Linux as an operating system has become much easier to use for previous Windows devotees (prisoners), but that doesn’t mean its all plain sailing but this Windows Noob installed Ubuntu Linux without a hitch.
When it comes to Linux, I’m not a complete Noob, although, I might as well be, because the only difference between myself and somebody who has never used Linux, is the fact that I’ve actually gone through the pains of installing a few Linux distros. Much further than that, I’ve not really been.
Since my first computer, I’ve been around Windows, and thus, from my Windows induced comfort zone, I have been quite reluctant to embrace anything else, but I have been curious about Linux. When Ubuntu was released, funded by Canonical, a Mark Shuttleworth Company – anything South African… and when Sabayon Linux stole a lot of Vista’s pre-release lime light, I was positively overwhelmed with curiosity and had to have a gander.
Dipping toes into the Linux waters
I downloaded the DVD-sized Live CD of Sabayon Linux and had a peak (and also Ubuntu’s award winning Live CD, but never really used it). On my work PC, which is half decent, it was beautiful, and I ran home to install it. On my not-so-half-decent PC at home, I had to dumb-down a lot of the eye candy. And I tried, I swear, I really tried to use it, but for the life of me, and 10’s of tutorials later, I couldn’t figure out how to install software that didn’t come with the OS itself.
Sabayon Linux had installed a Grub Loader when I co-installed it with Win XP as a dual-boot, and I didn’t know how to remove it, and for the next, wow, six months? I would have to remember to choose Win XP every time I loaded my PC.
A while ago I read about Google’s new operating system, gOS. It’s not a new new operating system, but I believe it’s based on Ubuntu Linux, which is based on Linux which is based on Unix. It’s little Mac OS-esque and it comes with every Google app imaginable. It runs straight off a Live CD (a Live CD is usually an operating system which you can run straight from the CD without having to be installed first, and as a bonus you can try it on your current computer without disrupting anything).
Although the gOS CD worked, once again, beautifully on my PC at work, it refused to run on the one at home, because it seems my Sabayon Linux installation would hijack it and load Sabayon instead. Getting back to me being a Linux Noob, I had, of course, no idea how to remedy this.
Having wanted to uninstall Sabayon for a while already, I took the plunge and, not knowing how else to uninstall it, deleted the partition it was installed on. This worked famously, except for the minor detail that I fudged the Grub Loader and was now left with a computer that went straight to a Linux prompt upon boot-up. Probably pretty handy for a Linux guru, but pretty useless for a mere Windozer like me.
Leaning on WinXP for help in my Linux quest
What I thought was a WinXP rescue disc, proved to be useless, as once again the boot-from-CD option was ignored or hijacked by the Sabayon prompt, and similarly, with the gOS Live CD. Finally I dug up that Ubuntu Live CD that was lying around, slipped it into the CD drive, and voila! it ran. Running from the Live CD I launched Firefox, Googled my problem and landed on this handy page which explained to me how to fix a corrupted Grub file, or more accurately, a spoilt MBR (Master Boot Record), using nothing more than an Ubuntu Live CD.
From there things were easy. Although the instructions given were easy to follow, it required me to confirm some options which I wasn’t 100% convinced would preserve my Windows Partition, and as I couldn’t burn to DVD my files (because I was running the Live CD and couldn’t figure out how to keep it running and remove the CD), I didn’t want to risk loosing all my Windows files.
So, I did the second best thing, reformatted the previous Sabayon Linux partition, giving 20GB back to Windows in an NTSF format and using the remaining 10Gb, allocating 8Gb for root and the rest for a Linux Swap. That was another reason I wanted to get rid of Sabayon Linux – previously I had allocated half of my 50GB drive to Sabayon, but now that I wanted to do some video editing, I needed the extra space for video, and couldn’t access the Linux partition from Windows.
After less than 30 minutes, Ubuntu had installed and was working perfectly, plus it had inadvertently fixed the Grub Loader, which means that now, upon boot-up, I once again have the option to choose my operating system. Windows have 40GB to work with, and Ubuntu Linux, while I experiment, has an effective 8GB to play with, which should do while it’s not my primary operating system.
What was interesting about Ubuntu Linux, is that it actually gave me an option to import all my setting from my Windows XP account, which it automatically detected. I chose not to do it, wanting instead to keep my Windows personality separate from my Ubuntu Personality.
I’ve read in quite a few places how Ubuntu is the easiest Linux distribution so far for us poor Windozers, and having experimented with Sabayon Linux and two other flavours, which I can’t remember (they went onto the hard drive and off again very quickly, as I couldn’t make heads or tales of them), I have to say it is.
From what I saw of Google’s gOS, it looks pretty straight forward, but it came with a flood of Google applications, such as Google Earth, Mail, Calendar, a chat client, MS Office-like apps, etc. – and I wasn’t up for figuring out how to install non-Google things, so I went with the safer bet, Ubuntu Linux.
Now that I’ve taken the plunge, I will figure out how it works and if it’s really as easy as it seems, I might just offer to install it for Julia, who’s not getting the maximum out of her fairly powerful laptop, because Vista is sitting on it like Jabba the Hut on a small Wookee.
In the meantime, Sabayon Linux has been further developed, but Ubuntu is growing with such leaps and bounds, that whenever I’m not doing something Windows specific from now on, it will be me and Ubuntu Linux.