5.1 Installing your Linux distribution: Ubuntu Linux
Although this example shows the installation of the Ubuntu Linux distribution, installing most other Linux distributions is a similar process. I have chosen Ubuntu as it is a friendly, free, highly compatible distribution of Linux and at the point of writing, it has been the most popular Linux distribution for quite some time.
Please also note that this tutorial details the installation of Ubuntu Linux on a PC, if you have a Mac, the instructions are similar, but not the same. In particular, the tools you will use for partitioning your hard drive may be different.
5.2 Planning the Task ahead
If you remember back in Chapter 4 we discussed hard drives and partitioning. If you didn't read that part, skip back and read it now.
WORDS OF CAUTION!
At this early point in the process of installation, you must be aware that you will be working with your hard drive in order to install Linux. If the hard drive contains any important information at all, you MUST make a backup of that data before starting. I cannot be held responsible if you delete your own data!
The main step with a Linux installation is to 'slice' up your hard drive into partitions in order to put Linux onto it.
You will not have to perform this step, if you have chosen to use an additional new or recycled hard drive to install linux onto. Also, if you are brave and wish to simply delete the operating system (Windows/Mac OS) clean off your computer, then this step is also not necessary, otherwise, proceed forward!.
How to partition the disk
As mentioned in Chapter 4, You can use a tool like QTParted, PartitionMagic or the Ranish Parition Manager as a comprehensive way to partition your disk so that you can create some free empty space to put Linux onto and this is still a good way to do it. However, since Ubuntu 7.10, it has been possible to re-partition your disk drive during the installation process, making it easy to do in one quick process, so this guide has been updated to follow this process. Read on and watch the below videos to learn how this is done.
A little word about 'wubi'
If you have a Windows PC and if you have ever inserted a recent Ubuntu CD into your drive, you may have noticed that it is possible to install Ubuntu 'inside' your Windows system using a system called the 'wubi' installer. The main advantage with this is that you don't even need to re-partition your disk. The drawback to this method is that it still uses the NTFS file system to manage your disk and files and as a result the performance is notably slower when doing disk intensive things, especially if you are using the new Linux file system, ext4. It also means that you always have to have windows installed and working on your PC as wubi is dependent upon the Windows bootloader working.
The choice on whether you wish to use the wubi installer is ultimately up to you. Re-partitioning your drive is really not a big deal though, so read on if you want to know how to do it.
So, if I'm not using 'wubi', how should I partition my disk then?
The following videos will demonstrate how to partition your disk step-by-step, but as a few words of advice:I
If you are resizing your Windows parition to accomodate the installation of Linux, try and devote as much space to Linux as you can manage, if for example you have 40GB unused/free space on an 120GB drive, resize your windows partition down from 120GB to 90GB, leaving 30GB for linux and 10GB room to spare for windows. This way you probably won't have too much concern about free disk space in the future.
You can split it any way you like, here is an example of how your hard drive, if drawn as a sideways graph (like Partition Magic uses), would look if you split it 50/50. The Unallocated space would be later formatted under the 'ext3' file system by Linux during installation:
5.3 Downloading and starting up the Ubuntu installation
Okay, it's time to put the CD in the drive and reboot the PC. If you don't already have an Ubuntu CD, visit Ubuntu's Download site and download the ISO image of Ubuntu. It's a full CD big (700MB), so you will need a 700MB CD-R and a CD Burner then burn the image to the CD-R.
If you don't have a CD-R Burner or if you have a slow connection (eg dialup) then you can order a free copy of Ubuntu from Ubuntu Shipit. Ubuntu will ship you a CD free of charge, however postage takes some time, generally up to six weeks. Alternatively, you can pay £4.99 at Cheeplinux in the UK to burn you a CD and to send it out to you. Other countries have similar redistribution sites.
NOTE: Burning the ISO image to a CD is not the same thing as copying the ISO image to a CD. If you need advice on how to burn the ISO, please read the quick article on how to burn a CD. The guide is relevant for Windows, Mac OS and Linux.
Right, now you are armed with a Linux CD, put it in your CD drive and start up your computer. With any luck, when The CD boots, you will be presented with a welcome screen, use the arrow keys to select your language, press enter and then select the option 'Install Ubuntu' and press enter. If you don't see this, make sure your PC is set to boot from CD before any other disks. You can change this setting in something called the BIOS setup. Often when you start a PC you will see a message like 'Press F10 to Enter Setup'. Hit that key and enter the BIOS setup, you should be able to change the boot order and save the settings from there.
5.4 Choosing the language & Keyboard layout for your system
The next screen that you will see is a Language selector, That one's easy. Choose English, or if your native tongue is not English, choose your appropriate language by clicking on the language you want to use.
5.5 Partitioning your disks, or using your pre-defined partitions
If you set up an empty partition in preparedness for use with Ubuntu, you can simply select it here, otherwise, follow the below video tutorial to see how to use the Ubuntu installer to partition your disk for you.
5.6 Letting Ubuntu know who you are
In the next step, make sure you provide your system with your real name. This is because a lot of programs take this information from the system when they automate things, such as setting up email accounts.
Choosing your username and a little info about administrative rights (root)
It's also important to choose a reasonable username for this computer user. Make it memorable, sensible and usable.
Something to note about this first user on your machine: Ubuntu always sets the first user specified as an administrative user. In this context, this means that you, the first account on the machine (you can have as many as you like), will also get administrative privileges on the machine to do things like install software and deal directly with hardware and all things associated with it (eg the kernel). Take this information with a little caution. If you are asked again for your password when doing something in Ubuntu, it is asking you to escalate your own privileges into what Linux calls the root user. Root is simply the username of the administrator (or Super User) in Linux, as administrator you have free reign over the system at all times. Do not perform tasks as root unless you know what you are about to do, or unless you have good confidence in the task ahead!
Next up is passwords. It's important that you follow this advice carefully, because in time to come, you may wish to open up services such as remote access onto your machine. It's simple but believe it or not, still a reasonably effective method of security, do not choose a simple word as a password. Also, don't think that your password is invulnerable to attack, simply because you use l33t-words (eg: h3ll0 for hello). Dictionary attacker bots/programs are wise to this these days. Don't reverse words either, choose random things, like for example, your favourite colour, and your first car, with a few numbers (maybe your year of birth) sprinkled in the middle for good measure. Here is a pretty strong password and could be pretty memorable to the right person:
No, I wasn't born in 1977, my favourite colour isn't blue, and I've never had a Volvo 740GLS. However, you get the idea. The password is still important, especially if you ever run any server software on your machine in the future.
The next step is to wait for the Ubuntu files to be copied to your new hard disk partition and then all set up properly for you. This takes between 15-60 minutes depending upon the speed of your PC.
See the below video for a summary of the above steps on usernames, passwords and installation.
5.7 Finishing Up
By now, most of the software you will need will have been copied to your new partition on your hard drive, your user account will be set up and your regional settings are a distant memory. It's time to reboot the machine. Make sure the cd is removed from the drive and continue onwards!
When you start up your computer, you will likely see a boot-up screen asking you if you wish to choose Windows or Ubuntu (that is, if you installed Ubuntu alongside Windows). Choose Ubuntu from the list and hit enter and it will start up Ubuntu.
The next screen you will see is the Ubuntu login screen. It's the screen you will see every time you start up Ubuntu. Type your username that you defined earlier, hit return, then enter your password. The system will then log you on. The screen will look a little like the one below:
Click on the image to enlarge it
5.8 The Ubuntu Desktop
The Ubuntu desktop is a friendly place, which we will cover in later chapters, but briefly, you will see that a lot is very similar to either Windows or Mac OS. If you are used to Windows, your 'Start' menu can be located to the top left, as 'Applications'. All of your software can be located here in much the same way as it is in Windows.
The Places menu contains a drop down list of all the major locations on your computer, much like the 'My Computer' dialogue in Windows does.
The System menu provides tools to change the setup of your Ubuntu system, like the background wallpaper, the screen resolution, and more.
The 'System Tray' is located to the top, far right, as well as a clock.
The 'Window list' is the long gray bar at the bottom of the screen. When you launch an application from the Applications menu, it will appear down here so you can switch between programs, just like Windows. Two other mentionable items on this panel include the 'Desktop selector', which allows you to have 4 desktops, each with seperate programs running on them. This is really handy to stop cluttered desktops, as you can have for example, your E-Mail on one desktop, Web on another, and perhaps Music & Instant Messaging on another.
Finally, you can see the Trash can, which provides a very similar task as to the 'Recycle Bin' in Windows.
Click on the image to enlarge it
5.9 What next?
- Ready to move forward to Chapter 6?
- Or, if you are having problems, try asking some questions in the Forum.