How to Try Ubuntu Linux

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The History of Ubuntu LinuxPerforming a Clean Ubuntu Linux Installation

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In order try out Ubuntu Linux you first need to obtain Ubuntu Linux. There are two ways to do this. One option is to have Ubuntu Linux shipped to you via the Ubuntu ShipIt program. Whilst this sounds like a great way to get Ubuntu there are a few downsides. Firstly, it can take up to 10 weeks for the CDs to arrive. Secondly, the shipment usually consists of multiple copies of the CDs so unless you have a group of people who would also like to try out Ubuntu you are going to end up with a number of CDs that are only good as non-absorbent beer mats. Finally, the version of Ubuntu provided by the ShipIt program is no longer the latest version.

By far the best way to obtain Ubuntu is to download it and burn your own CD or DVD.

Once you have the Ubuntu CD you are ready to start. There are a number of options that are available to you.

Try Ubuntu without Installing it

There is a good chance you already own a PC which is probably running Microsoft Windows. If this is the case and you are new to Linux then there is a good chance you don't want to install Ubuntu Linux until you've had a chance to try it out for a few hours, days or weeks. If you'd like to try Ubuntu without having to install you can easily do so. The Ubuntu CD you now have in your possession is able to run as a Live CD. This essentially means that the operating system can be run from the CD without having to be installed on your hard disk drive.

To run Ubuntu from the CD simply place the CD into your CDROM drive and reboot your system. If your system reboots once again as Windows then it is likely you will need to change the boot order in your system BIOS. To achieve this, restart your system and watch closely as the system boots. Early in the boot process the BIOS will display instructions to enter BIOS Setup (which often, but not always, involves pressing the DEL key). Press whichever key you are instructed to press and you should find yourself in the BIOS setup menu. Find the setting for the boot sequence, and if it shows your hard disk as being the first device to boot from, change this so that your CD or DVD drive appears as the first device in the boot order. Select the "Save and Exit" option from the BIOS main menu and allow the system to boot. As long as the Ubuntu disk is still in the drive you should find that Ubuntu boots instead of Windows.

Once Ubuntu has booted from the Live CD you can begin to experiment with Linux.

There are a few minor downsides to using the Live CD. The first is that performance will be slow. This is because Ubuntu needs to load software from the CD drive which is orders of magnitude slower than a hard disk drive. Secondly, because the CD is a read-only medium you will lose any files you may create or any changes you may make to the system. One advantage of this is that you also can't break anything, so feel free to experiment as much as you like.

Installing Ubuntu on a Disk Drive Containing Microsoft Windows

If you already have Windows installed on your PC you can install Ubuntu Linux onto the same disk drive and boot from either operating system (a configuration know as dual booting). During the installation process Ubuntu will resize the Windows partition on your hard disk to make room for the Ubuntu installation (you will be asked how much of your disk drive you wish to use for Linux) and set up a special boot manager that will allow you to choose whether to boot Linux or Windows each time you power up your system. All of this is non-destructive, in that your Windows partition and all the applications and data therein will be kept intact. All that will happen is that the Windows part of the disk will be smaller than it was originally.

Another useful feature of a Windows/Ubuntu dual-boot configuration is that your Windows logical drives (C:, D: etc) will be accessible from Ubuntu Linux, so you will be able to access your Windows data files from Linux. This means, for example, that you will be able to access your Microsoft Word and Excel files using the Linux version of OpenOffice.

For detailed steps on creating a Windows/Ubuntu dual boot environment see the Installing Ubuntu Linux on a Windows System (Dual booting) chapter of this book.

Installing Ubuntu Inside a Windows Installation

A recent development in the world of Ubuntu provides the ability to install Ubuntu onto the filesystem of an existing Windows installation. This is similar to the dual booting approach outlined above with the exception that the hard disk does not need to be repartitioned to create Linux partitions for the Ubuntu installation. Instead, all the files which make up Ubuntu are installed in a new folder on the Windows disk just like any other files. All that is required is enough disk space on a Windows disk drive to accommodate the Ubuntu installation (around 8GB is recommended).

This type of installation is achieved using technology called the Ubuntu Windows Installer, or Wubi for short. The process involves downloading and running the Wubi installation executable, selecting a target disk drive, providing a user name and password for accessing the Ubuntu installation and clicking an Install button. Wubi will then download the Ubuntu distribution and perform the installation into a folder on the chosen Windows disk drive. When the system is subsequently rebooted, the user is given the option to boot either Windows or Ubuntu.

Refer to Installing Ubuntu on a Windows Disk with Wubi for more details on this installation option.

Running Ubuntu in a Virtual Machine

If you need to keep your Windows or other environment and want to run Ubuntu concurrently with your current operating system, Ubuntu may be run within a virtual machine. A number of free virtualization technologies are available for this purpose such as VirtualBox and VMware Server. More on these technologies can be found at:

Performing a Clean Ubuntu Linux Installation

If you are installing Ubuntu Linux on a clean hard disk drive, or plan to overwrite the Windows installation on the drive then installing Ubuntu Linux is straightforward. Simply follow the steps in Performing a Clean Ubuntu Linux Installation to install Ubuntu Linux on the entire disk drive.

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