but I wanted to get enough keywords in. I run Ubuntu on my laptop and XP as a VM using Virtualbox. I wanted to use an Intuos4 tablet with Adobe Illustrator in the XP VM. Easy, right?


First step: Do the Linux Shuffle

I was running Ubuntu 9.10 and saw 10.04 had been released a month earlier and figured I should upgrade to that. So I did. That wasn't too difficult, it only trashed some networking/NAT settings which I had saved.

Second step: Get the VM to recognize the USB device

While this wasn't hard to do, it took me a couple days to figure out it. VirtualBox had been upgraded during the OS upgrade, but it still wasn't current, as version 3.2 had been released a week earlier. So I upgraded to that, uninstalling the current version, then downloading the .deb package and installing that. The VM came up fine, possibly running quicker than before. But the Devices menu at the top of the VM window no longer listed USB at all.

After a day of searching, I learned that in the details tab of the VirtualBox window (not the window that contains the VM itself), buried below the configuration information on the disk and memory, if you scroll to the bottom, is an entry on USB and you can enable it there.

Third Step: Figure out why the USB device is grey

After rebooting the VM, the Intuos4 is now listed as one of the devices (as "Tablet PTK-640") but it is greyed out and cannot be selected.

The fix was, in the Linux host, to go to "System->Administration->Users and Groups" and then select "Manage Groups" and scroll down to "vboxusers" select that group name, click on the "Properties" menu, and then click on the "Group Members" checkbox to make sure you are in the vboxusers group. If you run "id" or similar from the command line, it will not list vboxusers as a group you are in because it only lists the first 8, but you are there.

And then reboot the Linux host! This horrifies me. A feature of Unix that is completely dynamically controlled now requires you to reboot the whole fucking machine. Truly, Linux is getting closer to becoming Windows every day.

That worked, but then I wasn't able to get the Control Panel->Wacom Tablet Properties" program to let me set the pad to have a left-handed orientation. The "mapping" tab simply did not show up. This was frustrating yet simple to fix. I had to touch the pen to the pad and then it recognized it and gave me a menu for pen/tablet options, not just the wheel.

Fourth Step: Disconnect the auto-mouse capture

The VM will steal the input from the Wacom, which is OK, as long as you don't need to use it under Linux. If you do, you need to diable the USB device from the Device menu on the VM window. But while the Wacom works as an input device in the VM, it does not work as a mouse, the cursor will not move even though you can click on things or draw, you'll be doing it blindly.

The fix is to disable the mouse autocapture (leftcontrol-i as a shortcut). At that point, the mouse will work, the Wacom will work ONLY IN THE VM but it will function as a mouse and you'll get the pressure sensitivity when drawing.

The final bits I haven't figured out is how to calibrate the tablet, because I can't access the bottom of the screen currently, and how to get pressure sensitivity and orientation settings on linux, but they don't matter as much, since my main purpose is to use the pad with drawing tools under Windows for now.

Fifth Step: Figure out the final pad problems

OK, it's 2 weeks later, and I finally figured out the last bit, which is to get it so that the pad allows me to use the whole screen. Up until now, I still couldn't get to the bottom inch or two of the display.

I saw a description of the problem and the fix here. Basically, I uninstalled the WACOM driver, then downloaded adn ran CCleaner and then reinstalled the WACOM driver and things worked. Running the program I just deleted a few registery keys that it complained about, I left others there. After a reboot of the VM, the tablet worked fine.

This was way more painful than it had to be.

This page last modified Sep 07, 2010.
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