5.1 Installing a Linux Distribution: Ubuntu
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. This website and any associated authors 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.
The following video will demonstrate how to partition your disk step-by-step before we go onto the video, here’s some information about partitioning you will want to know:
If you are resizing your Windows partition to accommodate 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 would look if you split it 50/50. The Unallocated space would be later formatted under the ‘ext4′ file system by Linux during installation:
5.3 Downloading and starting 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 around 800MB in size, so you will need a 800MB CD-R or DVD-R and a suitable DVD-RW drive.
If you don’t have a DVD/CD-R Burner or if you have a slow connection then you can order a copy of Ubuntu from Canonical.
Burning the ‘ISO’ image to the DVD or CD.
Burning the ISO image to a CD is not the same thing as copying the ‘ISO’ file you downloaded to a CD. If you have Windows 7 or 8, then simply right click on the icon of the file you downloaded, which will be named something like ubuntu-13-04-desktop-i386.iso. Once you right click the icon, you will see the option ‘Burn disk image’. Select that option and pop a blank DVD-RW or CD-RW into your PC and click burn. If you would like further instructions on this process or are using Windows XP, Me, 98 or other operating systems, check out this easy guide at the Ubuntu web site.
Hopefully you are now armed with a Linux CD that’s good to go. If the CD/DVD was ejected from the CD player, pop it back in the drive and Restart your computer. Most PCs will automatically try to start the computer from the CD drive, so hopefully you will be presented with a welcome screen after a minute or so. If you don’t see this, or if your PC started up in Windows instead, 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 The Install Process
I’ve devised the following video tutorial to walk you through the process of installing Ubuntu Linux 13.04 on your home PC. It assumes that you already have Microsoft Windows pre-installed, so it shows you how to re-partition your hard disk to put Linux on it.
5.5 Notes for Installation
Usernames and the Administrative (root) user
When you are installing Ubuntu you need to set up a user account (as demonstrated in the above video tutorial). 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. 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 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!
A little word on passwords
During the install process you’ll be asked to select a password. It’s important that you select a strong password, because in time to come, you may wish to open up services such as remote access onto your machine. It’s a simple step but believe it or not, still a reasonably effective method of security, do not choose a simple word as a password. 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 240GLS. However, you get the idea. The password is still important, especially if you ever run any server or sharing software on your machine in the future.
5.6 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 all ready for you. It’s time to restart the machine. Make sure the CD is removed from the drive when prompted 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 using the cursor keys (the up/down arrow keys) 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. If prompted, select the username that you created earlier (or type it in if required), then enter your password. The system will then log you on.
5.7 The Ubuntu Desktop
The Ubuntu desktop is a friendly place, which we will cover in later chapters. If you are used to Windows, your ‘Start’ menu is the bar along the left hand side. The top button which has the Ubuntu logo on it allows you to search your computer for content (Apps, documents, audio etc) simply by typing it’s name, but if you don’t know what App you are looking for, Click on the Ubuntu icon, note the litte ‘A’ icon down at the bottom of the screen, click on that and it will show you ‘Recently Used’, ‘Installed’ and ‘More Suggestions’ for Applications. Beside the ‘Installed’ line you can see it reads ‘See 76 more results’. Click on this and you can see all of the apps installed on your Ubuntu desktop. This same action can be done for documents, music, photos and movies with each of the respective icons.
You’ll note that a few favourite Apps have already been ‘pinned’ to the bar on the left, these include the Firefox web browser, the LibreOffice (free Microsoft Office compatible word, excel, powerpoint suite). You can pin your own favourites to the left-hand side bar if you desire simply by dragging an icon from the above Applications search list into the bar.
Where are all my files?
On the left-hand side bar there’s a filing cabinet icon. Clicking on this will show you all the files on your computer. If your Ubuntu machine has been set up to see your Windows file systems, you will also be able to see your the files you work with in Windows from here, just look under ‘Devices’ on the left of the file browser.