First Look: Linux on my laptop

A long time ago and far, far away… (ugh) I was messing around with a very basic version of Linux, the free Unix clone on a Frankenstein PC I’d built up.  I wasn’t much impressed and soon forgot all about it.  Recently I got the itch to look at it again and downloaded a free distribution of Linux called Ubuntu.  This particular download involved using WUBI, an installer for Ubuntu that allowed me to install Linux on my laptop without screwing up my Windows XP install.  I found that I liked it.  I’ve not a lot of expereince here, but it looks like the closest thing going for a decent Linux desktop OS and its a world of difference from the ancient Red Hat version that I’d installed from floppy disks back in the ’90s.

(As an aside, I must mention that I had 15+ years in the computer business before economic forces turned me into a truck driver.  But I don’t think you need that kind of experience to do what I did.  But you really do need a more than casual understanding of how PCs work before you start messing with Linux and go poking at your PC or laptop.  I’m just sayin…)

Last month I got a book at Barnes and Noble all about Ubuntu 8.04 (The Official Ubuntu Book) that came with an install DVD and lots of info on how to install and run Ubuntu.  You can also run Ubuntu from the DVDROM and test drive it before you ever fart around with your hardware. So I took the plunge and decided to install it as a dual boot with it’s own partition on my laptop’s little 80 gb hard drive. But first I had to do some cleaning up of my old Windows in preparation for resizing the partitions on my hard drive.  Not a job for the faint of heart…

Of course all my data files are backed up, I use Mozy.com to send everything off to a secure place out there on the Internet and I had my Toshiba A55 recovery CD on hand before I did all this.  I cleaned out a lot of unused programs and files (and the WUBI install) and then got a freeware defragmenter program, JKDefrag, that optimized my hard drive and moved everything "Windows" to the front of the partition it was in.  Took about an hour but XP never blinked.  Then I ran the install program by booting from the DVDROM, shrunk the NTFS partition that Windows lived in to 60 gb and created a system (16 gb) and swap (4 gb) partition for Ubuntu. A half hour after that, Ubuntu was installed and I was able to dual boot between XP and Ubuntu and they both actually worked!  I was seriously afraid of killing my XP install, but after a disk check, the XP system ran like always.  When I start up the laptop a boot menu will let me pick what operating system I want to play with.

I’d been puttering around with Ubuntu for a couple of weeks and so far I like it.  The only things Ubuntu won’t do are play my DVD movies and run my GPS/Mapping program.  But other than that, I get OpenOffice for word processing, spreadsheets, etc and Firefox for my web browsing and many other fine program that came right from the DVDROM.  It hooked up easily to my laptop’s WiFi  and every other piece of hardware on my old Toshiba.  You can also load up a program called WINE and run some windows program right in Ubuntu.

I’m going to futz around with it some more and maybe I’ll post some more here if anyone is interested (as if anyone is reading this crap).  I’m down for the weekend at a Flying J in VA waiting for Monday to roll around, so I’ve nothing better to do…

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