How To – Installing Ubuntu Linux

Installing Ubuntu was easy.

The Ubuntu website provides you with everything you need, from how to create a startup-CD to clear instructions on what to do with it.  I just had to follow the instructions.  Partitioning is a bit more tricky, especially if you want your /home folder, where all your personal files and settings are stored, to be on a different drive to the main install, but this guide aims to reduce some of the worry about setting that up, as well.

I found the experience of installing Ubuntu to be well worth it.  I now have it running well, I have been able to customise pretty much anything I can think of, and for everything and anything I might possibly want to do with my computer, I have a choice of usually at least half a dozen different programs with different ways of doing it.

If you want the same degree of choice, flexibility, and stability, then read on.

Contents

1. Contents
2. Preparation

3. Installing Ubuntu

4. Getting Support

5. And Finally!

Preparation

Creating a Live CD

To start your conversion to Ubuntu, you first need to create a Live CD. You can send off for one from the website or buy one from a distributor if you choose. However, if you have Windows, or another operating system with decent internet access installed, you can create one yourself.

To do this, go to the website at and download the ISO. Once the download has started, the website brings up very good instructions on how to create the CD and begin the install, as ‘while you wait’ reading material. They even recommend a free Windows CD Burner, Infra Recorder, if you haven’t got Nero and don’t want to pay for it!

Once you’ve downloaded the ISO, download and install the burner if necessary, and burn your CD according to the instructions at .

Starting Installation

Don’t worry about how much space you do or do not have available on your hardrive, the Ubuntu 8.04 (Hardy Heron) partitioner can take care of all that for you.

Once you’ve got your CD, put it in the CD, restart the computer, and boot from CD. Wave goodbye to Windows as you watch it slip away. If you’re not sure how to reboot from CD, some computer setups boot from CD automatically if there is a valid bootable CD in the drive (which the Live CD is). Sometimes, though, you need to load a boot menu (on my system, press F8 as the computer first loads). Then choose your CD drive, and you should be taken to the Live CD Installation Menu:

The Live CD Boot Menu

The Live CD Boot Menu

One fantastic feature of the Live CD, especially if, like me, you’re a little uncertain of your CD burning abilities, is the option to ‘Check CD for Errors’. I would advise you to run this command before starting any install, unless you’re supremely confident that your CD is completely fine. That way, you can just reboot into Windows if you need to, and make a new CD, without having messed up anything important.

Once you are certain that your CD is valid, go ahead and ‘Install Ubuntu’.

Installing Ubuntu

I found the installer fairly intuitive. Most of the options are fairly simple and self explanatory, and it is not until you reach the partioner that the process gets more complicated. Until then, just follow the instructions, for your language, time zone, keyboard, and username settings. It is important that you do use a strong password, as you will need it.

Partitioning

Resizing

In 8.04, there is an option that allows you to make a new partition out of the spare space on your existing Windows drive. To do this, simply slide the bar under the ‘Guided – resize’ section so that the two partitions are the size you want – the existing partition on the left, and your Ubuntu install will go on the right. You’ll want to leave at least a few gigabytes for the install. If you hit forward now, a new partition will be created in the space you’ve made, and your entire Ubuntu set up will be created there.

Creating a separate /home Directory

Rather than having everything on the same partition, you may wish to keep personal files such as documents and mp3s seperately. In Windows, many people choose to have seperate drives for installing their programs, and storing their data. For example, drive C: may have all the program files and the actual windows install. Drive D: may have the mp3s, the videos, the games, and the documents. You can set up a similar system in Linux, where the /home directory stores personal files and settings for each user, and can be placed where you like.

Manual Partitioning

If you wish to set up a seperate /home directory, you should choose ‘Manual’ instead of Guided partitioning. This is a bit more complex, but in the end, far more satisfying and useful. First, click the device you want to edit. If your hard drive is empty, you will need to create a ‘New partition table’. After that, just click the free space and choose ‘edit partition’.

Creating Space

If you want to make space from one of your other partitions, choose that one, and again edit. Your Windows partition will be formatted as ‘NTFS’ so look for that if you’re uncertain which it is. Click ‘edit partition’ and you will be presented with a window similar to the one below:

The manual Partition Manager

The manual Partition Manager

If you are editing an existing partition, for example Windows, you need to be very very careful, especially if you’re not sure what you’re doing. It’s best to make sure you’ve got Windows safely backed up before you go any further.

Change the new partition size to the size you want the existing partition to be, i.e. your Windows partition. So, for example, if your harddrive is 200GB, all 200GB of which are currently taken up with Windows, and you want to make 10GB available for Linux, you would change the partition size to 190000 megabytes, or 190GB. Do not tick ‘format drive’, and leave ‘use as’ as ‘do not use’. Ignore ‘mount point’. If you’re happy with your changes, okay. This will have created some free space.

Swap Space

Now you’ve got some space, you want to create an area called ‘Swap Space’. This will be used as extra memory in the event that you don’t have enough. The usual guide, especially in these days of large memory (or RAM), is about half your existing memory. So for example, I have 2gb of RAM, so I use 1gb of SWAP space.

To create swap space, go into your spare space, choose the size you want your Swap to be, and under the file system, choose Swap Space. Now save.

The Root Partition (‘/’)

You can now click on the remaining free space, and edit that. If you’ve left enough space, you can further divide this partition into areas for the installation, and areas for your files, or ‘/home’ directory. You may want to put that on a completely seperate drive entirely, though, or you may be happy to leave it in the same partition as the rest of your install. So unless you do want to split the partition, you can leave the ‘New partition size’ as it is. Otherwise, adjust as desired. This time, you do want to format the partition, and you want to use the ‘Ext3 journaling file system’ as the ‘use as’ option. Set the mount point to ‘/’. This is the symbol for ‘root’, which is both the top branch of the file tree, and the Linux name for the ultimate administrator account, which all Linux systems will have. Setting the mount point to ‘/’ basically means: Install Linux here!

The Home Partition (‘/home’)

You can now hit ‘okay’ if you’re happy with this. Next, if you want your files in a seperate location, say another drive, click that location and edit it. If necessary, clear some space from an existing install, as described above. Once you’ve got your desired free space, and are editing it, set the size you want, again set ‘Ext3 journaling file system’, but this time, for the mount point, set ‘/home’. This basically means ‘I want to keep the personal settings and files here for all users’. If you’re happy, click ‘okay’.

Finishing the Install

You’re now (hopefully) ready to set up your Ubuntu installation. Have a final check of your settings, and hit ‘forward’. This will bring up a summary where you can have a final final check of your settings, and a last chance to chicken out. Hit forward, go away, and make a cup of tea.

When you come back, your computer will either have exploded, or you will have a shiny squeaky Ubuntu installation with a login screen asking you to enter your Username. Enter your username and password, and you will come to the default Ubuntu Desktop, like this:

The default Hardy Heron Desktop

The default Hardy Heron Desktop

At this point, your system is pretty much ready to go. Ubuntu has pretty good ‘out of the box’ support, so, unless you’re using a very odd system, you should already have internet, (you just need to input your connection details), sound, most of the programs you could conceivably want, and, unless your graphics card is very new, fully functional graphics. Unfortunately, my card was indeed very new, so I’ll be covering how to deal with that problem in a later post.

Getting Support

Webpages

One of the things that most appeals to me about Ubuntu is the incredible support and community that surrounds it. If you start your internet browser (firefox by default) your home page will be set to a website where you can find different ways of getting help with your problems; the official documentation, the community documentation, the forums, and the #ubuntu IRC (Internet Relay Chat) chat room. I still keep this start page bookmarked as a great place to start for finding the help I need. The forums are another great place to look for help. If those don’t help, a quick Google search on your problem should bring up countless pages that can help you. Other pages that might help are the Psychochats Ubuntu Guide. You might find useful tidbits at The Linux Cookbook too.

IRC

If all else fails, the Ubuntu start page tells you about the #ubuntu IRC channel. This is on the Freenode network, and you can set up Pidgin to access it, but if you’re planning on using it a lot, you may want to install a dedicated IRC client such as XChat. You can install this and other programs from the Synaptic Package manager under ‘System > Administration’.

Set up your network to the irc.freenode.net and /join #ubuntu. The channel is usually pretty full – I’ve never seen it with less than 1000 people. This can make it quite confusing, but it means that there’s always someone helpful active, and they will usually try to give a hand if they think they can. Because it’s so busy, there are strict rules – don’t spam, don’t try to engage in free chat, just ask your question straight out. Make sure that you’ve checked the web resources first in case there’s an easy solution. The channel Message of the Day (MOTD) often gives good links to try as well. If people don’t answer, it probably means they don’t know the answer. There’s often a channel for specific programs or issues you may be having problems with as well, and you can try these instead. An example is #nvidia for NVIDIA graphics related problems. When in doubt, guess!

And Finally!

If you’re the sort of user who is only looking for basic internet and office utilities, then your setup is now complete and you are unlikely to need much more support. But, let’s be honest here, if you were that sort of person, you would most likely be quite happy with Windows and wouldn’t have considered installing Linux in the first place. You probably want to play. And this is one of the great beauties of the Linux system; although modern distributions are getting more and more user-friendly all the time, they still retain the same core and principles of the old days. The range of options, control, and customisability is phenomenal, but it’s not always easy. Therefore, if you are the sort of person who does like to fiddle, you’re probably going to want to take advantage of these support resources. A lot! The journey doesn’t end here.

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