Friday, June 30, 2006

Linux: My Painless Experience Installing Ubuntu

I had a change of heart last night on my recovery efforts, and decided to wipe out my Windows install in favor of Ubuntu 6.06. I had copied the desktop Live CD in anticipation of my recovery, and so I decided to give it a whirl. I have to say, I am impressed and really feel that this is what Desktop Linux should be. I apologize beforehand for the lack of screenshots, VMWare was not cooperating with me, and I had no way to capture screenshots off my laptop during the installation process.

     The installation kind of threw me for a loop. Its is a different paradigm than what I am used to with OS installs, where you throw in a CD, go through some sort of wizard or configuration menu, and install the OS. Ubuntu doesn’t do that. Ubuntu follows a “try before you buy” method, where you boot into a full fledged Live CD version of Ubuntu and get to trial it before you install it. This is great if your trying to convince someone of all the virtues of Linux and want them to try it out, they agree, and you install it as is right to their system. No fuss whatsoever. I personally like this paradigm a little more since I have a few potential converts and I would like them to try it out first.

When I first pop in the CD, I am greeted with a startup menu. I am impressed with the inclusion of a software memory tester, and I will keep that handy for future diagnostic use. Choosing the boot option starts the Ubuntu load screen giving you the status of the boot process. This is a little prettier than the nasty status screens, however it is not very useful for diagnostics. I will have to remember to change the option for that.

Once loaded, the user is greeted with the Gnome desktop. There is one icon of particular interest here, which is the Install Icon. This is how you initiate the Install process for Ubuntu. A bit different for an OS install, but I like the idea of a test-drive before the install. Once you click on the Install Icon, the installation wizard starts and asks a series of simple questions. The most difficult one, especially for Grandma, will be the disk usage one. I just selected use entire disk, thus wiping out my previously restored Windows disk image. After copying the files to the hard disk, it asks if I want to continue with the Live CD, or reboot into my newly installed Ubuntu installation. This just puts the Debian and Gentoo installs to shame, but then again, those distros target different audiences.

The first thing that I noticed immediately was that every single one of my devices was recognized right out of the box. This impressed me. Even my bizarre, crappy USB Wireless adapter was recognized, and it never was recognized in Fedora Core or Debian previously without recompiling the kernel. The only modification I had to make was to the WEP configuration. I seems I forgot the WEP key I was using, and had to reconfigure the WAP with a new key. I also had to install MP3 support, which is not included out of the box. Instructions for doing so are here and here (Note: with link 2, read that document carefully. It covers how to get all the “Restricted” formats from the Ubuntu package repositories called “Universe” and “Multiverse”). Once done, I was able to plug my Ipod into my laptop and play music directly off of it using the default music player. Another interesting thing to note is the small amount of services that start with it. I am used to Debian and Fedora starting a ridiculous number of services. This was not a problem with Ubuntu. In fact, I only had to stop about 3 unwanted services. Not bad. I am impressed with Ubuntu. My only gripe is using Gnome. I much prefer KDE, so I probably should have installed Kubuntu, which is Ubuntu with KDE. I can change out the desktop managers via Synaptic, however I think I will stick with this for the time being. There are things in Nautilus that I like, so I am going to keep with it for a few months.

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