Grabbing Ubuntu was easy; it’s just a matter of download it from the Ubuntu website. It is possible to order free CDs with Ubuntu, but it is much easier to just download an .iso-file from the website. Then just burn a CD from the iso-image using CD Burner XP.
If Ubuntu wants to reach out to the average users just wanting to do their spreadsheets downloading iso-images and burning them to CDs is not a viable distribution method. There are other ways of getting Ubuntu, such as ordering it from a vendor, order the free Ubuntu CDs or buy a new Dell computer. Seriously though, average users should be able to download Ubuntu and get it on a CD or USB-stick with ease.
Most current Windows users would probably want a dual-boot setup, enabling to choose between Windows and Ubuntu. This is actually quite easy to achieve without much work. The key is however to install Windows first and Ubuntu last, since Windows will over-write the boot sector.
Dual-boot installation of Ubuntu, step-by-step
1) Make sure your Ubuntu CD is in the drive and start your computer. Enter the BIOS; select the CD-drive as the primary boot partition.
2) If you restart the computer Ubuntu will eventually show a menu. You can either select to install Ubuntu directly or try it out first without installing. I decided to try first.
3) After a while Ubuntu eventually booted (I takes time since it boots from the CD). The view you know see is actually Ubuntu running of the CD. It is perfectly possible to just browse around in the system and see if you like it. Check the examples folder for testimonials, there is even a video of Nelson Mandela explaining the concept of Ubuntu. If you like to make Ubuntu a permanent OS on your computer click the Install icon on the desktop.
4) Follow the steps in the Ubuntu installation (the usual stuff like time-zone, keyboard layout and so on).
The most important part is the partitioning of the drive; choose how much space you want Ubuntu to use by pulling the slider. A minimum of 4 GB is needed for space and the Ubuntu swap-file. Remember that you can store files on both partitions, so your reference should be how much software you eventually will use. I dedicated 180 GB to Ubuntu and the rest of my 500 GB drive to Windows Vista.
The Ubuntu installation will now partition your drive; this is a vital process which for me took about 20 minutes. Never pull the plug on the computer during this process, it can damage your drive.
The next time you re-boot you will be greeted by Ubuntu. Or not quite, you will actually be greeted by Grub (Grand Unified Bootloader) which is a boot loader allowing you to choose if you want to boot Windows or Ubuntu. Grub is the most common boot loader for Linux, and to be quite frank it is not a pretty sight. Visually it looks like leftovers from the old Unix-era. A little annoyance is that Grub is set to load Ubuntu by default (if the user does not take any action), I wanted it to boot Windows Vista (or Longhorn which Grub names it) by default.
Using a normal simple Windows PC (or Apple for that matter) I could have just clicked an icon or pressed a key or fiddle around in a menu and make it happen. But changing default settings in Grub is a little bit more complicated than that. After searching the handy Ubuntu user community I found the solution, which includes changing values in configuration files..
A very typical Linux experience, but I got what I wanted. I am no expert on boot times but Ubuntu does seem faster to boot than Windows 7.
When trying my new operating system the refresh rates was terrible compared to what I was used to in Windows 7. After a while I found a box where it was possible to change the rate, the terrible low refresh rate (50 Hz) was however the only option. Of I went trying to help my already strained eyes.
It turned out that System -> Preferences ->Screen Resolution is not the correct location for changing the refresh rate. Instead it’s done in the Nvidia-settings menu; the problem was of course that Ubuntu didn’t recognize my computer’s Geforce 8600 GT during installation. However it was quite easy to install the Nvidia drivers using the integrated Ubuntu Add/Remove programs functionality. When changing the settings in the Nvidia-menus the original Screen Resolution menu still displayed 50 Hz, but you could tell that the refresh rate was much higher.
I feel that Ubuntu still has a long way to go when it comes to configuration and changing settings. You often have to use the terminal window, which for Windows users would be a flashback to the Windows 3.1-days. While a lot has been improved in Ubuntu compared to older versions of SuSE there is still some work that remains to be done before the average user can install and configure his or her own Ubuntu installation.