Linux is hard to learn, undersupported, and generally a bit sub-standard. Right? Perhaps I came to the Linux game late on, but I can’t really think of a time when that was the case. Even using Linux workstations in the late ’90s, it still seemed fairly stable and good to work with.
Having said that, I’ve never got into using Linux as my main OS – preferring to stick with Windows and, lately, Mac OS X. I needed a free OS for a computer at work, though, and decided to give Ubuntu a shot – I’d heard plenty of people saying that Ubuntu was probably the easiest to install and get running.
So, did it live up to the hype? Well, I visited Ubuntu.com and downloaded the latest CD iso. I popped that into the soon to be ex-Windows PC and rebooted. In just a few minutes (the PC doesn’t have a lot of memory) I was up and running in a Live CD version of Ubuntu. “Great”, I thought, “I can have a poke around before I actually decide to install it”, but in the end I decided to install without playing because I knew I was going to wipe the computer no matter what.
Installation was very easy – the installer guided me through, asking me whether I wanted to use the entire hard disc for Linux or repartition part of it. It asked me to set up a default user and password, and then proceeded to wipe the HDD and install the system. At this point I went away for a cup of tea, and came back an hour later to find that it was all done and just wanted me to take the CD out of the drive before rebooting. I did get a warning that, because I wasn’t connected to the net, some security patches hadn’t been installed, but I’m not too worried since that particular computer will never go online.
I was so pleased with how easy it had been to install Ubuntu on my work PC, I thought I’d give it a go on my Mac, using Boot Camp to let me pick which OS I wanted to use. I followed this guide, so I won’t go through the whole thing, but I will point out a few tricky points:
- Boot Camp looks slightly different to how it looks in the guide’s screenshots, but the basic process of setting up the Windows partition is still the same.
- To boot from the Ubuntu Live CD, I held down “C” when starting up the computer, rather than holding down “alt”. I don’t know if “alt” would have worked… but I know “C” did :)
- You need to select “manual” when you get to the point of repartitioning your HDD, instead of picking any of the guided options. This is fine, but I had a confusing moment when I saw a list of what looked like six partitions on my hard drive. However, I opted to delete the largest FAT32 partition (it matched the size of partition I had set up through Boot Camp) and everything was OK. Not so much an issue, but just something that made me think very hard in case I erased the wrong partition!
From then on it was much the same as installing on the PC – create your default user and let everything install. 45 minutes later I had a working Ubuntu environment on my Mac-Mini. The bluetooth and wireless connections were both detected properly from the beginning, too, which I thought would be an area I’d have some bother with.
To boot into Ubuntu, then, you hold down “alt” when the Mac is booting up, and you’re presented with icons for two hard drives – Mac OS X, and Windows. Ubuntu is installed in the Windows partition, so you just select that and up comes your shiny new Linux system. Of course, you can leave the “alt” key well alone, and you’ll boot into MAC OS X just as before.
One final thing: after rebooting into Ubuntu for the first time, about 200 updates needed to be installed. This took a further hour, but I could have a look around the desktop and play with some of the programs while that was happening.
So that’s it – I installed Ubuntu as the single OS on a PC, and as an alternative on a Boot Camp enabled Mac… both fairly easily, and both without incident. Perhaps Ubuntu really is the simplest Linux distro after all!