A leap of faith – Ubuntu

After playing, studying, crashing and working on Windows XP everyday for the last 4 years of my life, I’ve had it. Not that I don’t like it or anything. I love Windows XP. In my opinion it’s the best Windows version out there (including Vista), purely because of the leap it made from Windows 98 (and Windows ME if you had the misfortune of using it).

The recent launch of Windows Vista, and the upcoming release of Mac OSX Leopard have gotten me in an upgrading frenzy. I can’t afford a Mac. It’ll be harder still to get one while living in Pakistan. Vista will probably burn my Intel 3.0GHz Prescott and Nvidia 6600GT with all it’s CPU & GPU hogging features. I’ll wait for some friends to install it and get some hands on time in before I decide to buy a Vista version that’s right for me from the plethora of versions that are available.

So how do I quench this thirst for formatting my HD and trying something new? Enter Ubuntu. It’s probably the best thing that’s happened to Linux in a while. I’ve always been a Windows person. I’ve only started working on Linux (Fedora Code 3.x) since the past 8-9 months. It has failed to win me over. After the first couple of months of using it, all that folklore of Linux never crashing and being so uber efficient went out the Window. (pun intended)

But there’s something about Ubuntu that’s different. Something promising. So for everyone who’s rearing to have a go at it, but unsure where to start, here’s my two cent’s worth.

Getting Ubuntu
You can either order a Ubuntu 6.06 ‘Dapper Drake’ CD free of cost from Ubuntu’s ShipIt service. Or you can download the latest Ubuntu release. You can find the different builds of the latest Ubuntu 6.10 Edgy Eft here. Scroll down on that page to get the torrent files, which is the fastest way to get these files.

Installation
You can either install Ubuntu on a completely isolated hard drive or have it dual boot with your Windows. If you have a brand new hard drive, then just pop in the Ubuntu CD and boot your machine from the CD drive and it’ll do the rest. But in most cases, you’ll want to dual boot with your Windows XP. It goes without saying that you should backup all your Windows data before attempting this. Going over some comments at Digg, it seems that installing Ubuntu after Windows is a simple task, and Ubuntu takes care of the dual booting itself. You can also find detailed HowTo’s on setting up a dual boot. Some good ones are here, here and here (in that order). To me, some seemed overly complex. It’s best to read through them, and look for potential pitfalls that you might come across during the installation process.
UPDATE: I installed Ubuntu 6.06, and didn’t go for the dual boot option, since it seemed overly complex. Even then, it somehow messed up my primary drive (not the partition, the entire drive). My primary drive is a 80GB Western Digital with 3 partitions. During the setup, I checked the automated option that partitions free space and uses those new partitions as the root and swap mounts. Now when I run Ubuntu, it shows my older partitions, but it is unable to mount them for some reason. Will post when I have a fix for it.
Lessons learnt: (a) Backup everything on the entire hard drive that you’re planning to install Ubuntu on, and not just the partition on which it’ll be installed. (b) If a simple install was this complicated, a dual boot will probably take more time. Maybe the setup of Edgy Eft is better…

Getting the good stuff
Once your installation is done, you’ll want to be able to do everything you did on Windows in Ubuntu. Although Ubuntu comes with a handy update manager, I would highly recommend using EasyUbuntu. It automatically gets everything you’ll need to have the same multimedia capabilities as your standard Windows installation. Automatix is also another great tool, which does pretty much the same thing.
Before you do any of this however, you should first update your version of Ubuntu. If you installed from the shipped 6.06 CD, you’ll probably want to upgrade to 6.10 atleast.
Once that is done, you MUST install Beryl. Installation instructions on Ubuntu are here. The fact that you can theme Beryl from a huge variety of free themes just makes it so much better than Vista’s Aero. Btw, Ubuntu Edgy Eft vs Microsoft Windows Vista is an interesting read.

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6 thoughts on “A leap of faith – Ubuntu

  1. […] on Ubuntu – A pleasant surprise Published March 5th, 2007 Ubuntu , Technology When I ditched my Windows XP for Ubuntu Edgy Elf last month, bluetooth connectivity between my PC and my cell phone was the only task I wasn’t […]

  2. Erythro says:

    Its Edgy “eft” not “elf”.

  3. Jaffer says:

    Now that’s a big OOPS. Thanks for the heads up. Another sign that I’m a fresh Linux convert ^_^

  4. Paul says:

    edgy elf sounds way more interesting…

    I took the ‘leap of faith’ about a week ago and am really enjoying it. Ubuntu installed without a hitch and opicked up my wireless and network cards without a problem.

    It took me a while to get the modem drivers working (I use dial up at home). I posted on ubuntuforums,org and was about to give up until I checked back and some people had quickly posted some info to get me up and running. The support on the forums was great.

    I’ve yet to get DVD and MP3 playback sorted but overall I’m really happy.

    Beryl looks awesome – I must enable it 🙂

  5. Yeah, Ubuntu’s a nice experience. Install Compix Fusion (now Beryl and Compiz have merged) asap for some major UI goodness. 😀

  6. […] — Jaffer Haider @ 2:00 pm That’s it. I’m done. I’ve given up. No more leaps of faith for […]

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