My First Tryst with Ubuntu: Things Worked. Mostly
In my last post, I mentioned wanting to try out Linux, specifically Ubuntu. After much consideration and with the help of the Ghacks readers, I decided to try the Ubuntu LiveCD before actually installing it. However, I first had to bump up my laptop's RAM, which took a while. It's tough to get compatible DDR RAM these days.
Once my laptop was ready, it was time to try out the LiveCD. I'd contemplated waiting for Jaunty to be released just so I could have the latest release but then decided to go with Intrepid. After all, if things go well, I can always upgrade later.
I downloaded the .iso image from the official image, burned it and popped it into the laptop's CD-ROM drive after changing the boot configuration so it would boot from the CD. In my first attempt, the CD failed to boot. At this point I'm not sure what the problem is so I put in an old version of the dyne:bolic LiveCD that I'd burned over a year ago.
This time the laptop booted from the CD so I figured that my Ubuntu CD wasn't burned properly. Since I had already booted dyne:bolic, I decided to play around with it. Everything worked fine for five minutes and then my machine hung. Nothing I did would fix it so I just let the battery drain out. Note to self? Find 'ctrl+alt+delete' equivalent in Linux.
By this time, I re-burn my Ubuntu CD but I insert it into the CD-ROM with some trepidation. The CD takes a while to boot and for a few moments I think it's hung again but then I get the welcome screen and I calm down. I select the 'try Ubuntu without installing' and wait for the CD to finish booting.
The first thing that greets me is the brown-toned screen that I've seen in most Ubuntu screenshots. Not that I have anything against it but I don't think I could look at it day in and day out and not be able to change it. I fire up Rhythmbox and to my Winamp-accustomed eyes, it does not look like a great media player. However, I'm not complaining and I try to play a few songs through my attached pen-drive. Yes, I know mp3s are not supported out of the box but it was a bit of a rude awakening.
I decide to shut down my laptop and work on it later, But first, I need to disconnect the pen drive. In Windows, I'm used to the 'Safely remove hardware' option but I don't see something similar here. So I right-click the drive and select 'unmount'. It disappears from my screen but the drive light is still on. I do a quick search on the net and find that everything's okay. Unmount is the right option and with some drives, the light stays on after that.
All in all, I'm pretty satisfied with my first Ubuntu run. It wasn't perfect but it wasn't a disaster either. I'm planning to experiment some more with the LiveCD over the weekend and see what else Ubuntu has to offer. Any tips for me?
Cheryl my tip would be to stick with it. It takes time to get accustomed to a new operating system. Even switching to a new version of Windows takes some time to get accustomed to.
The first weeks will mean research but most of the problems that you encounter have been encountered by thousands of users before. If you switch from Windows to Linux you will eventually try to play mp3 (and fail), try to edit an image or find out how to access a task manager like interface.
But these things become rarer the more you work with the system. Good luck :)
What really kept me going with Ubuntu was the fact that there was so much to learn about it – I found that to be the most fun.
I’d recommend downloading the “Advanced Desktop Effects Settings (ccsm)” package from the ‘Add/Remove Applications’ menu. This is the tool that controls all of the eye-candy Ubuntu can offer and you can use this to really make Ubuntu your own.
Also, Gnome Do (a keyboard launcher) is a good tool to help you quickly search for apps on the OS without having to learn the menu setup.
I think you should definitely give Ubuntu it’s own partition on your hard drive and mess around with it there. You’ll feel how snappy and lean it is – more so than with the LIveCD.
Ryan, I’m pretty sure I’m going to install Ubuntu on my laptop in a few weeks. Right now I’m just playing around with it. It’s interesting to see how I’m so used to certain things as a Windows user but now I have to use different commands for the same tasks.
Martin, thanks for the advice. I know about Ubuntu not supporting all the formats and that I’ll have to download extra packages to make them work. SInce I don’t have an internet connection for the laptop, I just wanted to try whatever’s already there and the lack of mp3 support was a little inconvenient.
Hi, next time your machine hangs you could hold alt and print screen at the same time then press R then E then I, S, U, B. that will safely reboot your computer. You could also just remove the battery and plug, not sure if that messes up anything though.
Cheryl: It’s a shame that mp3 support can’t be shipped with the releases. But that’s licensing issues for ya. But don’t worry, mp3 support isn’t hard to roll in.
And you’ll get used to Ubuntu. Eventually you’ll find that it makes more sense than many other operating system. ;-)
I’ll be putting up more and more Ubuntu content in the future. If you have any suggestions of content you would like to see, let me k now.
I’d recommend to switch from the LiveCD to the virtual machine software like the VirtualBox (free for personal use and evaluation). The virtual HDD can eat some GBs (my current is about 4.3), but on my opinion the virtual machine, which can be saved with all your experiment results or returned back to previous state, worth it.
And the second thing – to read some manuals or tutorials, and may be get a book like the “Ubuntu for Non-Geeks”.
sounds like you’re not going to be frustrated by the learning curve, in fact that’s part of the fun! good on ya’
research “restricted packages” and their importance during an initial set-up. should really get you going in the right direction.
last point to consider: everyone is used to win/mac being ready to rock (more or less) right out of the box. it has to be, they’re charging money for it, right?
the linux experience is different: you’re being given a bare-bones structure and it’s then up to you to tweak/alter/update/change to fit your needs. very different experience, and i hope you enjoy it.
I would say that while Linux in general is more bare-bones, Ubuntu is pretty close to feature-complete to begin with. Install ubuntu-restricted-extras for Flash, Java, mp3, install vlc or mplayer so you don’t have to think about codecs… Not so different from what I do on Windows, at least. If you want to tweak your system, try Debian or Slackware or something.
Some people like amarok or banshee more than rhythmbox, but my needs are pretty simple so they’re all the same to me.
Installing most stuff is also significantly easier with internet access, so if you aren’t going to be connecting that laptop any time soon, expect some hindrances with what you can’t get from the CD itself. If it isn’t already enabled, you can use the CD to install packages by going to System -> Administration -> Software Sources and checking the appropriate box. I’ve also found that the software mirror they give me by default isn’t particularly speedy, so I always (again, in Software Sources) go to “Other” in mirror choice, then ask it to select the best server.
Personally, since people tend to reference programs by package names online, I find it significantly easier to use Synaptic package manager to install things than the Add or Remove programs option. Use whatever works best for you though.
While the alt+Print Screen key combo is good when all is lost (the mnemonic for which, by the way, is Raising Skinny Elephants Is Utterly Boring), you can always try ctrl+alt+backspace. This logs you out, restarts the GUI. If the computer responds to this, you’ve just saved yourself a reboot.
I’ve tried all flavours of Ubuntu – Kubuntu, Xubuntu – they all work but very erratically and slow.
I’ve given up on LiveCD’s and have opted for Linux on a USB. If you can boot from USB on your PC I suggest you try the latest version of LINUX Mint which is cutdown version of Ubuntu. It is very good and fast with all the MP3 codecs installed .
You can get all the info on how to install Linux MInt on a USB on the excellent Pendrivelinux site.
As for the issue of the laptop hanging up and not responding to your attempts to reboot:
pressing and holding the power button long enough will force a power down…it should work on any modern laptop or desktop machine…I hope this helps someone else out there.
Try Linux Mint. You won’t have to hassle with installing those extra codecs, because unlike Ubuntu, Mint’s install automatically includes them.
Seconding Linux Mint.
You may want to give a try to Mandriva.
1. You have an awesome configuration center which allow to configure easily every part of your system :
2. There’s out of the box mp3 support
3. The One edition ( live cd ) contains drivers and firmwares for most hardware.*
You’d better visit this link : http://wiki.mandriva.com/en/2009.0_Tour
and for the next release due to be release shortly : http://wiki.mandriva.com/en/2009.1_Tour
I’ve tried Mandriva ( a version called Toronto) not as good as Linux Mint. Mint recognised my printer and my wifi router without any difficulty.
Whatever Linux you use make sure it is “persistent” , that is, it will save any changes or additions you have made, for example to the desktop, browser, email, wordprocessor etc.
Mandriva Toronto had this persistent feature but I found it unreliable.
Note on LiveCD’s you’ll lose all your changes when you turn off your computer unless it has a feature to store these changes onto your hard disk.
Besides using Mint on USB as an alternatiive OS, it makes an excellent rescue application when Windows refuses to boot..
As far as I’m aware in Ubuntu when you try to play an mp3 in Rhythmbox or Totem it will tell you that you don’t have the relevent codec installed …however it should also give you the option to install that codec.
another good thing to learn, and not mess up with your windows system is to try out an virtual machine, it’s less dangerous :)
I forgot to add that the VirtualBox can go to the fullscreen mode, after installing of “Guest additions” to virtual system (exists for most of them) mount the host PC folders to it and catch the mouse cursor on the fly. So the virtual system becomes one more useful and unobtrusive* window in the host system.
It works great for me.
* I set 512 RAM and 64 VRAM for my virtual Ubuntu machine, but that can be tweaked.
joe joseph>MCNLive Toronto was not an official Mandriva release :
On top of that, this version have more than 2 years ! You may want to give a try to latest Mandriva versions.
LiveCD> Sure, it won’t remember your settings, but you can install the LiveCD on your disk. As a bonus it will removed not needed packages automatically at the end to avoid cluttering your hard disk too much. You have the Free edition which is a standard DVD to install, but the One have proprietaries drivers and firmware integrated.
Look at new Mandriva 2009 Spring features :
– kernel 2.6.29
– OpenOffice.org 3.0.1 + PDFImport extension
– KDE 4.2 + GNOME 2.26
– LXDE and XFCE 4.6
– new security application
– wireless regulatory domain support
The Mandriva 2009 Spring will be released before the end of the week.