Let’s face it, deciding to nuke your existing operating system installation and replace it with a completely different OS isn’t the sort of task that you should approach lightly. One of the barriers to Linux adoption is the fact that many people find the idea of wiping their Windows installation a daunting thing. Sure, the widespread adoption of the Live CD with allows users to boot into a working Linux environment has made taking a Linux distro for a test drive easier, but a Live CD experience falls far short of what you can expect from an installed Linux experience.
Ubuntu 8.04 “Hardy Heron” beta has made Linux adoption much easier by making it easy for Windows users to install Ubuntu onto their PCs without affecting their Windows installation.
Two new features added to Ubuntu 8.04 are umenu and Wubi and these additions have significantly lowered the first rung onto the Linux ladder by making it a snap to install Ubuntu 8.04 onto a Windows system. All you need is:
- A Windows PC
- At least 4GB of free space
- Ubuntu 8.04 on CD or an ISO mounted in Windows
Here’s how to install Ubuntu 8.04 alongside Windows.
First, pop the CD into the drive (or mount the .ISO file).
If you have autoplay enabled then the umenu loader is fired up automatically (if not, go to the root of the CD and run umenu.exe). This presents you with three options
- Demo and full install
- Install inside Windows
- Learn more
Clicking on Install inside Windows launches the Wubi installer.
The Wubi installer is as simple as it can be.
Choose an installation drive with enough free space, how much space you want to devote to the Ubuntu install, the language and finally a username and password for the account and then all that’s left to do is click Install and you’re done.
Now it’s just a case of rebooting the system. The Windows Boot Manager now offers Vista and Ubuntu as options. Those wanting t dabble with Linux can now choose Ubuntu, boot into the OS and try out the OS knowing that their Windows install is safe. This offers a great opportunity for testing hardware compatibility.
Not only is Wubi a great installer but it also offers a robust and (as far as I’m able to tell from the testing I’ve done, safe) uninstaller.
There’s another feature of the umenu loader that makes it easier for the less technical to take Ubuntu for a spin. Being able to use a Live CD relies on the PC being able to boot up off the CD. If a PC isn’t set up this way then users have to either tweak the BIOS settings or catch the boot loader option at start up (if the BIOS supports this). umenu does away with all of these hassles and allows the user to modify the Windows bootloader with a few mouse clicks. After making these changes the system can then be set to boot up easily from a disc.
These options offer the lowest resistance, easiest route for even the most basic user to try out Ubuntu. If burning a CD (or mounting an ISO) could be automated in the same way (and I’m sure it could), installing Ubuntu would be a total no-brainer.