Installing Ubuntu

Okay, Windows XP has slowed to a crawl. You hate to turn off your laptop, because every time you do so, some program tells you it’s not shutting down properly. And when you re-boot, Windows takes forever and insists that you put in a (missing) original CD to update another program. Firefox has been penetrated by a virus; it crawls anyway.

It is time to switch to Ubuntu, the truly user-friendly version (“distro” or distribution) of Linux. Here is a How To Install Ubuntu.

It’s easy; it really is, for even a moderately technical person like me. I found the most difficult part to be making the Ubuntu system CD. You can’t just copy data files; you have to “burn the ISO image onto the CD.” More on that in a bit. Here is an overview of the steps I followed.

Backup Files
Whatever files you want to keep (photos, documents, spreadsheets, etc., probably all in the My Documents folder) you should save to CD. I used 4 CDs, but I didn’t keep any music or video files; they can get bulky. Or you can save your files on a thumb drive.

Download Ubuntu
Go to the Ubuntu website; download the latest version (9.04 as of July, 2009). That will be a single “.iso image.” It resembles a Zip or WinRAR file, but do not unzip it with such a tool. It is important to keep it as one, unitary thing, i.e. an “.iso image” that you will burn to your CD.

Burning the ISO to the CD
This took me the most time, because I am a noob. You need to use CD burning software like Nero, Roxio, or CDBurnerXP (which is what I used). I am not sure why, but none of the forums or guidelines indicated that you could use a more common media player such as you might use to burn a music CD.

When I tried to download any CD burning software, all of them informed me that they needed Microsoft’s .NET Framework (all 230MB!) before they could run. So, at this point, it seemed pretty complicated. But … it’s simple enough to download the .NET Framework; it installs easily. Then download and install CDBurnerXP or some other CD burning software.

Using that software, open up your Ubuntu “iso image” (don’t call it a file) and “burn” it to the CD (don’t just copy & paste the individual folders & files). This can take some time, but then you will have a bootable Ubuntu system CD.

Telling your PC to look in the CD drive for an OS
This can vary from machine to machine, but my Dell Inspiron B130 might be typical. It is set up to look for an operating system (OS) on the hard drive before it looks in the CD drive. So, to reverse that order, one needs to modify the dreaded BIOS. It’s okay; being reasonably careful, nothing will blow up. For my laptop, I had to hit F2 once a second while it was booting up; that took me to the BIOS menu, where there was a choice to change the order of places to look for an OS. The idea is to make it look in the CD drive before the hard drive. Move ‘CD drive’ to the top of the list. Save and exit. (Other PCs might use different keys to get at the BIOS.)

Installing Ubuntu
Now the fun part. With the Ubuntu system CD in the drive, re-boot the machine. You’ll get a choice to “install without changing anything” (or words to that effect). Try it and see. No destruction of Windows. No partitions. No formatting your hard drive. Not yet anyway. 🙂 You’ll be able to run Ubuntu. In my case, I wanted to make sure it would find my network card. It did, and I supplied the WEP key. Bingo. I had internet access. Next, I wanted to print. No problem; it easily found the drivers for my HP All-in-One Laserjet 6310, and printed a test page. I was sold.

Having previously saved my data files to CD, I now went back and did a total install of Ubuntu. I wrote right over Windows, using my entire hard drive. It wiped Windows right out, or as Ripley would say, “nuked it from orbit.” Ubuntu installed seamlessly, and didn’t take very long.

And, all the software is already there, all part of Ubuntu: Firefox web browser, Evolution email client, F-Spot photo manager, Open Office word processor and spreadsheet (I opened up a Windows Word .doc file, modified it, emailed it to my wife, who opened up the modified version in Word.) And a lot more. Ubuntu rocks.

Totally amazing. I can only ask, “Why would anyone PAY MONEY for such an inferior product as a Windows operating system?”