Hands on With Wubi

This is a guest post by Taylor Douglass

From the official Wubi website:

“Wubi is a Ubuntu installer for Windows users that will bring you into the Linux world with a single click. Wubi allows you to install and uninstall Ubuntu as any other application. If you heard about Linux and Ubuntu, if you wanted to try them but you were afraid, Wubi is for you.”

For what Wubi claims to be able to do, I’m somewhat surprised that I haven’t heard more about it. Basically, you can install Ubuntu from Windows and then boot to Linux or Windows without having to do any kind of Grub trickery or anything. Wubi even changes your boot.ini files so that you can choose between booting to Windows or Linux. It’s like having your cake and eating it too!

My first question, and I’m sure I’m not alone here, is how does it work? Wubi works by creating a stand-alone installation inside of a loopmounted device. A loopmounted device is a fancy word for a file that is recognized as a device. So basically Ubuntu thinks that it is running from a Live CD when it is actually running from a hard drive. Some have described Wubi as a virtual machine. This is not the case. No other partitions are created on your hard drive.

So, let’s get down to it. What I intend to do is install Wubi and document my experience along the way. So without further delay, let’s get to work.

Installation of Wubi

The Wubi installation begins by downloading an installer. This is a small file (1.1MB) that is used to setup Wubi on your hard drive. When you first run the Wubi installer it greets you with a few questions such as what hard drive you want to install to, how big you want the installation to be, what desktop environment you want (Ubuntu, Kubuntu, Xubuntu), language, and then a user name and password. I went for a pretty standard installation. 12 GB on my C drive with Ubuntu in English. After that the installer begins downloading the ISO for Ubuntu 8.04 Hardy Heron. Hardy is currently in beta right now, and I have been wanting to try it out, so this is almost a double hands on experience for me. Once everything is downloaded and installed Wubi will ask you if you want to reboot now or do it manually later. I want to reboot now!

After the reboot everything was looking good. I got to choose whether I wanted to boot to Windows or Ubuntu. The new artwork for Hardy Heron came up. The installation started to go as planned. Things were being verified, partitions were being made (not real one’s), and configurations were being configured. And then, fail. The installation never got past 82% complete. It just hung there with a message box that said “Configuring APT – Scanning Mirror”. I gave it about 20 minutes before I rebooted. When I tried to boot back into Ubuntu I got into an error loop. Ubuntu told me that “no root file system is defined” and that I need to correct this, but when I clicked “ok” it just gave me the same error again. I then went back into Windows, removed everything from the C:\Ubuntu\disks folder and tried again. What this does is basically wipe your installation clean. I was hoping that it was just a little stumble, but again the installation got all the way to 82% and hung there with the “Configuring APT – Scanning Mirror” message. This time I got thinking about what this actually meant. I could move my mouse around and drag the dialog box around, so the computer was not locked up. The APT is a repository for different updates and modules. I began to wonder if there was some kind of problem with the connection to one of these repositories so I reached behind my computer and yanked out the network cable. Sure enough the progress bar started moving again, and the installation finished.

How is it?

One of the first things I wanted to know about Wubi was whether or not you got a clean boot every you re-booted. What I mean by that is does everything that you save get reset when you reboot like it does when running a live CD? The Wubi FAQ wasn’t really clear about this. So I changed a few things, installed some different software, installed a different theme, created some documents and rebooted. Sure enough, all of my changes were saved. In fact, I was having trouble finding much of a difference between a normal Linux install and a Wubi install.

One of the first things I noticed about Wubi is that it recognizes all of my hard drives. This doesn’t sound like much of a feat, but I have ran countless different liveCD’s that will not do this. I’m sure that with a little elbow grease I could have got them to, but with a Live CD I don’t really feel that it’s worth it. Anyway, what this means in a nut shell is that you can work on something in Windows, restart your computer, boot to Ubuntu, and continue working on it.

The overall speed of Wubi really impressed me. I just assumed that since Linux wasn’t running as it normally does I would experience an overall system slow down. That was not the case. My littleThink Pad laptop struggles at times to run XP, but with Linux I had no trouble at all. At one point I had Gimp, Blender, 10 terminal windows, Firefox , a few open office documents, and I was playing music. During this I noticed almost no drop in system performance at all. I so “almost no” because there was a little delay withCompiz window effects, nothing that I would call a serious problem though.

The Future of Linux?

I think that Wubi has a lot of potential to put Linux in front of users as a viable desktop operating system. This is something that Live CD’s and dual boots have tried to do and failed. Live CD’s failed because they do not allow the user to save data, changes, files, etc. They also run much slower than a Linux system that is installed. Dual boots didn’t work because it was very difficult for the typical user to setup a dual boot. Setting up a dual boot required the user to do several things that if done incorrectly, or in some cases correctly, would render both operating systems useless. What Linux really needs is to combine the good points of a dual boot and a Live CD, and that is exactly what Wubi has done. Setting up a dual boot with Wubi is completely transparent to the user, anything can be saved, and best of all it runs fast. The average user would not even know the difference between a standard Linux install and a Wubi install.

Red Hat has No Plans for a Commercial Linux Desktop

Red Hat has announced that they have no plans to create a traditional Linux desktop product for the consumer market.

Lets look at Red Hat’s explantion of why:

…as a public, for-profit company, Red Hat must create products and technologies with an eye on the bottom line, and with desktops this is much harder to do than with servers. The desktop market suffers from having one dominant vendor, and some people still perceive that today’s Linux desktops simply don’t provide a practical alternative. Of course, a growing number of technically savvy users and companies have discovered that today’s Linux desktop is indeed a practical alternative. Nevertheless, building a sustainable business around the Linux desktop is tough, and history is littered with example efforts that have either failed outright, are stalled or are run as charities. But there’s good news too. Technical developments that have become available over the past year or two are accelerating the spread of the Linux Desktop.

In short?  It’s too much money, and it’s too hard.

I really don’t think this is a bad move.  Red Hat is great at what they do.  Servers and development, and they do it as a business, for money.  Contrary to the buzz in the community right now, there is nothing in the announcement that says Fedora will stop being worked on.  Fedora is community driven, so there really is no worry as I see it.  Fedora is a great free Linux desktop but it’s obvious which desktop player is leading the charge for the commercial Linux desktop; Ubuntu.

Customizing Your Ubuntu Experience

This is a guest post by Taylor Douglass

After a Ubuntu install one of the first things that users want to do is customize the look to their liking. Lynucs.org has a great collection of screen shots to provide some inspiration for this process. This article is meant to get you going in the right direction as far as customizing the look and feel of Ubuntu.

Wallpaper

One of the easiest and quickest ways to change the look of your desktop is simply to change the wallpaper. One of my favorite wallpaper repositories is socwall.com. Their wallpapers are very well organized and voted on by the community. Once you have a wallpaper that you think would look nice on your desktop you have two options. Please keep in mind that in both of these examples I am using Firefox.

Option one is to right click on the image and select “Set As Desktop Background“. From there you will presented with a dialog box that gives you different options for your wallpaper such as center, tile, and stretch. You can also set a background color if your wallpaper doesn’t cover the entire desktop.

The second option is to first save the wallpaper by right clicking on the image and selecting “Save Image As“. Save the picture in a directory you are familiar with such as your home directory under Pictures. Now go to the System menu, then preferences, click Appearance, and then select the background tab. Click the Add button, navigate to the place where you saved your wallpaper, and select your wallpaper.

Changing Your Gnome Theme

Changing your theme will give you the most dramatic results as far as the overall appearance of Ubuntu. If you go back to the Appearance Preferences (System -> Preferences -> Appearance) you will notice a tab named “Theme“. These are the themes that are currently available on your system. None of these really tickle my fancy, so let’s go out to gnome-look.org and get a nice looking theme.

When it comes to themes you can get really carried away very easily. Some themes require that additional modules, tweaks, and minor fixes be applied before the theme will work correctly. Gnome-look is very good at explaining everything that you need to do in order to correctly install your theme. For simplicities sake, let’s install a theme called Green Lemon 2. Download the theme (green lemon 2.tar.gz) and save it to a place that you can easily find it. Now go back to your appearance preferences, under the theme tab, and click install. Navigate to the place where you downloaded green lemon to and click open. You will then see the theme magically change before your eyes. After it’s done changing you should see a dialog box that says “GNOME Theme Green lemon 2 correctly installed”.

Panels

Panels are a quick and easy way to customize Ubuntu. You can use panels to display various information such as notes, weather, and the time. You can also use panels as tool bars to launch applications and documents. To begin playing with panels right let’s add a weather report. Right click on the top panel on your desktop. This will bring up a menu that has various options such as add to panel, properties, delete this panel, and new panel. We want to select add to panel. You should now see a list of various different items that you can add to your panel. Under the accessories section, select Weather Report, and click close. Now you have an icon on your panel that has a question mark and two dashes after it. This is because we haven’t yet set our location, so the weather report doesn’t know what to report. Right click on the icon and select preferences. Under the general tab set your preferences such as temperature unit and wind speed unit. Now go to the location tab and set your location and then close the preferences window. Before your weather information is displayed you may have to refresh it. Simply right click on the weather icon and select update. Now we want to move the icon. Right click on it and select move. Now move the icon to where you want it to be. I prefer that my weather icon sits right next to my clock. An interesting thing about the weather icon is that if you right click on it and select details, you get a lot more information such as current conditions, a forecast, and a radar map.

Something I will mention but is well beyond the scope of this tutorial is AWN or Avant Window Manager. This is a much more powerful application that is similar to Ubuntu panels. It allows you to add various tool bars and applets to your desktop. For more information about AWN, check out the wiki.

Pushing the Customizing Window

Something that is fairly new to the Ubuntu world is Beryl/Compiz. This application allows you to take customization to a whole new level. With Compiz you can adjust the opacity of windows and menus, add flashy affects when opening, closing, or moving windows, and change the way that you switch between desktops. Although Compiz requires a decent graphics card and a faster computer, it is rather amazing what is possible with it. For more information about installing and using Compiz, check out compiz.org.

Mark Shuttleworth discusses Windows installer for Ubuntu – Wubi

Mark Shuttleworth, founder of Canonical Ltd. and leader of the Ubuntu Linux distribution, discussed the Windows based UBuntu Installer, Wubi, on his blog today.

Windows is a very important platform, and our justifiable pride in Linux and the GNU stack shouldn’t blind us to the importance of delivering software that is widely useful. I believe in bringing free software to people in a way that is exciting and empowering to them, and one of the key ways to do that is to show them amazing free software running on their familiar platform, whether that’s Windows or the MacOS.

Firefox, for example, is an inspiring free software success story, and I’m certain that a key driver of that success is their excellent support for the Windows environment. It’s a quick download and an easy install that Just Works, after which people can actually FEEL that free software delivers an innovative and powerful browsing experience that is plainly better than the proprietary alternatives. I’ve noticed that many of the best free software projects have a good Windows story. MySQL and PostGres both do. Bazaar works well too. And users love it – users that may then be willing to take a step closer to living in the GNU world entirely.

So, I was absolutely delighted with the way Agostino Russo and Evan Dandrea steered the Windows-native installer for Ubuntu into 8.04 LTS. What I think is really classy about it is the way it uses the Windows Boot Manager sensibly to offer you the Ubuntu option. If I was a Windows user who was intrigued but nervous about Linux, this would be a really great way to get a taste of it, at low risk. Being able to install and uninstall a Linux OS as if it were a Windows app is a brilliant innovation. Kudos to Agostino and Evan, and of course also to the guys who pioneered this sort of thinking (it’s been done in a number of different ways). It looks crisp, clean and very professional

There have been some concerns with Wubi not working on various machines.  A lot of people have been saying that it’s not installing at all for them.  Mark is calling out for everyone to test it out before the upcoming Ubuntu 8.04 “Hardy Heron” release.

So – yesterday I suggested folks hammer on the Heron for servers, today, here’s a call for folks who have a Windows machine and would like to see WUBI in action to test it out and let the developers know if there are any last-minute gotchas. Happy hunting!

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The Good and Bad of Ubuntu Linux


Theres always the question of whether a popular, mildly mainstream Linux distribution like Ubuntu serves the overall GNU/Linux community well. It’s my belief that there are two sides to the debate regarding Ubuntu; the Good, and the Bad. Some people have stated that Ubuntu is becoming the generic Linux distro, while others agree that Linux in the mainstream is great for the growth of Linux. With every widely used and increasingly popular entity comes both good and bad. Let’s go over a few of the good and bad points Ubuntu brings to the Linux community in general.

Ubuntu is good for the Linux community

There are a lot of great things that Canonical and Ubuntu have brought to the Linux desktop. Here are a few.

Easy, straightforward Installation

Theres no question that Ubuntu has redefined the Linux installation process as a whole. It used to take a lot more knowledge for someone to be able to successfully install Linux. Not only that, but once you had Linux installed, you most likely had one or two pieces of hardware that went unrecognized, forcing you to recompile the kernel, or search endlessly for a way to make it work. No doubt this used to turn people away from Linux. Now, an Ubuntu installation usually grabs everything and configures it correctly during the installation process allowing a painless Linux install.

Easy Setup and Configuration

Apart from the straightforward Ubuntu install is the fact that once the installation is complete, you’re placed at the Gnome desktop and most likely ready to do whatever you want. Painless X.org configuration, easy installation of additional packages, even warnings if your device drivers are not open source. Ubuntu has done a lot of good for the configuration and initial setup of the desktop.

Easy Migration from Windows to Linux

Ubuntu has always attempted to make a migration from Windows to Ubuntu Linux as seamless and easy as possible. Now, with the upcoming release of Ubuntu 8.04 Hardy Heron, Windows users will be able to install Ubuntu in a dual-boot like mode right from the Windows desktop using Wubi and umenu. It’s obvious that Ubuntu has a goal of getting users away from Windows and onto the Ubuntu Linux desktop.

Allowing for Mainstream Acceptance

With the Dell announcement in May 2007, and Sun hardware certified and supported on Ubuntu, Canonical is definitely opening the Linux desktop and server environments to a wider audience with Ubuntu. However, it’s not only in a business sense that Ubuntu has opened doors for a wider mainstream acceptance. Ubuntu is also leading the way for Linux becoming more mainstream with computer users in general. Ubuntu has been ranked #1 on Distrowatch for quiet a long time, and it’s no question most new comers to Linux are being recommended to install Ubuntu first.

Ubuntu is bad for the Linux community

Now for a few bad things Ubuntu may be doing to harm the Linux community and reputation.

What is the Command Line Interface?

There are so many Ubuntu users out there that have no clue how operate on the Linux command line. Ubuntu has done well in making their distribution a user friendly, point and click environment. However, as a long time Linux user who started out on the command line, I strongly believe that every Linux user should be able to operate on the CLI if need be, without the use of a GUI application that does everything for you.

Ubuntu *IS* Linux

Adrian Kingsly says it best here. He believes that an increasing number of Linux newbies seem to think that Ubuntu is Linux and Linux is Ubuntu.

What about the Future of Linux?

Now, this may be a bit far-fetched but let’s be hypothetical for a moment. Let’s say Ubuntu becomes *the* Linux distribution. Everyone becomes accustomed to the point and click mentality of Linux, and general audiences (mom, dad, grandmother, sister, neighbor) in middle of main stream America use Ubuntu Linux. Where will Linux go? The whole original idea behind open source and Linux is that we as a community are the ones who are responsible for building onto the project as a whole. If every child, parent, and grandchild ran Linux without the technological knowledge most Linux users today have, would Linux still grow at a decent pace? Who will be our future programmers and kernel hackers if nobody is even introduced to the command line, let alone a programming language? Ubuntu allows users to become ignorant of the technical side of Linux.

I can see both sides

In general, I’m not on either side of thinking Ubuntu is good or bad for Linux as a whole. I can see both sides. I use Ubuntu on my work desktop and laptop and I love the ease of use Ubuntu brings to the desktop. However, I’ve also been waist-deep in command line mess well before Ubuntu was spawned from Debian, so I feel I have a greater appreciation for the ease of Ubuntu administration, configuration and maintenance. I wouldn’t mind seeing Ubuntu Linux rocket to the top of the desktop Operating System chart. I just don’t want Ubuntu to overshadow the roots and original philosophy of GNU/Linux.

Can you think of any other good and bad points of Ubuntu?

SELinux Available on Ubuntu 8.04 “Hardy Heron”

It has been announced that Security-Enhanced Linux (SELinux) will now be available as an alternative security option to AppArmour in Ubuntu 8.04 “Hardy Heron”.

Security-Enhanced Linux (SELinux) is a Linux feature that provides a variety of security policies, including U.S. Department of Defense style mandatory access controls, through the use of Linux Security Modules (LSM) in the Linux kernel.

Here is How to install SELinux on Ubuntu 8.04 taken from the Ubuntu Wiki:

How To Install SELinux on Ubuntu 8.04 “Hardy Heron”

Installing SELinux in Hardy:

  1. Update /etc/apt/sources.list by appending the following:
  2. Update repo:
    • > apt-get update
  3. Install updated packages:
    • > apt-get upgrade
    • These packages have SELinux support patches:
      • libpam0g
      • openssh-server
      • grub
      • login
  4. Install selinux:
    • > apt-get install selinux
    • These packages will be removed:
      • apparmor
      • apparmor-utils
  5. Reboot

If using aptitude instead of apt-get, you will need to manually remove apparmor and apparmor-utils, deselect selinux-policy-dummy, and then choose selinux-policy-refpolicy.

Ubuntu Brainstorm

Ubuntu has opened it’s newest site, Ubuntu Brainstorm, to the public.  The concept behind Ubuntu Brainstorm is similar to Dell’s IdeaStorm, in that users of Ubuntu can submit ideas for improvements to Ubuntu and have the public vote on them.  Similar to Digg, the ideas with the highest votes reach the front page.  What a great idea.  This is further proof that Ubuntu is changing the Linux desktop for the better.

Batch Renaming using KRename

Peter from FOSSwire has a nice article on using KRename to rename a set of files.

Renaming a big set of files can be a right chore. For example, if you’ve just imported a set of digital photos, they’ll usually have really unhelpful and undescriptive filenames such as DSC_0000.jpg.

KRename is a graphical tool for KDE that attempts to make the process of batch renaming a large set of files a whole lot more bearable.

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