First lemme talk about the Wubi install. Essentially I just put the newly burnt Ubuntu CD into the computer while it was running Windows XP and it popped up a neat little window asking me if I wanted to reboot and try it out in Live mode, or if I wanted to install it inside of Windows. I selected the option to install within Windows and was greeted with a second screen, which I will be including in this article. Here I made a mistake. I put in a password that was only a single digit long. The installation seemed to progress properly until it got to the point where it wanted to reboot. Upon rebooting it went into a LiveCD session off of the Wubi install. I realized this wasn't correct almost immediately. So rebooting back to Windows, I went into the Control Panel and clicked on Add/Remove Programs. Ubuntu was there on the list and two clicks later it was removed.
I started up the Wubi install again and this time I put in a password of 8 letters (it turns out you need at least a six-letter password) and commenced the installation a second time. This time Ubuntu installed flawlessly and I was able to do all of the normal customizations that I like to do just like a normal Ubuntu install.
Booting back to Windows was easy, in fact it was the default option. To clarify, all you have to do to boot into Windows is just turn your machine on. There is a menu to select between Ubuntu and Windows when it first starts up and if you don't select a choice, it will automatically boot into Windows in about 10 seconds or so.
From what I hear, it doesn't go so easily on Windows Vista machines. Apparently Microsoft has done something in an attempt to block the Wubi installer by ejecting the CD during the installation process. To get around this, if you're a Vista user, you copy the Wubi.exe file from the CD to someplace on your computer and start it from there. This will allow you to bypass the little MS tripwire and install Ubuntu via Wubi.
All in all I consider the Wubi installer to be a success. A few bugs to work out for consistency's sake, but it installed fine and it uninstalled cleanly. I just wish it had a warning about expected password length.
My laptop upgrade went well, all my software was updated to the newest versions and my custom wallpaper and application settings were all left alone. I didn't even have to reconfigure my wireless card. One thing that was a little disappointing to me was the loss of XMMS, which happens to be one of my favorite audio players. Apparently it is no longer supported by Ubuntu. Thankfully there are about 4 or 5 clones of it (XMMS itself is a clone of the Windows program Winamp) and I've started using Audacious, which looks exactly like XMMS did, but has some advanced features added.
I haven't yet gotten a chance to mess with the Pulse Audio other than to verify that it was indeed there. I did notice that while it is installed by default, the Volume Control application doesn't look any different from before. So I am guessing if you want to utilize all of the special controls then a quick download of some Pulse Audio utilities from Synaptic Package Manager is probably neccessary. For the most part it is invisible, but when I get into some music making later on I believe I will be very happy that it is already installed and configured properly.
Something else I noticed was that on the Wubi install, Open Office was not a full install. It had the word processor and spreadsheet but had left out the database and a couple of the other elements. Of course installing the rest of it was painless and quick. Alternately, on my laptop, which already had a full Open Office install, it continued to have the full installation which was upgraded to the latest version. Just something to be aware of for those of you trying it out via Wubi. If you need the full office suite, be sure to go to "Add / Remove" at the bottom of the Applications toolbar and add it in.
For users wanting to do a full install (not via Wubi) I noticed that they had changed the timezone selection process a little. Where before was a zoomable map with points to select a city that shares the same timezone as your own, now they have a hyper-sensitive auto-zooming map that does the same job, but somehow seems to make it harder. I was vastly disappointed in this change and jumped into the #ubuntu chat room--which was a complete mad house with over 1600 users logged in--to let them know how I felt. I was responded to by a user named Evand who asked me how I thought it SHOULD have been. After expounding upon the flaws and should-have-beens he told me I should go and make a bug report. Upon doing this, I found that Evand was the programmer responsible for that portion of the installer. So he was basically asking me to make a list of things for him to change to make it better. That was pretty awesome. Perhaps Evand will have improved it by the time Intrepid Ibex comes out.
If you tried Ubuntu in the past but were stopped by wireless support issues, well (Mr. Moss), from all appearances, Hardy has just about the same wireless support as the last version. There are minor improvements, but nothing really big. If you card was supposed to be supported but for some reason you couldn't get it to work, you may have better luck with Hardy. If your card wasn't supported before, it is likely not supported now. Although I have been hearing some faint rumors of something major going on with wireless drivers, nothing concrete has manifested as of yet. I'll be sure to let you know when something does.
All in all, I think Ubuntu 8.04 Hardy Heron is a good strong release. It doesn't do the dishes or bring back the dead, but its a solid operating system that does more than the last version did while also being easier to install than it has ever been before. If you're at all curious about Linux, I invite you to go to www.Ubuntu.com and order a CD, or alternately you could just go to http://wubi-installer.org/ and download Wubi which will then download the ISO and install Ubuntu automagically without ever needing to burn a disc.
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