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Installing Ubuntu

Not that long ago, the mere mention of installing Linux struck fear into the hearts of mortal men. Nowadays, it is a different story entirely, and Ubuntu is one of the easiest distros to install. In this sample chapter, Andrew and Paul Hudson cover how to get started with the install disc, including booting into Ubuntu Live to test your system. Then they cover the actual installation of Ubuntu, looking at the various options available.
This chapter is from the book

This chapter is from the book


  • Before You Begin the Installation
  • Step-by-Step Installation
  • Shutting Down
  • Reference

Not that long ago, the mere mention of installing Linux struck fear into the hearts of mortal men. Thanks to a campaign of fear, uncertainty, and doubt (commonly referred to as FUD), Linux garnered a reputation as something of an elitist operating system, only configurable by those in the know. Nowadays, it is a different story entirely, and Ubuntu is one of the easiest distros to install. In this chapter, we cover how to get started with the install disc, including booting into Ubuntu Live to test your system. Then we cover the actual installation of Ubuntu, looking at the various options available. The whole process is fairly pain-free under Ubuntu, as you are about to learn.

Before You Begin the Installation

Installing a new operating system is a major event, and you should make sure that you have properly thought through what is going to take place. The first thing to consider is how the hardware will be affected by the software that you propose to install. Although Ubuntu will run well on an extremely wide variety of hardware, it is worthwhile checking your hardware components out because there may be a banana skin waiting for you to slip up on. The following sections provide some areas for you to investigate and think about, and may even save you hours of frustration when something goes wrong. The sections are designed to complement the ideas and checklists presented in Chapter 2, "Preparing to Install Ubuntu."

You start by researching and documenting your hardware. This information will prove helpful later on during the installation.

Research Your Hardware Specifications

At the absolute minimum, you should know the basics of your system, such as how much RAM you have installed, what type of mouse, keyboard, and (importantly) monitor you have. Knowing the storage capacity of your hard drive is also important because it will help you plan how you will divide it up for Ubuntu. It is also a good idea to find out whether you are using SATA drivers or the more traditional PATA drives. A small detail such as whether your mouse uses the USB or PS/2 interface will ensure proper pointer configuration—something that should happen without fail, but you will be glad you knew in case something goes wrong! The more information you have, the better prepared you will be for any problems.

Use the checklist shown in Table 2.2 in Chapter 2 to inventory or at least record some basic features of your system. Items you need to know include the amount of installed memory, size of your hard drive, type of mouse, capabilities of the display monitor (such as maximum resolution), and number of installed network interfaces (if any).

Installation Options

Ubuntu is available in three forms: the Ubuntu distribution, the Ubuntu server distribution, and the Ubuntu alternative distribution. For most people, the main distribution should suffice; the alternative is mainly used for upgrading existing Ubuntu users to the latest version, as well as allowing installation on low-powered systems. As for the server installation, this gives you access to a LAMP server in about 20 minutes (Linux, Apache, MySQL, and PHP), but as you will learn in this book, all these components are available to the Ubuntu default distribution.

Planning Partition Strategies

Partitioning is a topic that can strike fear into the hearts of novice Linux users. Coming from a Microsoft world, where you might just be used to having one hard drive, it can seem a bit strange to use an operating system that makes partitioning important. Depending on your requirements, you may opt to have a single large partition to contain all your files or you may prefer to segment your installation across several partitions to match your individual needs. You also need to take into account such things as what you will use to back up your data. With the abundance of external hard drives and Flash-based memory sticks, you could use these; remember, however, to provision backup storage space equal to or in excess of your specific requirements. Thanks to the ever-decreasing prices of storage, you can buy a 250GB SATA drive for just more than $100. You will thank yourself that you backed up your data when your primary hard drive goes down!

The needs of the business should be the primary concern when deciding to implement a Linux system. Be careful when specifying a system and ensure that you build in an adequate upgrade path that allows you to extend the life of the system and add any additional storage or memory.

Knowing how software is allocated on your hard drive for Linux involves knowing how Ubuntu organizes its file system, or layout of directories on storage media. This knowledge will help you make the most out of hard drive space; and in some instances, such as planning to have user directories mounted via NFS or other means, can help head off data loss, increase security, and accommodate future needs. Create a great system, and you'll be the hero of information services.

To plan the best partitioning scheme, research and know the answers to these questions:

  • How much disk space does your system require?
  • Do you expect your disk space needs to grow significantly in the future?
  • Will the system boot just Ubuntu, or do you need a dual-boot system?
  • How much data will require backup, and what backup system will work best? (See Chapter 17, "Backing Up, Restoring, and Recovery," for more information on backing up your system.)

The Boot Loader

During installation, Ubuntu automatically installs GRUB (Grand Unified Boot Loader) to the Master Boot Record (MBR) of your hard drive. Handily enough, it also detects any other operating systems such as Windows and adds entries in GRUB as appropriate. If you have a specific requirement not to install GRUB to the MBR, you need to install using the Alternate disc, which will allow you to specify the install location for GRUB.

Installing from CD or DVD

Most PCs' BIOS support booting directly from a CD or DVD drive, and enable you to set a specific order of devices (such as floppy, hard drive, CD-ROM, or USB) to search for bootable software. Turn on your PC and set its BIOS if required (usually accessed by pressing a Function or Del key after powering on); then insert your Ubuntu disc and boot to install Ubuntu.

To use this installation method, your computer must support booting from your optical drive. You can verify this by checking your BIOS and then booting your PC.

Older PCs might prove problematic when you desire to boot to an install using optical media. The good news is that this should no longer be a problem with most post-1995 personal computers.

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