Monday, April 19, 2010

Debunking Linux #1: Installing Ubuntu Linux

There are a lot of myths and fallacies surrounding Linux that I hear daily. These myths definitely slow the adoption of Linux by filling the heads of potential users with false information and flat out lies. This is the first of several debunking and how-to blogs I will do to lay some of this mis-information to rest. I hope to do so in a way to does not come across as fanboy-ish. To do this, I will shy away from direct comparisons to other operating systems where it is not relevant and only present the facts through words and related videos. So let's get started.

A myth often heard online is that installing Linux is hard if you don't have a doctrine in computer science, or rather, it's not for the faint of heart. This myth probably stems from it's early days where you had to know a little bit about your hardware to do the install which used an install wizard through the Linux terminal. Even then, if you knew whether your keybord/mouse were serial, at or ps2, and you knew your graphics cards chipset you could do it. Probably the worst part was identifying your monitor refresh rates, which were often published in the manuals or online.

Fast forward to 2010 and Linux is so easy to install, the ability to click a mouse button is the only prerequisite. Not convinced? Here is a short video walkthrough of installing Ubuntu Linux 10.04 (Lucid).

So ready to give it a try? First you will need to Get Ubuntu. You can either download a free ~700MB CD image and burn it to a blank CD or have Canonical send you an installation CD by mail absolutely free, you don't even pay the shipping.

When you have your CD in hand, stick it in your cd tray and reboot your computer. Most Linux distributions come with what is called a Live CD where you can run Linux directly from the CD without affecting your currently installed OS. When you remove the CD and reboot, your computer remains completely untouched. This is a great way to just try it out and take a tour. However, it may not support all of your hardware, may not have all the software you want to test and desktop effects more than likely will not be enabled. As well, the speed of running it from CD will be slow. This is not an optimal experience, but it does give you a little taste without commitment. To enter Live CD mode, click the 'Try Ubuntu' button from the first screen when the CD boots (as seen in the video above).

Another popular choice is called Wubi. This can also be found on your CD when booted to Windows. Executing Wubi.exe will allow you to install Ubuntu as a Windows application and allow you to easily dual boot between the two. Using this method you can experience Ubuntu as an (almost) native install. It can be uninstalled if you wish at any time from the Windows Add/Remove software control panel without any permanent changes to the computer.

The best way to experience it however is to install it natively as the only OS on your computer or as a true dual-boot with Windows or OS X. To install Ubuntu, stick the CD in the drive tray and boot it, then select the 'Install Ubuntu' button and follow the very simple 6 step wizard based installer. All of your hardware will be automatically detected and configured and you will have a fully functioning Linux computer in 10 - 15 minutes.

So is installing Linux hard? Absolutely not, in fact it is one of the quickest and easiest operating systems to install.

Check back later for a tour of the Ubuntu Linux desktop and for future myths debunked and how-to's.

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