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March 10, 2006

My Ubuntu Installs Were Incredibly Easy!

If you've been thinking of putting Linux on one of your old machines, but you've heard that Linux installs are horrifyingly painful, PLEASE read this. That's what I used to think, too.

Not any more.

You will be shocked, delighted, and go "whoohoohoo!" all the way home.

Here's Ubuntu, running on my ooooold laptop, just as slick and easy as can be.


Ubuntu is incredibly simple to install and and use. You can install Ubuntu on an old machine (or whatever machine). Aside from the fact that nothing works 100% of the time, and wireless can be very wacky on any machine or operating system, I tell ya, installing Ubuntu will Just Work.

I repeat.

A Linux distro, Ubuntu, is incredibly slick to INSTALL and to use. You can be up and running on Linux today with no more effort than you'd expend making tea.

Now, I'm sure that many other distros are great and easy too. I understand from my techy friend and author of the first Java Certification Exams Simon Roberts who supervised but didn't actually do the install or tell me anything I didn't know, SuSE rocks and is gorgeous to boot. I understand that many of my fears about Linux installation actually are based on unusual situations like setting up wireless and really old or really new hardware. And are also just based on what I heard a long time ago that is not true anymore.

So anyway, it's probably not just Ubuntu that's easy and slick as a whistle. But I'm still very excited about this install.

I am doing everything for this post on my newly Linuxed laptop, too, btw.

Here's the story.

Me and My Linux Background: I'm So Not a Linux Head

I knew I would have to admit this sooner or later: I'm not really that knowledgeable about Linux. Not in a deep down kind of way. I have never and will never build my own distro and don't keep track of what GUI is my fave.

I'm not afraid of it or of using other operating systems--I used Solaris at Sun for three years, Mac at Great Plains Software, mostly Windows since then.

But you know, you hear these stories about installing Linux and it sounds like a quick hike up K2 would be easier. Packages. Drivers. Distros. Editing your BIOS. AAAAAAAAAAAAAAGH.

I installed, with the considerable help of my friend Simon, a Linux distro a few years ago. Red Hat 8 or something like that. Not horrible but not easy.

Time to try it again, though. I considered the Linspire distro but there seems to be some cost associated with it (forget that! ;>  ) and there seemed to be a lot of buzz around Ubuntu. Plus you've GOT to love a distro with this name.

What I Installed On and the Internet Setup
I bought this laptop, a Dell Latitude CPX, used for $400 from Half.com at least three years ago. I tried to check what its specs are and couldn't see it offhand, but you can figure it out generally. A roughly seven-year-old laptop. Defiitely not less.

I also installed Ubuntu on my four or five year old HP Pavilion 6835, 800 mhz machine with 300 MB memory or so.

I connected using a standard Ethernet card to my in-house standard Ethernet network. No wireless. (Wireless is a pain in the patookus on any system--at least in my experience.) The Ethernet card just went in the little slot on the left side of my laptop, and the dangly thing connected to the normal plug of the Ethernet connection. My desktop already had an Ethernet card installed.

How I Got the Install CDs

Like a breeze. very easy. I downloaded the CD from Ubuntulinux.org. But you can just order CDs too, off the web site. Totally for free, no shipping costs or anything. (Just one note--I ordered mine at least a couple weeks ago and haven't received them yet. Probably more like three weeks ago.)


How the Install Went

Like a breeze. I didn't partition the drives or do anything fancy.  I just said yes, take over the computer, leave no data behind, etc.

I had the computers hooked up to the Internet. The install went out to the Ubuntu site and got extra files it needed, with no fuss or muss dealing with the connections.

I did nothing complicated. I entered what my name and password should be. That's about as complicated as it got.


Doesn't zip really fast on my laptop, and I haven't used the desktop a lot yet since I'm dithering about my monitor options. But it's definitely good enough. It's a 7+ year old machine.

What It's Like to Use
Very similar to Windows and Solaris. I just played around with the various selections and it looked pretty easy. OpenOffice.org is there, under Applications > Office, just like you'd expect. I got on the Internet by choosing Applications > Internet. I found my files by choosing Places > Home Folder. It's all pretty logical. Most windowing applications aren't that complicated, and I find Solaris, Linux, and Windows all far more similar to each other than Macintosh.


What Else Works Besides Internet
The laptop doesn't have a CD burner, just a CD R drive, so I hooked up my USB Iomega CDRW external drive to it. I inserted a blank CD. And it just worked--a message popped up asking what I wanted to do. It was just like burning a CD on XP. I might have squealed with delight.


Printing worked fine, too. I hooked up the printer directly the USB port of my laptop. I chose System > Administration > Printing, double-clicked the new printer, answered the simple questions, and selected the printer I use. Didn't have to go hunt down drivers or anything.


And yes, the printing actually works. Just got a nice printout of this page on the printer. ;>


I haven't  set up Thunderbird or anything for email since I'm not using this machine for that. I'm pretty pumped about the printing and the other hardware and networking stuff.

Installing Linux Just Worked.
The install was a breeze. Internet and hardware just worked. The layout is logical. The software is free.

Come on in, the Linux is fine!


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Congratulations. I like your blog very much and read every single post! It´s one of the best sources of information and tips about OpenOffice. Keep going!

Welcome to the wonderful world of Linux - I made the switch myself a few months back (http://positivesharing.com/2006/01/making-the-switch/) and now run both Windows and Linux on my laptop.

What I find fascinating is that Ubuntu Linux seems to be a more finished and professional product than Windows XP. Go figure!

One thing did puzzle me right after install though: Why wasn't there a firewall and antivirus program included? Some Google-searching gave me the answer: Linux is secure enough that you don't really need it. How's that for peace of mind.

I switched my desktop to Mandriva several years back, once I found a good substitute for Quicken (GnuCash does the job for me). I've been wanting to switch my clunker-laptop over to linux but haven't - wireless is a must. I can get it working well using Windows but haven't been willing to take the leap knowing that it can be trickier on the Linux side.

Re Patrick's post on firewall/virus...actually Linux has both firewalls (VERY good idea) and anti-virus software available. The anti-virus may be less required since there are very few *nix virus' around, but you really should be running some kind of firewall on your system - block ports and that type of thing.


Solveig, thanks for sharing this! What I enjoy about your writing is it's relaxed, breezy style . Seriously, this was a nice read!

Best wishes,
Miguel Guhlin
Mousing Around - http://www.mguhlin.net/blog

You know, for an older machine, you should consider doing an apt-get install xubuntu-desktop

This will give you a light weight desktop GUI rather than the intensive Gnome. Just a thought!

Miguel Guhlin

You know, that's a good point. The afore-mentioned Simon said something about Gnome slowing things down. I'll give it some thought.


Does anyone know if Kubuntu supports a lot of video codecs right away? The only linux distro I've tried that worked with a wide arrary of media files was Linspire, the "idiot's linux." :-(

Welcome to wonderful Ubuntu!

re: your video codecs query. Try this link:


You might also want to try out Kubuntu at some stage, very slick too.


Justin, thanks for the link! I had no idea about the answer. Make, I hope that answers your question.

"re: your video codecs query. Try this link:

http://www.ubuntuguide.org/#codecs "

Shall check out Kubuntu.


Hey. I'm glad you switched to Linux, in this case Ubuntu.
There is one thing I want to tell you. You should wait for the Dapper Realease :D It is gonna be awesome!! Check out Flight5 (Beta 5): http://www.ubuntu.com/testing/flight5

Since you intalled Breezy, I guess you don't have that much of stuff on your Home Folder, so you could update to dapper with a Clean Install, that is installing from the CD overwriting your previous Breezy ;)

I'm a happy Ubuntu user, but I recommend against Tux's suggestion to install Dapper Drake Flight 5. It is an alpha, not a beta.

If you're interested in helping the Ubuntu developers troubleshoot and bugfix, then by all means join the Dapper party! Your blog, however, indicates that you are most interested in everything 'just working'. In that case, I recommend waiting to install Dapper until it is officially released.

Glad to see that you gave Ubuntu a try, though Breezy is a bit slow, you will like Dapper Drake when it goes gold(after a short delay). For the easiest way to get most of the common updates/codecs to Breezy is Automatix. Upgrade your Firefox, OpenOffice, install Skype, Java, Flash, Acrobat Reader, and a list of other options too long to list here.


As far as the comments about a firewall, if you are behind a NAT Router, I wouldn't worry about a firewall as the router will block your unwanted incoming connection requests. But if you are not behind a NAT router, or are worried about other machines that are on your LAN, then yes, you should set up a firewall. Automatix installs Firestarter, which will help you configure the GNOME firewall.

Again, glad to see that you have given Linux another shot, it sure has come a long way. Oh yea, what convinced you to choose Ubuntu(good choice)?


Thanks for all the Ubuntu info! I did read that Mark Shuttleworth is delaying the Dapper release and I'm not into the Beta testing aspect so I will wait, thank you.

I will check with the Network Master to see if I'm behind a NAT router, and will hook up to those updates.

Why choose Ubuntu? Well, I really like the emphasis on "Linux for regular people." I was going with Linspire for the same reason and because I edited Peter's book ("Peter van der Linden's Guide to Linux", see book list on right of blog page). But then there seemed to be money involved in that. ;> There seemed to be buzz around Ubuntu with Google, and the Absolutely Free CDs with no shipping were very cool, and the freedom toasters are cool....you know, it was a well researched, detail-oriented decision. ;>

Plus, no joke, Badger is one of my favorite words for injecting into comments to make them funny, so I couldn't resist a release called Breezy Badger.

i also usd ubuntu 5.04
but using apt-get i can only install gcc
rest would we hve to doownload
pls help

Hi Vivek,

I'm afraid I'm not enough of an expert to help--I just took the CD and stuck it in the drive. I guess I'd suggest going to http://ubuntuforums.org

Good luck,


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