Ubuntu, Why You’d Love It, and How To Install It
Things went a bit haywire for me recently. I pressed the wrong button on an OS repair and wiped out my hard drive. I managed (thanks to Testdisk on Linux) to get 80% of my files back.
With my files salvaged, I decided to rethink my computer setup. I’m not going to lie, I hate Windows 8, which I call “Windows Ape” (big, ugly, hairy, and takes up a lot of space). I’ve had an on-again-off-again relationship with a version of Linux called Ubuntu. Finally, I decided to give it the reins on my computer.
Over the past month, I’ve installed Ubuntu as either the primary or only operating system on six computers. All of the people I’ve done this for expressed the same problem: they were concerned about their safety in Windows (especially with thousands of computer viruses floating around). One machine had already been hijacked.
The other amazing thing: except for my Mom, no one had even heard of Ubuntu, despite the fact it is complete free, open-source, and easy to use. It took me all but five minutes to sell them on it, thanks to the online tour.
- It’s totally and completely free!
- Ubuntu is built on Linux, the favorite OS of nerds, programmers, Google, and Munich, Germany. It’s open source, meaning anyone can read the computer code and help improve it. By the by, Chromebook is another version of Linux.
- Ubuntu is safer. You won’t find any anti-virus software for it, simply because you don’t need it. There’s not much point writing malware for Tuxboxes (Linux computers) – the user has to install it manually themselves anyway, and the virus can be caught and killed pretty easily most of the time.
- Ubuntu is easy. In fact, it is just about the easiest OS to learn, in my opinion – and I’ve used Mac OSX, every variant of Windows, about a few dozen other versions of Linux.
- Ubuntu is smaller in size. A typical Windows installation takes up about 25GB, whereas a typical Ubuntu installation takes up only 3GB.
- Ubuntu is faster. Really, you’re going to blown away. Part of the reason is how it handles files, and part of the reason is how it handles computer memory.
- Ubuntu is accessible. It is built to be usable by just about everyone.
NOTE TO SCHOOLS: Check out Edubuntu! It was built specifically for you.
What About My Software?
The number one argument I hear against Linux: “But it doesn’t run (insert favorite software here).”
Actually, you’d be quite surprised how much DOES run on Linux, and of the stuff that doesn’t run, you may discover you never needed it to begin with.
Of the most notable pieces of software that aren’t Linux-friendly, Microsoft Office is on the top of the list. I’m a long time Office user, so I was at first hesitant when I first discovered Linux. Then I discovered OpenOffice/LibreOffice – both are free, they work with Office formats, and can seriously just replace Office right out of the box. My company officially adopted OpenOffice/LibreOffice for our document needs, and none of us miss MS Office. At all. Seriously.
FYI, gamers, both Steam and Minecraft have versions for Ubuntu Linux.
There is almost always a free alternative that does just as well or better on Linux. Case and point…
- Evolution replaces Windows Mail and Windows Calendar
- Thunderbird replaces Outlook
- Firefox/Chrome replaces Internet Explorer
- LibreOffice replaces MS Office (as I mentioned)
- RhythmBox replaces iTunes (even syncs to iOS!)
- GIMP replaces Photoshop
- Audacity replaces Audition
- LMMS replaces ProTools
- Inkscape replaces Illustrator
- Krita replaces Sketchbook
- Blender replaces Maya
- CodeBlocks replaces Visual Studio C++ (and you get cross-compatibility with it!)
- Draftsight replaces Autocad (mostly, anyway. There are a few dozen alternatives.)
- Calligra Plan replaces MS Project
NOTE TO BUSINESS OWNERS: There is almost always one or more free, open-source alternatives to whatever software you’re using for your business, whether it be financial, medical, or retail. Countless business use Linux – including Google! Do some digging.
However, if you absolutely MUST have a piece of Windows-only software, there are some options.
A large majority of “Windows-only” software runs via something called WINE (WINdows Emulator), and its fancy front-end, PlayOnLinux. These are also free. You can see the full list of tried and tested software for WINE here. They especially focus on games and professional software (AutoCAD is largely supported).
A second option, of course, is to reinstall Windows inside of Linux, using a “virtual machine.” The absolute best virtual machine software out there is called VirtualBox (yup, free). All you need is a copy of Windows and your product key. (If you need to find your current Windows product key, use Magical Jellybean KeyFinder).
A third option is to install Ubuntu, and then reinstall Windows on a separate part of the hard drive, creating a “dual boot” system. This is what I do, as I need Windows 8 64-bit for developing in Adobe Flash Professional (one of the few irreplaceable Windows-only pieces of software.)
I’m Sold. How Do I Install?
NOTE: These instructions are the best I can do. If you don’t feel really tech savvy, find someone who is to help you (but PLEASE don’t take it to a computer shop for this!)
My instructions come with no warranty. Use at your own risk. That’s why I say to back up your files.
What You’ll Need:
- A backup of all your files on an external device. (I recommend a USB external hard drive.) This is not optional! Make sure you have EVERYTHING you want to keep! DO NOT keep this device plugged in during the installation!
- A blank DVD or a 2GB or larger empty USB thumb drive.
- Your Windows installation disk (or another blank DVD to make one)
- An internet connection.
Step 1: Determine if you’re running a 32-bit or 64-bit system. In any version of Windows, go to Control Panel –> System. On Windows 7/8, you may need to use the search box in the Control Panel to find this. Look for “32-bit” or “64-bit”. Write this down.
Step 2: Write down the EXACT version of Windows you’re running. (i.e. Windows 8 Pro, Windows 7 Home Edition, Windows Vista Starter).
Step 3: Find your Windows installation disk. If you can’t find it, you can download one legally for Windows 7 or Windows 8. If you download it, burn it onto a blank DVD, and then make sure the finished DVD shows up as a Windows installation disk on your computer.
(BEWARE: 98% of Windows download links are illegal! Only use these or ones directly from microsoft.com)
If you’re looking for Windows XP, you do NOT want to reinstall that anywhere but on VirtualBox for safety reasons. You can install the VM following the instructions on this link.
If you’re looking for Windows Vista, that one is harder to find, and you really don’t want to be running it either. It’s about as safe as XP at the moment, despite the fact it is “officially supported.”
Step 4: Find your Windows key. You can do that using the free version of Magical Jellybean KeyFinder.
Step 5: Write (on paper!) a list of all the programs you want to reinstall/replace. Make sure you have the registration keys and installers for all the ones you paid for…especially if you decide to reinstall Windows in some form later.
Step 6: Figure out your BIOS key. Google your computer brand and “BIOS”. Write it down, you’ll need it.
Step 7: Go to www.ubuntu.com, hover over “Desktop” and click “Take the Tour”. Make sure you like the look of Ubuntu before you switch. It’s a little different, but it really is worth learning!
Step 8 : On the Ubuntu website (see Step 6), hover over “Download” and click “Desktop”. Select 32-bit or 64-bit. Let that download finish.
NOTE: If you’re running something older than Windows XP, the latest Ubuntu might not work on your computer. Research other versions of Linux. There are literally hundreds, and one is bound to work. Of course, you could also install an older version of Ubuntu, but be aware that those aren’t supported anymore.
Step 9: Burn the Ubuntu iso onto a DVD, or create a bootable USB thumb drive following these instructions.
WARNING: This is the point of no return! We’re about to start installing Ubuntu, which will erase everything currently on your computer. Make sure you have followed ALL of the above steps exactly, and have your Windows installation disk, Windows key, software installation disks (or know where to download), software keys, and a backup of ALL your files!
Step 10: Restart your computer. The very moment the computer starts turning on, press the BIOS key (see Step 6) repeatedly until a blue screen appears with options. You will need to do a couple of things here. Each BIOS is different, so look around.
- If you have a Windows 8 machine, disable Secure Boot (a.k.a. UEFI). If your computer runs Windows 7 or earlier, skip this step.
- Turn off Fast Boot if that option is given.
- If there is an option to turn on AMD-V or Intel-VT, turn it on. (If there is no such option, take note…you cannot install a 64-bit version of Windows via Virtual Machine).
- Change the boot order so that your DVD drive or USB stick is booted before the hard drive. NOTE: On a Windows 8 computer, you will need to follow Step 10B.
Make sure you save changes, and then exit BIOS. Allow the computer to restart.
Step 10B (Windows 8 only): Allow Windows to start up. Select the Power option from the Lock Screen/Charms Bar, hold down SHIFT, and click Restart. After a few moments, an option screen will appear. Click “Use a Device” and select your Ubuntu installation DVD/USB stick.
Step 11: Your computer will restart and enter the Ubuntu installation. Follow these instructions. If you want a dual-boot system (as opposed to running Windows in a Virtual Machine), see this article for when you reach “4: Allocate drive space” on the installation instructions. Make sure to leave at least 50GB of unformatted free space for Windows to live.Step 12: Once Ubuntu turns on, it will want to install updates. Let it.Step 12: While those updates install, modify your System Settings how you like them. (Click the menu in the upper right and select “System Settings”.Step 13: After install updates and restarting,install all that nifty Linux software you want. (Click the big Ubuntu [Dash] button in the upper left and type Ubuntu Software Center to get started.Step 14: Set up Windows. For Virtual Box, install VirtualBox from the Ubuntu Software Center, and then follow these instructions, especially starting at 1.6. For dual boot, insert your Windows disk. Make sure to select that unallocated free space when you install, NOT anything you just installed Ubuntu on.That’s it! You’re done installing Ubuntu! Once you have all your operating systems set up, bring your files back and put them where you want them. Keep your backups for a while, just in case. NOTE: All your user files in Ubuntu belong in the Home folder (and the folders inside that) or on an external media device, nowhere else.To get started with Ubuntu, check out their help documentation. From the power menu (upper right), click “Help”.