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question answer

As I promised to include your (the readers’) suggestions, comments and questions into my articles, so here is the first of such requests.
Ram has a question for me here which I quote:

Hi Varun,

I have been reading articles here as well as at makeuseofit …please keep writing interesting and useful tips for non-technical guys like me…

I have a 5 years old laptop (Pentium IV, 512 MB RAM, XP Home). Internal DVD drive is not working. I have an external DVD drive. I dont think this laptop can be booted from USB drive. I would like to install linux and get rid of the XP. Could you please suggest me what linux distribution and how do I install it using external dvd drive or using floppy drive.

Thanks


Here is what I think and suggest:

First of all Ram mentions he is non-technical but let me thank him for the wonderful description and the amount of information he provided. That really helps. Coming to the problem I have a few suggestions for you Ram:

      1.
      Since you are going to use Linux for the first time I would suggest to go with Ubuntu almost certainly. Its easy to use for beginners and is pretty robust like any other Linux distro. As you mature and develop a taste you can try other Distros (flavors of Linux).
      2.
      I would like to ask if you have installed another operating system before on your laptop? The reason for this is that laptops generally come with a sort of factory reset functionality where you can use an operating system image to reinstall or restore the operating system to the settings it initially had when you bought it. You would like to make a backup of such a rescue partition if your laptop has one.
      3.
      Given the scenario of non functional internal drive and having an external drive(I am assuming its USB) and the inability to boot from USB I would recommend to first Google for BIOS update for your laptop model. If a BIOS update is available you must update your BIOS and see if you can then boot from USB. If it helps your problem is already solved else read ahead.
      4.
      You can follow two paths:
      One, If you have taken care of all the above or don’t want to do them for some reason this is the one you are looking for. Download the latest Ubuntu desktop CD (Currently Hardy Heron) and then follow these simple steps I mention in an earlier post. You will have Linux up and running in a matter of minutes from your external drive. Note that this won’t remove XP, but give you a dual boot system (which is better I would say).
      5.
      The other path: Since you say that you are a non technical guy so I am not explaining about the ways to install using only a floppy(can be confusing for first timers). But if you are interested check here. Please note you will require the alternate cd(check the checkbox to download the alternate CD) if you follow this path.

    Do let me and the readers know if you want to know something else, remember “Those who are afraid to ask are ashamed of learning”, no question is foolish (specially not here). Also tell if you managed to solve the problem.

    If anyone has a better solution or would like to add to mine so that we can help Ram out do leave a comment!

    And you can also fire up your questions or tech challenges. Do it here for easy organization.

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This is the Step by step tutorial on installing Linux, just as Mova promised. Refer to the earlier posts on Linux Demystified here and here to know the background of this tutorial.

Prerequisites:

  • About 5GB free hard disk space.
  • Working windows installation.
  • Ubuntu or Kubuntu or Edubuntu cd or a fast Internet connection.
  • Wubi (not required if you have Ubuntu, Kubuntu or Edubuntu 8.04 cd).

Procedure:

Step 1: Put the Ubuntu, Kubuntu or Edubuntu (referred to as Ubuntu from here on) into the cd drive. A screen like the following will appear automatically. If it doesn’t, it means you have autorun disabled, in that case go to My Computer > Double Click on Ubuntu Icon > Double Click on umenu.exe

I am using Kubuntu, if you use Ubuntu it would be all the same just the image and colors will be different.

Step 2: Click on "Install inside Windows". You will be greeted by the following screen.

This is where all the action is!!

Step 3: Refer to the image and the appropriate number to view its details:

  1. Choose the Windows partition where you want to install Ubuntu.
  2. Choose the space you want to allocate to the Ubuntu Installation.
  3. Choose Desktop Environment. More on this later. For starters I would recommend Gnome, but then if you know what you are doing, you can choose anyone here. Its no big deal.
  4. Choose the language
  5. Choose the username. This will be used to log into Ubuntu.
  6. Choose the password for the above username. Both these details are required when you boot into Ubuntu.

Now simply click on install, installation will begin as shown below (make sure you are connected to the Internet if you are not doing this from cd), go fetch a Coffee or two!!

The Installation Begins

Step 4: Have Coffee! You don’t have to do anything!! Wubi is working for you. After the progress on the above screen completes you will see this:

Wubi creating virtual disks

Step 5: Have another coffee! Wubi will soon complete its work and ask you for a restart.

Reboot

Step 6: You are almost there. Choose reboot now and click on finish. You computer will reboot, but this time its different. You will see an entry named Ubuntu in the Choose Operating System Menu. Use arrow keys to choose Ubuntu ( I often see people trying to use mouse on this screen. It wont work!!) and press enter.

Choose Ubuntu here


Disclaimer: The above shot is of Vista Boot Manager that I found on Google Image Search ( I dont have a camera good enough to post my own shot). With XP the screen looks almost the same. Just wanted to give you an idea.

Step 7: Ubuntu will go through the process of setting up the operating system for the first time. This would take some time depending upon the specifications of your machine. Once its done. You can login into your Linux installation using the username and password you provided in Step 3 above.

This is it. You have Ubuntu running on you system and you didnt have to touch any partition of configure GRUB. Enjoy! Most of the things work out of the box. You might have a minor glitch or two depending on your hardware, this can usually be sorted by searching the Ubuntu Forums or check out the Ubuntu IRC at freenode.

 

Step By Step Tutorial Details:

  • Time for completion: 30 – 35 minutes depending on your hardware.
  • Difficulty level: Easy – Moderate
  • Karma, Satisfaction or Joy you gain: 10/10 🙂

 

Feel free to ask any question on any of the tutorials and let me know your experience. Also contribute on what other tutorials you would like to read. I will surely try to include them. Long Live the Ubuntu Spirit!

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Picking up the conversation between Ruby and Mova about Linux Demystified, here is part 2 of the conversation. Apparently Ruby has received cds through ShipIt and is excited to try out Ubuntu. Mova being the ideal helpful guy for the situation again helps her out. So here we go:

Ruby: Hi Mova, I got Ubuntu cds and I m very excited to try Ubuntu, but I am a little skeptical, should I completely remove Windows or can I have 2 operating systems on one computer?
Mova: Well, that is a matter of personal preference. Theoretically speaking you cannot have two operating systems on the same computer, but there is a very commonly used work around to this. Its known as partitioning the Hard Disk.

Ruby: What is partitioning? How can I do it? Please elaborate.
Mova: Try opening My Computer on your Windows machine and see if you can find hard drive icons marked something like C:, D:, E:. These are nothing but partitions on your hard disk. Partitions let you slice your hard disk into smaller units. All this is logical means that you don’t actually have to take saw and hammer to slice your hard disk. lol.. If you right click on any of them (Shortcut key is Alt + Enter) then you can see the properties of each of the partitions which also includes their size. If you add up the size of all the partitions it should roughly sum up to the capacity of your hard disk. I say roughly because some space is unused and kept reserved by the manufacturers.
You can partition the hard disk using a variety of methods, at time of installation or from within Computer Management, or using utility cds like Hiren’s Boot CD.

Ruby: Why do I need partitioning? This seams scary. What if I mess up?
Mova: Using partitioning you trick the operating system to believe that there is no other operating system on the hard disk. Operating Systems are not very friendly you see. They can’t ever exist on the same partition. It is a bit scary for the first time, but once you get hold of it, its a piece of cake. And yes if you mess up partitioning, more often then not you are in a bad bad situation 🙂

Ruby: No no no I am not ready to take any risks with my data, probably I will wait till I get a new Computer and then install Ubuntu on it.
Mova: There is nothing to be worried about. Have you ever installed a software in Windows?

Ruby: Huh? what sort of question is this? Of course I have.
Mova: Then I assure you and guarantee you that you can install Ubuntu without doing any damage to your computer or data. Trust me I wont lie.

Ruby: But I have never done partitioning, and then I have heard that its even more difficult to configure a dual boot system. There is GRUB, there is LILO, MBR, NTLDR and all kinds of words, I don’t know about any of them, I am not sure I want to do this.

wubi installer
Wubi Ubuntu Installer

Mova: As I said, you have to trust me. I have nothing to gain if you install Ubuntu or not so I won’t misguide you. I say its easy then I mean its easy. Okay if you don’t believe me have a look at Wubi at http://wubi-installer.org/

Ruby: Wubi! I like the name, It rhymes with mine! But what is it?
Mova: In one word it is an “installer”. It helps you install Linux inside Windows! Yes I said “Inside Windows”. It doesn’t resize or create new partitions and it doesn’t change your Windows installation. As they say and I quote, “No need to burn a CD. Just run the installer, enter a password for the new account, and click “Install”, go grab a coffee, and when you are back, Ubuntu will be ready for you.”

Ruby: Oh this means my wait for the cd was all futile?

hardy heron
Hardy Heron

Mova: Well not exactly, what Wubi does is that it downloads the files from the Internet, but having them on the cd before hand just makes your work faster and a little more reliable. So you did the right thing Ruby! As of Ubuntu Hardy Heron, Wubi is included in the installation cd. So you wont have to download anything.

Ruby: Ok ok, Just for curiosity’s sake is this another of Linux’s Magic? I mean how Wubi manages to do so?
Mova: First of all, Congrats to Agostino Russo, who came up with this idea of Wubi! I myself Love it. The idea is somewhat similar to what we have been discussing. It actually tricks the Operating System to believe that it has its own hard disk and no other operating system exists on it. However the similarity ends there. While we were discussing partitioning, Wubi actually installs the system as a file (c:\ubuntu\disks\root.disk) inside Windows and Linux sees this file as a hard disk. It uses a loop mount file system but thats getting technical so we leave it for some other time!

Ruby: So how do I proceed with Wubi?
Mova: Although there is no risk but it is always a good idea to back up your important data. You take some time, backup your data, till then I will prepare all the steps for you and write it in a systematic manner. Do check me here soon.

End of part 2. Don’t forget to join us when Mova provides a step by step tutorial on Linux Installation!

Check out part 1 of the conversation here


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