Ubuntu Part I

Over the last few months I have been promising myself that I’d have a go at installing Ubuntu, a version of the Linux operating system, on my spare computer.

The attraction behind Linux is that it is free, in stark contrast to Windows for example and, by repute, is more stable and powerful. I arbitrarily chose Ubuntu among the many variants on offer because it is the version of Linux supported by Mark Shuttleworth.

Ubuntu is apparently a modified and improved version of Debian Linux and, although its name is an African word for Humanity to others, one Internet wit defined it as a word meaning ‘I can’t configure Debian’.Linux has had the reputation of being something that only geeks could successfully install and use but I had had some encounters with it, which convinced me that things had finally changed. And so last week, on a day when the omens were all good and the force was with me, I finally settled down to try it out.

The first thing I needed was a copy of Unbuntu on a disc and found that one can download it from www.ubuntu.com in the form of a disc image. It’s a pretty hefty 715Mb in size but, once it was downloaded onto my main PC, I copied it onto a CD-ROM disc using Nero.

I then unplugged my main PC, connected the spare machine up to my monitor, mouse, keyboard and ADSL line, and slipped the Ubuntu disc into the CD-ROM drive. The machine booted up very quickly and, after a stern warning that the contents of the hard drive would be deleted if I continued, it asked me a few questions about my name and location, and then began the installation.

The process only took about 20 minutes and was entirely without any fuss or bother. The first thing it then did was to go onto the Internet and download the latest updates for itself.
When you install Ubuntu, you also get a full set of free programs including an office suite, graphics programs, CD burner, browser, e-mail client and calendar, movie player, games, and much, much else besides.

In fact, there is enough for all the needs of most computer users and, if that isn’t enough, there is a very neat tool known as Synaptic Package Manager, which lets you search for, and install a huge variety of free software.

The Ubuntu interface is really excellent and there is no reason why the most phobic of computerphobes couldn’t find their way around it. There is a menu bar along the top of the screen, which gives gives access to applications, places on the computer, such as the desktop or your documents folder, system admin functions, e-mail package, web browser, help, volume control, date and time, and options for logging off, restarting or switching the machine off.

A panel running along the bottom of the screen gives you one-click access to your desktop and houses buttons for each open window. The panel also houses the workspace switcher which gives you access to a very interesting feature of Ubuntu.

You can establish a number of workspaces for different purposes, such as e-mailing, web design or whatever have you, and switch betwwen these at will. The benefit is that it reduces onscreen clutter by only showing Windows relevant to the particular task at hand.

More impressions next week. Why not leave a comment by clicking the link below?

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2 thoughts on “Ubuntu Part I

  1. Thanks Allan
    I have wanting to load Ubuntu for a long time, but have been similarly a wee bit wary.
    However, definitely going to give it a go over the upcoming holiday.
    Look forward to your subsequent articles.
    John

  2. I'm also interested in trying it out as a dual install with XP. What you could also mention is that you don't have to install it to try it – one can run it from the cd to see whether you like what you'll get.
    Another thing: most of us have neither the bandwidth, the time, nor the money to download 700mb. People need to know what you can burn it onto your own cd at various 'freedom toaster' locations around the country.

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