Ubuntu Linux for Microsoft Windows Users
The latest Ubuntu Linux release seems to have been a huge hit. Review after Review after Review have pretty much pegged it as the next best thing since sliced bread, but does this release of Ubuntu Linux live up to the hype?
We have been putting Ubuntu Linux 10.04 through the paces for over a month, and we can see how it received such shining reviews. It is probably the best Ubuntu Linux release to date, although it still has some minor problems. For instance, there are still some issues when trying to install some applications (try to install gnochm), there are still problems connecting to some NFS Servers and there is still a lack of Graphical System Administration Utilities.
Since we released a Linux Distribution Shootout only a few months ago and most of the Ubuntu issues we raised in that article are still prevailiant, we decided against creating a "review" of this release of Ubuntu Linux and instead focused on one of the new features that not too many people have touched upon, namely the inclusion of a new Ubuntu Installer for Windows and how the Distribution stacks up for Microsoft Windows Users.
A Note on Linux: Linux is actually only the kernel of a complete system. Many contributors like to call a complete Linux system a GNU/Linux system. The GNU stands for GNU's Not Unix (a recursive acronym) and is the system first started by Richard Stallman, then later developed with the coordination of the Free Software Foundation. The idea of GNU/Linux is to get the point of freedom across when you discuss the operating system. We have decided that our site will use the generic name Linux to signify the whole system, but please, keep software freedom in mind when reading our Linux articles.
Why Ubuntu Linux is Excellent for Windows Users
There are quite a few Linux Distros available to use, with new ones popping up all the time. It can be hard for new users to figure out which Linux Distribuiton that they should use. Although Ubuntu Linux isn't the best distribution for everyone, in our opinion it is the best Linux Distribution for new users. Here are some of the reasons for this:
Hardware Support - Ubuntu Linux, with the inclusion of it's "Hardware Drivers" utility, provides the easiest way to install Proprietary Drivers to support devices that do not have "Free" drivers available. These devices are pretty much boiled down to NVidia and ATI video Drivers and quite a few Wireless Network Adapter. Nearly all other hardware is supported with drivers within the Linux Kernel and should "just work".
Easy Software Management - Ubuntu Linux provides 3 ways to install software onto your system; Ubuntu Software Center, Synaptic Package Manager and from a bash prompt. The Ubuntu Software Center provides a very easy interface for new users to be able to install various programs onto their systems.
Synaptic Package Manager allows more advanced users to have full control of the software on their systems. The Synaptic Package Manager allows you to view all the software that is available in the enabled repositories, while the Ubuntu Software Center only shows an "Approved" list. Alternatively, you can easily install software from a terminal prompt.
Huge Software Repository - Since Ubuntu Linux is based on the Debian GNU/Linux distribution, it has a huge library of available software for the system. It is also very nice that Ubuntu Linux provides the Multiverse and Restricted Debian Repositories by default, this makes it extremely easy to install the software most people use on their computers.
Large User Community - Ubuntu Linux is the most popular Linux Distribution today, and because of this you can easily find help or answers to FAQs from many places on the Internet (or simply open XChat).
Windows Installer - Ubuntu Linux now provides a Windows installer that gives you the option of installing Ubuntu without having to re-partition your Hard Drive like you have to with all other Linux Distributions. The next section covers this excellent feature.
Installing Ubuntu Linux
With the 10.04 version of Ubuntu Linux, there is now a way to install Ubuntu Linux onto a Windows Computer without having to repartition the hard drive. This feature alone has the potential of increasing the Linux User Base dramatically. No longer do you have to worry about "messing up your system" or try to figure out how to get rid of the Grub Boot loader and delete Linux Partitions. With using the Ubuntu Linux Windows Installer, if you don't like running Linux, you simply have to remove it from within Window's Add/Remove Programs Control Panel Applet (which only takes a few seconds to uninstall). (Actually this feature has been around for a while, since 2008 - thanks Joshua).
Although this article covers how to install Ubuntu using this new feature, if you want to install Ubuntu Linux onto a Windows Computer with it's own partitions simply boot from the install CD and the Ubuntu installer will automatically resize your Windows Partitions and create Linux Partitions for you.
To start the Ubuntu Linux Windows Installer, simply download the Ubuntu Linux CD and run the Windows Installer from the CD, or you can download the new Windows Installation Tool for Ubuntu Linux and run it on your Windows computer.
Upon launching the Ubuntu Linux Installer, you are presented with a few screens asking a few configuration questions; Username/Password, Installation Drive, Installation Size, etc. Most of these options are self evident although what the installation size does is allow you to specify the size of the "Drive File" that is used to install Ubuntu Linux within, we recommend to at least use 30GB if you are going to do anything relating to creating/editing video files or DVDs, otherwise the default size should be fine.
Once you answer the questions, the installer will cache the installation files, add a Ubuntu Linux option within the Windows Boot Menu and will ask you to restart the computer to continue and finish up the installation.
A look under the hood: The Ubuntu Linux Installer for Windows will create the destination directory, usually "C:\Ubuntu", and within that directory the various "Drive Files", such as the root.disk and swap.disk will be located. This folder also contains all of the boot files that are needed to boot Ubuntu Linux in this way. The installer will also add a Ubuntu boot menu entry to the Windows' boot.ini file to allow you to select Ubuntu during boot if you wish to run Ubuntu Linux, note that it keeps Windows as the default boot option.
Note: We highly recommend that you first check the Windows partition that will house the Ubuntu files and defragment the partition with a utility such as MyDefrag before you run the Ubuntu Linux Installer. This will ensure that Ubuntu's performance will not be hindered with a fragmented disk file.
Configuring Ubuntu Linux
Once Ubuntu is finished installing onto your computer you will need to do a few more tasks to ensure that your Linux experience will be positive. The first thing is to see if there are Proprietary Drivers available for any hardware that is in your computer. To do this, first ensure that you can access the Internet by opening the Firefox Web Browser, then go to "System -> Administration -> Hardware Drivers" to launch Ubuntu's Proprietary Driver utility. You may have to restart the computer once before this utility will work properly.
Installing Additional Software: The next step in order to get an excellent Ubuntu Linux installation is to install additional software that you may want to use and to ensure that all multimedia formats are supported. We put together a list of software that most people will probably want on their computers, to use this list, simply copy and past the following into a terminal to automatically install these applications:
sudo apt-get install ubuntu-restricted-extras rhythmbox-plugin-coherence sound-juicer \ totem-plugins-extra ffmpeg transcode subtitleripper vorbis-tools audacious audacity \ devede kino miro mplayer mplayer-gui soundconverter vlc winff tagtool timidity lame \ a52dec mpeg2dec gnome-themes-extras gnome-themes-more google-gadgets-gtk \ nautilus-open-terminal xscreensaver-gl-extra xscreensaver-data-extra nfs-common \ sshfs p7zip xchat-gnome gftp pan glabels gnome-photo-printer homebank planner xchm \ gimp dia-gnome inkscape scribus openclipart-openoffice.org blender gpaint celestia \ stellarium rar dvd95
Then if you want encrypted DVD Playback, and live in a country that allows this (stupid copyright laws) run the following in a terminal:
Finally, if you are a gamer, or want to "show off" some cool Free Software games, type the following in a terminal (best with 3D Cards):
sudo apt-get install wormux crack-attack neverball neverputt pathological trackballs \ wesnoth gnome-games gnome-games-extra-data pysolfc pysolfc-cardsets gnome-hearts briquolo \ gnubg flightgear frozen-bubble lincity-ng
Accessing Your Windows Files: To access your Windows Drive from within Ubuntu Linux (where Ubuntu was installed using the Ubuntu Windows Installer), simply go to "/host" folder and you will have full access to your Windows installation files. To do this within Nautilus, open your "Home Folder" from the "Places" dropdown menu, browse to the "File System" using the left side pane, then open the "host" folder (see below). You will also probably want to save the host folder as a bookmark so you can easily get to it from various programs.
Also, since the "drive" that you are installing Ubuntu on is only a single file, you will probably want to use the /host folder (the physical Windows Drive) to store your files in case something happens to the Ubuntu "drive file".
Linking to your Windows Documents: To easily use your Windows "My Documents" directory as your Linux "Documents" folder you can create what is called a "symbolic link". A symbolic link is basically a pointer to another directory or file, although the symbolic link can be used as if it is the actual directory or file. To create a symbolic link from your Windows My Documents to your Linux Documents folder, type the following in a terminal:
cd (to ensure you are in your home folder) rm Documents/ -f -r ln -s /host/Documents\ and\ Settings/UserName/My\ Documents/ Documents (Where UserName is your Windows User Account)
You should also create symbolic links to other popular directories, such as Music, Videos, Downloads, etc. Anything that you may use to ensure all your files are on the "physical" Windows drive and not within the file that Ubuntu Linux is installed within.
Installing Additional Fonts: To be able to use the Fonts that are installed on Windows under Ubuntu Linux, simply copy them to a ".fonts" directory within your home folder. For instance:
cd (to ensure you are in your home folder) mkdir .fonts cp /host/WINDOWS/Fonts/* .fonts/
Then once you open a program, such as GIMP or Scribus, those fonts are available (you may need to logout and login to use them within GNOME).
Importing Firefox Settings: If you want to use the Firefox settings that you have under Windows under Ubuntu Linux, you can copy the contents within the Windows Firefox Profile directory into your new Linux Firefox Profile Directory (note that some plugins/addons may or may not work properly). To do this, open Firefox within Ubuntu, then close it (this will create a new profile), then do the following:
cd (to ensure you are in your home folder rm .mozilla/firefox/5s95smal.default/* -f -r cp /host/Documents\ and\ Settings/UserName/Application\ Data/Mozilla/Firefox/\ Profiles/f4347ieb.default/* .mozilla/firefox/5s95smal.default/ -f -r
Of course the Firefox Profile directories will be named differently on your systems. Also, copying the profile from different Operating Systems may cause some problems, if this doesn't work for you, you can simply import your bookmarks from your Windows Firefox Profile.
You can also import other settings from your Windows Machine, such as your Internet Explorer bookmarks. Evolution will even import an Outlook PST file if you use Outlook.
One of the biggest obstacles that people who are new to Linux have is the fact that they don't know which applications will accomplish the tasks that they need done. Fortunately, many of the biggest applications, such as OpenOffice.org and Mozilla Firefox have become very popular on the Windows platform and they work in almost the same way on the Linux platform.
To alleviate the problems of new Linux users not knowing what available applications actually do, the following lists show which Linux applications that we use and recommend for common tasks. The previous Section on Ubuntu Installation will show you how to easily install most of these applications, otherwise simply enter "sudo apt-get install appname" into a terminal (or use Ubuntu Software Center or Synaptic).
Keep in mind that this lists reflects the fact that Ubuntu is based on the GNOME Desktop, there may be better apps if you prefer the KDE Desktop Environment.
Mozilla Firefox Web Browser - This app doesn't need any explanation, the Linux Version works in almost the same way as the Windows version, except for the fact that you access the User Preferences under the "Edit" subment instead of under "Tools".
Evolution Mail Client - Ubuntu Linux provides the excellent Evolution Mail Client by default. Evolution started as a clone of Microsoft Outlook, although a very, very good clone. In our opinion it has far surpassed Microsoft Outlook in usability and functionality.
Empathy & Pidgin Instant Messengers - There are quite a few choices in Instant Messenger clients for Linux, Ubuntu's default one is called Empathy and is somewhat new on the scene. If that one doesn't fit your needs, the most popular one is called Pidgin and it has a wide variety of plugins available for it (search within the Synaptic Package Manager to see all the available Pidgin Plugins).
gFTP FTP Client - To easily download/upload files on a FTP Server you can use gFTP. Another nice feature of gFTP is the ability to upload/download using the SSH protocol making it an easy way to transfer files to/from another Linux machine.
XChat IRC Client - To get extremely quick help with any problems you may be having with Ubuntu Linux that you cannot find an answer to on the Internet, simply launch the XChat IRC Client and it will automatically connect you to the Official Ubuntu Support channel, where you simply need to only type in your question and you will probably get a response.
Pan Newsgroup Reader - Although newsgroups seem to be fading into the past, one of the best Newsreader around today is the Pan newsreader for Linux.
Transmission & GTK-Gnutella Peer-to-Peer Apps - Although there are quite a few Bittorrent clients for Linux, Transmission has become one of the most popular ones and nearly every Linux Distribution installs it as the their default Bittorrent Client. Also, one of the most popular Gnutella clients for Linux is GTK-Gnutella.
OpenOffice.org Office Suite - OpenOffice has become the defacto Office Suite for nearly every platform. OpenOffice running under Linux provides a nice integrated Look and Feel, and with the openoffice.org-ogltrans package installed you can create Professional Slideshows with very cool OpenGL Slide Transitions.
Scribus Desktop Publishing - Scribus provides a complete Page Layout application for your Linux Desktop similar to Adobe's Indesign. Scribus is one of the easiest Page Layout Programs that you can use and it allows you to easily export your Document to the PDF format.
gLabels Label Printer - gLabels is the best Label Print program available on any Operating System. Whether you only need one label or need to use a CSV file to get the label data, gLabels handles it all with ease.
Planner Project Management - Planner provides an easy to use, basic Project Management tool for Linux Users. Although it is nowhere near as powerfull as Microsoft Project, it is nice to manage smaller projects.
Homebank Banking App - Although GNUCash is the most popular Accounting App on Linux, the learning curve is too steep for most "non-accountants". This is where Homebank shines, it is an extremely easy app to manage your bank accounts and your budget.
GIMP Image Editor - Gimp is a powerful image editor, very similar to Adobe's Photoshop. Although GIMP can be overwhelming to learn, once you get the basics down, you will find yourself using this excellent tool for even the rudimentary image manipulation tasks. There are quite a few sites dedicated to teaching new users how to use GIMP, such as Gimp Users, Meet the GIMP and GIMP Know How.
F-Spot - F-Spot is a photo management app for the Linux Desktop. It has probably the best solution to managing a huge collection of images, by default it stores the image by the date created, but you can "tag" your photos to organize them in any way you can imagine. F-Spot also includes easy to use Image Manipulation tools to easily fix your photos, such as removing redeye or fixing the color.
Inkscape - Inkscape is the premier Scalable Vector Graphics app for Linux Desktops and is somewhat similar to Adobe Illustrator. Like GIMP, there are quite a few Online Tutorials available for Inscape, such as Inkscape Tutorials Weblog,
GNU Paint - GNU Paint is a simple Paint program to allow you to easily adjust bitmap images, it is somewhat similar to Microsoft's Paint program, although there are still features that need to be added to the program to make it truly useful.
Dia - Dia allows you to create various diagrams, such as electrical and network diagrams. Dia is an extremely easy to use program and includes a nice library to pull images from.
Blender - Blender is an advanced 3D Scene Creator. Although it has a steep learning curve, once you learn the basics you can easily create some cool scenes.
Audacious / XMMS2 Music Players - For basic Music Playback you don't really need a huge program to hog resources. XMMS used to be the defacto music player, but it is being transitioned to XMMS2, which is still in active development. Today the most popular Music Player is probably Audacious, which is similar to Winamp on Windows.
Rhythmbox / Banshee Music Managers - In order to manage your Music Collection, Ubuntu provides a few programs to do this. Rhythmbox, which is installed by default, provides a nice interface to listen to your Albums. Banshee is also a nice music manager which is based on the Mono Framework. Banshee also helps you manage your video collection as well.
Kino / PiTiVi Video Editors - To edit videos on Linux, there are quite a few options available. The two most popular are Kino and PiTiVi. Kino has been around the longest, but requires you to convert the video into DV files when importing clips, which means the files can get quite huge and take a while to convert. PiTiVi is somewhat new on the scene, but has matured nicely and is now installed by default on Ubuntu Linux. PiTiVi will import nearly any video format without having to convert the file and can export to various different video formats.
MPlayer / VLC / Xine Media Players - There are three main "Video Players" available for Linux. All three of these include all the code to provide playback for all the major movie files and provides various ways to view the video output. Most other Video Players utilize either these programs or GSTreamer to provide it's playback functionality.
Totem Movie Player - Totem is the default Movie Player for GNOME Desktops and can be either compiled to use Xine or GSTreamer for Video Playback (under Ubuntu, Totem uses the GSTreamer backend). Besides basic Video Playback, Totem can also be used to playback DVDs and you can use other plugins (such as the youtube browser) to enhance it's features.
Miro Internet TV - Miro is billed as "Internet TV", which means that it is an advanced bittorrent client that doubles as a Video Player. The interface provides an easy way to watch various Webisodes from across the net.
Audacity - Audacity is an advanced Digital Audio Editor which allows you to edit/adjust/convert various sound files.
Audio Tag Tool & Easytag - There are a few Audio Tag Editors on Linux that allow you to adjust the tags of your MP3/OGG files, Audio Tag Tool and Easytag are probably the most popular ones today. Note that you can also use other Music Players, such as Banshee or Rhythmbox to do simple Audio Tag adjustments.
Sound Converter - Sound Converter is a nice utility that allows you to convert audio files from one format to another. For instance, you can convert flac files into MP3s or Ogg files. Note that you should avoid converting between lossy formats such as between MP3 and Ogg files as the audio will degrade, also note that you will have to Tag the files after you are finished converting them.
DeVeDe - DeVeDe is an extremely easy to use application that allows you to convert video files so that they can be played on a DVD Player. The app will also allow you to create simple DVD Menus, as well as allows you to adjust the video/audio bitrate so you can add hours and hours of videos onto a single DVD.
DVD95 / Shrinkta DVD Backup - To "Backup" your Movie DVDs so your kids won't scratch the originals ;-) you can use a couple of apps on Linux. The first and most popular is DVD 9to5, which allows you to shrink a DVD9 to a DVD5 size. The app is pretty straightforward, but we recommend that you test it out before you start ripping all your DVDs, we had to disable it from creating an ISO file for the DVD to work in a Sony DVD Player. Shrinkta is somewhat new on the scene and more features will be added in the near future. Basically Shrinkta will just rip the movie (no menus, previews, etc.) to put on a DVD Player, which is nice but doesn't work to well with TV Show DVDs.
Brasero / K3B CD/DVD Burners - The two most popular CD/DVD Burning programs for Linux is Brasero (based on GTK/GNOME) and K3b (based on QT/KDE). K3B is by far more mature, but requires you to install quite a few KDE apps onto your desktop when installing it on Ubuntu. Brasero is installed by default, but again is not quite as polished as K3B since it is somewhat new on the scene in computer time.
DVD::RIP / OGMRip / Thoggen DVD Rippers - There are a few Linux DVD Rippers available that will rip the DVD, then convert (transcode) it to a single file. One of the oldest ones is DVD::RIP, which provides advanced functionality that may not be suitable for new users. OGMRip and Thoggen are more geared toward being "user friendly" and are very easy to use. Just remember that ripping, then transcoding videos can take a long time, test each of these apps to find out which one suits your needs the best.
WinFF / Transmageddon Video Converters - There are quite a few apps that allow you to convert video files from one format to another (for instance to put a video onto a mobile device), two of the most popular are WinFF and transmageddon. Both of these provide a nice interface and are easy to use, we recommend WinFF simply for the fact that it includes an easy way to convert movies so they can be played on Rockbox devices.
Aisleriot Solitaire / Pysol Fan Club Edition - Let's face it, everyone still likes a good game of solitaire from time to time and with Ubuntu Linux there are quite a few solitaire apps. Aisleriot Solitaire is from the GNOME project and provides quite a few Solitaire games, but if you cannot find what you are looking for, PySol probably has it.
Neverball / Neverputt - If you have a 3D card on your Linux box, Neverball is a fun little tilt maze game with very nice graphics. The game also has a Putt-Putt version to help you kill some time.
Crack Attack - Another nice little time waster that has nice graphics is Crack Attack, which was originally based on the SNES game tetris attack. Very Addicting.
The Battle for Wesnoth - The Battle for Wesnoth is a highly polished turn based fantasy game, kind of like a turned based version of Warcraft.
Frozen-Bubble - For all the Bubble Bobble fans out there you will be happy to know there are quite a few Bubble Bobble clones available on Linux, such as Monkey Bubble and Frozen Bubble. Frozen Bubble probably has the most polished graphics of all the clones.
LinCity Next Gen - For those that like the SimCity City Simulation games, the OpenSource/Free Software LinCity NG game may be right up your alley. With improved graphics and gameplay it is actually quite fun being a Mayor.
FlightGear - Flightgear is the premier open source Flight Simulators available today. With a somewhat easy learning curve you will be flying around a virtual globe before you know it.
GNU Backgammon / glChess - It is amazing that there are still so many people that play both Chess and Backgammon on their computers. Luckily there are lots and lots of Chess programs on Linux (3D Chess is installed with GNOME Games) and GNU Backgammon is THE backgammon program for computers.
Virtualbox - Virtualbox allows you to run other Operating Systems within a Virtual Machine, to see how it stacks up to other Linux Virtualization Solutions check out our Linux Desktop Virtualization Shootout article.
Wine / Play on Linux - Wine allows you to install and run Windows applications on your Linux Desktop. It is not 100% compatible with Windows yet, but it is getting closer. For a compatiblity list check out Wine's App Database. There are also quite a few "front ends" to Wine to help you install various Windows Apps, one of the most popular is "Play on Linux".
Since Ubuntu is the most popular Linux Distribution available today, there are quite a few websites that provide additional resources to aid you in running Ubuntu Linux. For instance, there are Quite a few User Manuals available that you can read for further information.
Below are some additional resources that you may find helpful when running Ubuntu Linux.
To easily adjust Ubuntu Settings, you can download and install Ubuntu Tweak. This application provides the ability to adjust various user preferences for Ubuntu, such as putting the "Minimize, Maximize and Close" buttons back on the right or easily adjusting the programs that are started automatically when you log in.
Hopefully in the future the Ubuntu Developers will decide to provide additional graphical configuration utilities with the default Ubuntu Install to provide easy ways to manage the Ubuntu System, this way users won't need to install 3rd party utilities to provide this functionality.
Additional Software Repositories
Even though Ubuntu's software repositories are very extensive, there is always going to be something that you may want to use that is not within the repos either for legal reasons or lack of developer interest. Regardless of why a package is not included, you may be able to find a repository that has the package you want built for Ubuntu Linux. Here are some other Repositories that you may want to add to your system to provide additional software packages.
Google Apps - Google Provides Repositories for it's Google Desktop and Picasa Apps. To be able to automatically install and keep these apps up to date add the following in your "Software Sources".
# Google repository deb http://dl.google.com/linux/deb/ stable non-free # Google testing repository deb http://dl.google.com/linux/deb/ testing non-free
You may want to add the Google security key to your system, to do this simply run the following in a terminal:
wget -q -O - https://dl-ssl.google.com/linux/linux_signing_key.pub | apt-key add -
Medibuntu - Medibuntu provides additional software packages that are not included within the Ubuntu Repositories for legal reasons. These reasons may be the apps may be proprietary with a seperate license, or they may infringe upon some patents in certain countries. If you wish to access the software within their repository, run the following with a terminal.
sudo wget --output-document=/etc/apt/sources.list.d/medibuntu.list \ http://www.medibuntu.org/sources.list.d/$(lsb_release -cs).list && \ sudo apt-get --quiet update && sudo apt-get --yes --quiet \ --allow-unauthenticated install medibuntu-keyring && \ sudo apt-get --quiet update sudo apt-get --yes install app-install-data-medibuntu apport-hooks-medibuntu
Opera Web Browser - If you are partial to using the Opera Web Browser instead of Firefox, Opera provides a repository to allow you to easily install their web browser onto Linux Systems. For Ubuntu, add the following into your sources list:
deb http://deb.opera.com/opera/ stable non-free
Launchpad Packages - If you still cannot find a package for an app you are looking for, you may want to check out Launchpad's Personal Package Archives for Ubuntu page. Here you can search to see if any developer uploaded the package to launchpad's servers.
Although the 10.04 version of Ubuntu Linux is not 100% perfect, it is the best Ubuntu release to date. Also, with the addition of the ability to install Ubuntu Linux on a Windows computer without having to re-partition the drive, another one of the excuses that many Windows Users use to avoid Linux have been sent to /dev/null.
So, the next time you hear someone else complaining about Microsoft Windows, tell them to easily install and try Ubuntu Linux to see what other options are available besides Microsoft products. With Ubuntu's new Windows Installer, they have nothing to lose (except a little time).