STRAIGHT SHOOTIN COMPUTIN
by Jeff Smith
Last time, I began telling you about Linux and the benefits of using it instead of, or in conjunction with Windows. I also told you that there were a great many different distributions of Linux. Today I will talk about my favorite flavor of Linux... Ubuntu.
Ubuntu does just about everything you normally do with Windows. It has a full suite of office software, a powerful graphics editor, media players, web browser, email client, and yes its even got solitaire (with about 50 or 60 other solitaire variations built in) and other games. You can also easily install tons of free software for everything from recording studio software to virtual planetariums.
There are also different versions of it. There's Edubuntu, that is geared toward students and teachers, which has lots of educational software pre-installed. And Xubuntu which runs well on older machines with out-dated hardware.
You can download an install disk from Ubuntu.com for free and follow the instructions on how to burn it, or they'll even mail you up to 10 disks for free if your connection is too slow. So its super easy to get. Its also really easy to install.
They have what is called a Live Disk. If you boot up with this disk in your drive, it will actually load up a temporary copy of Ubuntu for you to try out without ever changing or impacting your Windows files in any way. It comes up to a full desktop, with mouse, icons, even a clock and word processor. If you're on broadband you can even use Firefox to surf the web... and this is just off the install disk.
If you decide you like how it looks and runs (note that it will run much faster after it is installed) you can just doubleclick the icon on the desktop labeled "Install" and begin the install process.
The installer will help you wipe your drive, or divide your drivespace up so that you can keep your Windows installation just as it is. Its pretty good. The only thing that was tricky was setting the timezone.
When it finishes, you can continue using the temporary desktop, or reboot and try see how well it runs after its installed. You'll notice upon rebooting that the installed desktop looks and works just like the temporary desktop. So take your time and play with the temporary desktop before installing it to see if you think you will like it. If it has problems, and you wish to install anyway, or have problems after the install, there is a great online community for free help at UbuntuForums.org.
I recommend that the first time you install it, that you install it onto a non-vital computer, or wait until you main computer needs to be wiped anyway. And its always a good idea to back up any non-replaceable data before installing ANY operating system. That goes for people upgrading to the new Windows Vista too.
Next time I'll be discussing some of the differences between Windows and Ubuntu, so don't rush out and install it right away. If it sounds good to you, download or order an install disk, but be prepared to feel a little lost. Also, keep in mind that while for most computers Ubuntu "just works," it is not compatible with every piece of hardware out there so there may be snags here and there to getting everything set up just right.
As always you can reach me for question or comment at