This article explains how to set up a data science development environment using Python as the programming language and Ubuntu as the operating system. For this setup I will assume that you want to set up a virtual machine. I am going to use the latest version of Ubuntu, at the time of writing that is Ubuntu 13.10.
You can get the iso from here: http://www.ubuntu.com/download/desktop
If you want a headless version of Ubuntu then you can use Ubuntu Server for Cloud, this is good choice if you want to set up IPython notebook to access remotely. Read more