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The Official Ubuntu Book, 6th Edition: Installing Ubuntu

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This chapter explains how to choose a version of Ubuntu and then how to install your chosen version.
This chapter is from the book

Chapter 2. Installing Ubuntu

  • Choosing Your Ubuntu Version
  • Getting Ubuntu
  • Installing from the Desktop CD
  • Installing from the Alternate Install CD
  • Installing from a USB Key
  • Installing from within Windows
  • Summary

If you are reading this, it is probably safe to assume that you have decided to give Ubuntu a try. You will find that Ubuntu is flexible and powerful not only as an operating system but also in how you evaluate and install it.

Trying Ubuntu is simple. The Ubuntu desktop CD is a special "live" CD. You can use this disk to run Ubuntu from the CD itself without Ubuntu removing or even interacting with your hard disk. This is ideal if you are already using another operating system like Windows or Mac OS X; you can try Ubuntu by running it from the CD, and you don't have to worry about it overwriting the data on your hard drive or changing any part of your current operating system unless you intentionally choose to do so.

Choosing Your Ubuntu Version

The developers behind Ubuntu have worked to make the software as easy and flexible to install as possible. They understand that people will be installing Ubuntu on computers with varying purposes (desktops, servers, laptops, and so on) and using different types of computers (PCs and Macs, 32-bit and 64-bit computers, and so on). To cater to as many people as possible, there are two Ubuntu CDs that can be used. The DVD with this book is equivalent to the downloadable desktop CD but with additional packages included for your convenience.

  • Desktop: The desktop CD is the one recommended for desktops and laptops. With this CD, you can boot Ubuntu from the CD and, if you like it, you have the option to install it to your hard drive. Note that running from the disk without installing directly to the hard drive is the default option to help prevent accidental data loss.
  • Alternate install: The alternate install CD is recommended for use in any scenario where the desktop version is unusable (e.g., not enough RAM) or for those with more advanced needs (e.g., automated deployments or special partitioning requirements). With this CD, you boot into an installer and then run Ubuntu when the installation is complete.

Ubuntu 11.04 officially supports three main computer types, or architectures, and a couple of additional variations:

  • i386: This supports all Intel or compatible processors except those that require AMD64. This includes the new Apple hardware. If you are not certain which you need, use this one. It will work on either 32-bit or 64-bit systems, so it is the default choice.
  • AMD64: If you know you are using a processor based on the AMD64 or EM64T architecture (e.g., Athlon64, Opteron, EM64T Xeon, or Core2), you should choose this version because it will be a bit more efficient on your hardware.
  • ARM: ARM is a low-powered chip commonly found in cell phones and similar mobile devices. ARM Inc., the makers of ARM, and Canonical have an agreement to build the entire Ubuntu archive on ARM, which makes Ubuntu the first major distribution to support ARM as a standard rather than custom device–specific distribution, such as OpenWRT is for routers. For a list of the current ARM chip version being supported, please see www.canonical.com/sites/default/files/active/images/Ubuntu%20on%20ARM%20Datasheet.pdf.

Other Ubuntu Distributions

In addition to the official Ubuntu release, some additional distributions are based on Ubuntu but are slightly different. Here are some examples:

  • Kubuntu: Kubuntu is Ubuntu, but instead of using the GNOME desktop, Kubuntu uses the KDE desktop. See http://kubuntu.org or Chapter 8 for more information.
  • Ubuntu Server Edition: Ubuntu Server Edition makes Ubuntu easy to install and use on servers. It initially focused on making certain that the highest quality server applications were available for easy installation and configuration, including MySQL, Apache, and others. The most recent work has improved the cloud computing capabilities of Ubuntu Server via the Ubuntu Enterprise Cloud. See Chapter 5 for more information.
  • Xubuntu: The Xubuntu distribution replaces the GNOME desktop environment with the Xfce 4 environment. Xubuntu is particularly useful for those of you who want to run Ubuntu on older hardware as it has lighter system requirements. See http://xubuntu.org or Chapter 10 for more information.
  • Edubuntu: Edubuntu is a derivative of Ubuntu aimed at educational use and schools. To install it, you should first install the default desktop version of Ubuntu. Then use either the downloadable add-on Edubuntu CD or the Ubuntu Software Center in your Applications menu on the desktop to install the Edubuntu environment and applications. See Chapter 10 for more information.

With a range of different distributions and options available, Ubuntu is flexible enough to be used in virtually all situations.

Is It Still Ubuntu?

Some of you may be reading about Kubuntu, Ubuntu Server Edition, and Xubuntu and wondering how different they are from the regular Ubuntu release. These distributions differ mainly in which applications and user interface are included. As such, they may differ quite a bit, especially in the user interface look and feel, but the underlying OS and software install system is the same.

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