“Don’t call it a comeback I’ve been here for years” 🙂 It’s been a while since I wrote anything meaningful in here, sorry folks things have been a bit hectic lately. Anyway, last week I undertook Operation Clean Sweep on my cousin’s laptop. The mission was to install Ubuntu and give the machine a new lease of life. I was intending to take pictures of the process for the blog but stupidly forgot to charge my camera before leaving the house, “ah well I’ve hardly used it there’ll be loads of charge left” I thought… wrong 🙁 I only go 1 pic so prepare to see a lot of that one 😉
I didn’t really know anything about the machine before I arrived, I thought it would be a desktop but to my surprise it was a Dell Inspiron 6000 laptop. Nice piece of kit I have to say, it was a Singapore model as my cousin recently moved back from New Zealand. It also had an American keyboard layout which I thought was a bit strange but I suppose most of the stuff made in Singapore is shipped to the states anyway. It wasn’t a problem as Ubuntu has hundreds of language options and they are easily setup. It even gives you a text box to try out your keys and make sure they’re right during the install wizard. Mmm Nice
My Install Kit:
Here is a list of what I took with me to do the job. It wasn’t anything spectacular just a few bits and pieces really but I thought you may want to know.
- Ubuntu 7.04 Feisty Fawn LiveCD
- Gparted 3.3 LiveCD
- Ethernet Cable (because you never know)
- Freecom External USB Hard Disk
- USB device lead
- A couple of screwdrivers (I wasn’t lying you really never know)
So, down to work then. The first thing I did was make sure any important data on the machine was backed up, I was going to use my Freecom usb disk for this but in the event I didn’t need to as all the backups were done before my arrival. Happy days. The next step was to put the Ubuntu CD into the machine and reboot it, I had to change the boot sequence in BIOS so it checked the DVD-ROM drive first and not the hard disk. This is common and easy to do on most machines, it usually involves pressing something like F12 or one of the other function keys when the initial splash screen pops up as the machine is first powered on, you only get a few seconds at most to do this so be quick on the draw, this machine gave you 2 seconds to press F12 and I missed it a few times. There is usually a prompt on the screen telling you which key to press anyway.
After that the Ubuntu LiveCD booted up and I was presented with the usual menu, I chose the first option “Start Or Install Ubuntu” and waited for the operating system to start. It took a few minutes to load the OS but that’s not surprising since it was all running directly from the CD and access speeds are slow. The system ran fine and the screen resolution was all correct so I thought “great this is going to be easy”, the only thing I was worried about was the wireless connection but I thought that would work after the system was properly installed and not just running off the CD. So I followed the install link on the desktop and then the on-screen instructions. I’ve installed Ubuntu numerous times now and know what to do pretty much instinctively but I think the instructions are easy enough to follow whatever your technical ability.
I went through the instructions until I reached the disk partitioning section and it was at this point I encountered a problem I have never seen on any other system before. I set the partition size I wanted and waited for the installer to resize the disk but after a few minutes it threw up an error saying there was permissions problem and it couldn’t write to the disk. I have to admit this was unexpected and I haven’t seen it on other machines. Luckily I had my trusty Gparted LiveCD with me to fix the problem. Gparted is great, it’s a partitioning tool similar to Partition Magic or many other commercial packages only it’s completely free and open source. It has a complete Linux OS on the disk tailored to disk operations, it runs complete from temporary RAM disks and gives you full control over the hard drives. I booted it up and used the partitioner to make a 10gb drive with some unused space from the main Windows partition. Gparted managed to write the changes to the disk without a problem and I was ready to go through with the install again.
This time the installer worked on my new 10gb partition and within about 15mins the new system was installed and ready to go. I had imported all the account settings from Windows during the install wizard and it all looked good. The on-board Intel wireless card was installed and working, all I needed to do was get the WEP key from my cousin’s BT Homehub wireless router and enter it. We have wireless, so simple and certainly no more difficult than Windows, possibly even easier. Wireless can be a problem for some people on Ubuntu I know but this worked like a dream and most manufacturers have at last realized they need to offer drivers compatible with Linux, hopefully this situation will continue to improve in the future. Intel cards are usually very good on all Linux systems. That was about it really everything was done, the only other things I did were install Amarok and a few other minor things for my cousin to try out with his iPod. I also installed Automatix2 to help him get all the proprietary programs he’s used to installed easily. A lot Ubuntu “experts” have a problem with Automatix because the way it installs restricted software but I’ve never had a problem with it and I honestly think for new users it’s a great way of getting used to Ubuntu. You can look into the “proper” way of installing things once you get more comfortable. Check it out here
Ubuntu installed nice and easily on this Dell machine, which is no real surprise when you consider that Dell are now partnered with Canonical to ship Ubuntu pre-installed. The one area I was concerned about was wireless setup but it worked easily straight out of the box. All had to do was double click the wireless icon next to the clock and enter the security key, how easy is that? I thought it would be much more difficult. I installed Ubuntu in the normal way on this machine by just partitioning off a little bit of the disk because you see unlike Windows, Ubuntu isn’t bloated, out of date, ludicrously insecure and overpriced. I can feel those MS libel suits winging there way to my door as we speak 🙂 In fact I didn’t even remove Windows from the machine because I know getting used to the freedom of Ubuntu can be difficult after 20 years of MS brainwashing, it still boots Windows just fine, the only difference is now you have a choice on the boot menu. I like choice. When my cousin gets used to Ubuntu and is happy to dump Windows (which won’t take long) I’ll go back round and cleanse his machine properly. Until then he is free to experiment with Ubuntu and keep his Windows safety net. There’s no risk, so what have you got to lose? If you haven’t tried Ubuntu yet do yourself a favour and get over to http://www.ubuntu.com where the live CD is only 700mb and can be downloaded in 3 hours on a decent connection, then you’re free to do what you like with it. That’s the power of open source. It can’t stay a secret for ever so get it now and you can gloat when the rest of the world wakes up… if you’re that way inclined.
So why not go and try it for yourself. You never know, you just might like it 😉