Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Ubuntu 8.04 LTS and Windows Vista


If there has  ever been a time to try Ubuntu, now is the time. The latest soon-to-be full release supports the latest hardware, almost entirely out-of-the-box. What's even better is the latest release, 8.04, allows for the option to install Ubuntu directly inside Windows.

Support for NTFS partitions has been in beta and almost a risk to the user, but now it works seamlessly with Ubuntu. When you download the latest ISO image from http://releases.ubuntu.com/releases/8.04/, or any other mirror, instead of burning the image to a CD, just download and install Virtual Clone Drive, a free tool used to mount ISO images as a CD-ROM. Of course this tool won't let you use an ISO image as a bootable disk to install Ubuntu the "normal" way, but it does work to install Ubuntu directly inside of Windows.

The installer (called Wubi) works almost exactly like a virtual machine. It creates an image that is whatever size you desire, and then uses that image as the drive. Wubi will then alter your boot-loader (this works with the Vista boot-loader as well). So unlike the olden days where a user who was curious about testing Linux would create a second partition, alter the Master Boot Record (MBR) and then install another boot-loader (like Grub), Wubi keeps it simple. Wubi installs Ubuntu into Windows, adds a line into the Windows boot-loader, and then works like normal.

The problem with the old way of installing Linux is it would alter the MBR. Once the MBR has been altered, it takes some extra hoops to jump through if the user desires to delete Linux and go back to just Windows.

Now you just delete a file.

Actually, it's easier than that. You run an uninstaller, and it restores the Windows boot-loader, deletes the virtual image, and any other files it created to set this up.

For all the Linux-illiterate people, if I could sum this up into two messages, I'd say this:


1) Try the latest (I have the beta) version of Ubuntu, 8.04.

2) Try it in Windows (it supports Vista).



1) Make sure you install the 32-bit version of Ubuntu inside the 32-bit version of Windows, or 64-bit with 64-bit.  Don't try to cross them. IT JUST WON'T WORK.

2) Don't deal with burning the ISO to a CD. It doesn't support some drives anyway. Just use Virtual Clone Drive - it's free.