Do you Ubuntu? I do!

It is precisely when I have a lot of work to do, that I find other things to do. Last week was one of those times.

I’ve always wanted to use a Linux distro without getting rid of a prior working version of Windows XP. I have now succeeded. Here’s what I did:

  • Downloaded the Ubuntu .iso from here.
  • Burnt it onto a DVD using Nero
  • Installed.
  • I now have a dual boot system with Ubuntu Linux and Windows XP on my Compaq Presario.

Ok, it wasn’t that easy. If you’re wondering how to go about doing this, here are some things to remember:

  • Installing Ubuntu (7.10 or Gutsy Gibbon) or any other Linux distro involves partitioning your hard disk. This means you have to be very very very very very careful, especially if you intend on keeping your current XP installation and have data you’d rather not lose.
  • Before you try anything, backup all your data onto a DVD/CD or burn a system image. You can use GParted to create a system image, skip ahead to see what GParted is.
  • A brief checklist of what you should backup includes all documents, pictures, music, favourites/bookmarks and .pst files for e-mails stored on your HDD if you use an e-mail client like Outlook or Thunderbird.
  • Set a System Restore Point on your XP machine. If you don’t know how to do this, press F1 while on the Windows desktop and search for System Restore.
  • Download the Ubuntu live CD .iso from here.
  • Download this Master Boot Record Utility from here. You might need this to repair your Master Boot Record (MBR) if Windows stops working. This did not happen to me, but it is a good idea to have it on disk.
  • Download the GParted .iso from here and the Linux Rescue Disc .iso from here. You need both of these. The GParted disk is a live cd of the GParted utility which is a GUI based disc partitioning tool. To install Ubuntu, you will need to resize an empty windows partition (presumably NTFS, since there is XP involved).
  • While the Ubunto installation cd worked fine for me, Ubuntu and several users warn that it might not always work. If it doesn’t, GParted is the way to go. The Linux Rescue Disc (also a live cd) contains GParted along with a whole host of other utilities to repair a bad Linux installation, and it is absolutely vital you have this– even if it is not very apparent why.
  • Burn all the .iso files onto DVDs/CDs depending on the file size. Make sure you burn them as bootable image discsdo not just copy them.
  • Make sure you have enough free HDD space. Ubuntu needs to set up three partitions (at the minimum two).
  • The partitions are as follows: 1 partition at about 2 GB (minimum) for the Ubuntu root system, 1 partition for the Swap file which is at the very least the same size as your RAM and generally twice the size, 1 partition (size of your choice) for shared files between Windows and Ubuntu (this is optional).
  • Optional: Partition and resize your NTFS/other partition your HDD using GParted. Here is a good tutorial.
  • During the installation (assuming you have not used GParted already, like me), choose Manual Partition out of the three choices presented to you. Do not choose one or two this will wipe out all your data including the Windows XP installation for sure.
  • On my laptop I freed up a 16 GB partition completely. During the Ubuntu installation I deleted this partition, and then created three new ones.
  • The partitions for my system were as follows: A 10 GB one with the “/” argument for the Ubuntu root, a 4 GB Swap (my RAM is 2 GB) and a 2GB Fat32 partition for shared files.
  • Most of this was fine, except that during installation Ubuntu asked me to specify an argument for the FAT32 partition, failing which it warned me it would not be used at all. I did not know what argument to use, so I skipped ahead.
  • As of now, both XP and Ubuntu recognize the partition as a logical 2GB drive of file-system type FAT32, so no problems there.
  • I had to abort the installation four times, to go back to XP to check partition sizes. Use an online computer storage converter to figure out how much X GB is in MB and vice-versa and print or note it down. You will have to enter the dimensions in both through the installation.
  • If you have all this done this, well done. The rest is much easier than an XP installation.
  • Ubuntu will tell you to remove the live CD and restart the computer.
  • On first restart, you should see the GRUB boot loader. It presents you with a choice, Ubuntu Generic is what you just installed. Right at the end you should see Windows XP Professional (or whatever other edition you use).
  • You should first select XP to check if it is working. After booting into XP, it will ask you to restart once (and maybe run scan disc) after detecting and installing “new hardware”. Do this. This is probably XP detecting the new partitions.
  • Boot into XP again and check if everything is working fine.
  • Now restart, you can either select Ubuntu from the list or just wait and Grub will load Ubuntu by default.
  • Congrats!

Couple of things:

  • I really like the default GNOME desktop in Ubuntu and the orange theme. I’ve now changed to purple which is nice too.
  • I suggest you play around with the live CD of Ubuntu before you decide to install it to your HDD just to get used to the interface.
  • I really like the Ubuntu installer for several reasons:
    • I like the idea of testing an OS before choosing to install it, something all Microsoft OS installation discs do not allow. This represents choice in a really fundamental way.
    • In Ubuntu making the decision is easy- after you’ve used the live cd for a while (there is a nice ‘examples’ folder which contains every kind of file including video, music and so on– this is there so you can see how Ubuntu works, use it) just double click on the logo with the “Ubuntu Icon-an arrow-and a HDD” to install it.
    •  I like the “test-your-keyboard” part of the installation. I also like the amazing variety of keyboard layouts including several versions of the DVORAK keyboard.
  • I had to choose the “Start/Install Ubuntu in Safe Graphics Mode” option right at the beginning, the normal option made my display hang. This might just be an issue with my NVIDIA GeoForce Graphics Card.
  • Ubuntu will prompt you to import accounts settings from XP. This includes your current wallpaper and all the people you’ve set up to use XP. I think this is a wonderful thing. It shows a great deal of cross-compatibility consideration.
  • Ubuntu is plausibly a great replacement for XP in itself, except that it doesn’t allow for the use of several propriety formats by default (like mp3, for example) with good reason. The reason being that it is Open Source software. To use formats like this one needs access to the internet, the Synaptics Manager will pretty much solve all the problems by connecting to repositories online.
  • I’m still having trouble figuring out how to get my Reliance NetConnect Data Card (EC325) configured in Ubuntu, probably because I’m not sure of how to work with Terminal just yet. Given that, I’m told one can download the entire Universe and Multiverse repositories as .iso files and add cd-roms as a source in Ubuntu.
  • There is also the option of using Wubi to install Ubuntu on XP, but the thought of using something else to transfer the installation if I decided to get rid of XP is not something that makes me very happy.
  • The Ubuntu .iso is huge (nearly 700 mb) and took me a good two days to download via a 256 (230 performance wise) Kpbs line.
  • Ubuntu comes with an amazing bunch of pre-installed software including Open Office, The Gimp and all the regular suspects.
  • There’s a utility called explore2fs which allows Windows to view ext2 and ext3 format logical discs, the partitions used by Ubuntu. This is useful in several ways, though not necessary if you want to use Ubuntu as encrypted disc space, for example.
  • If you like Ubuntu but will use XP for a while longer (like me), presumably for work and such- then consider making XP the default OS in Grub. This thread on the Ubuntu forums explains how.
  • I strongly recommend registering at the forums, there is lots of help available there.
  • I really like the way the Ubuntu interface is organized. It is sort of super-charged for work.
  • I love the multiple workspaces idea, adore Tomboy (which functions like any normal wiki), which I find much easier than OneNote and love the idea of emblems too– what better way to tag files off line, than a visual system?
  • These pages (each word that follows links to a separate tutorial) were my references while I installed Ubuntu. Some of them are really fantastic tutorials with screen shots and videos that my current connection does not allow me to put up.

That’s it.



PS: Apologies to those who subscribe to this blog by e-mail or the FeedBlitz service, you may have received this (via mail) several times thanks to the number of times I edited this post.

6 thoughts on “Do you Ubuntu? I do!

  1. If you are being absolutely the most careful, you will need those steps, otherwise, No. Most users can NORMALLY install the OS without anything but the LiveCD.


  2. Hmmm, that sounds interesting, and a bit dangerous as well.

    I used a program before called VMWare Workstation. It creates a “virtual” partition in your PC, where you can install another system. It sounds a bit more simple that what you described, but it’s still kind of risky.


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