Getting Started With Ubuntu Linux : Installation (I)

(NOTE : If you're visiting my blog for the first time, take a look at this first)

Now that you've decided to give Ubuntu a shot, here's a pretty simple guide on how to go about it.
One very unique but incredibly useful feature is the concept of ‘Live Media’. What it essentially means is, that you can try out Ubuntu (and most other distros) directly off a CD or a USB stick, without touching your hard drive. So you can access pretty much all the features of a fully featured OS without writing a singly byte of data onto your hard drive. It allows you to gain familiarity with the User Interface, and decide for yourself if splitting your hard drive is really worth it. (There’s a mild Horcrux reference in there ;) )
This is supposed to be a very generic guide, there are loads of detours one can take, depending on how old/recent your system is and your personal preferences. It also focuses on the Ubuntu Desktop/Netbook Edition, I have no idea what the Ubuntu Server Edition is like. I’ve split up this guide into two parts because of it’s size; since being the first truly ‘technical’ post I couldn’t afford to be brief.

Part I - Getting to the Ubuntu Desktop

1. Prepare the installation media.
Irrespective of whether you intend to do a hard install / virtualize / install within Windows or just try out Ubuntu, you’ll need an .iso image. It can be downloaded free of cost from
Depending on your processor architecture, you’ll have to choose between the 32-bit and the 64-bit editions. If you know for sure that you’re using a 64-bit processor, go with the 64-bit version (amd64 architecture is not limited to AMD processors, it works just as well for 64-bit Intel processors as well.)
If you’re unsure (and don’t want to bother finding out) go with the 32-bit version, it’s almost guaranteed to work.
(If, for some reason you’re unable to download the file, you can order a CD, and it’ll be shipped to you free of cost. Visit http://www.ubuntu.com/desktop/get-ubuntu/cds to find out more).

Let me digress here and introduce you to Ubuntu-based distros. These are essentially rehashed versions of Ubuntu, with slightly altered objectives. Most of them are geared towards out-of-the-box usability. Two noteworthy spinoffs are Linux Mint and Pinguy OS.
  1. Linux Mint is a very popular alternative among first-time user, mainly due to it’s inclusion of proprietary codecs for popular media formats such as .mp3. It comes with slightly altered versions of the Ubuntu Software Centre and the Update Manager. Even though it is fully compatible with Ubuntu packages (meaning any software you use in Ubuntu will work just as well in Mint); it has evolved into a separate entity with a dedicated fan following.
  2. Pinguy OS is my preferred alternative. If something were to happen to my computer, and I was required to re-install my OS, I’d go with this one. What it is, is a heavily tweaked and modified Ubuntu with a large bunch of software pre-installed. The sheer amount of software that comes bundled with it can be judged by the fact that its .iso image weighs a hefty 1.3 GB ! Along with software, it has many of the cool eye-candy effects that you’ve heard so much about, pre-configured. If you don’t want to be bothered with tweaking, theming and modifying your Ubuntu, this is the choice for you !
2. Creating a Bootable Device :
Once you’ve downloaded the .iso image, you’ll need to either burn it onto a CD or create a ‘bootable USB’. Assuming you’re on Windows, the former is relatively easy to accomplish, anyone remotely familiar with computers shouldn’t have any problems. The second option might seem a little daunting, but is equally simple, and I recommend it over the CD for the obvious reason that it can be erased and re-written onto.

Preparing a bootable USB drive : UNetBootin is a small utility that allows you to create bootable pen drives from almost any .iso image. It’s a standalone file that runs on Windows as well as Linux, with the process being as simple as selecting the .iso image and selecting your pen-drive from the list of devices.

3. Booting from the Installation Media :
Once you’ve created your CD / USB drive, insert it and boot from the device by altering the boot-device priority order in your BIOS settings. Sounds Greek ? On most computers, the first screen you see after powering on, contains a line that says press F_ to enter Boot Menu. Once you’ve entered the BIOS settings page, just select your device from the list and hit enter.
Select Live-Install or Try Ubuntu from the menu that shows up.
You’ll find yourself face to face with the Ubuntu Desktop, which at first might seem like a mashup of Windows and a Mac OS. Take time to browse around and get a feel of things. Notice that you can access your entire hard-drive’s contents from the Live environment and can even make changes to the data. However, no changes will be made without your involvement.

(to be continued...)

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