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Present Best Advice for Installing Ubuntu

Started by Donald Darden, April 27, 2008, 10:17:26 PM

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Donald Darden

Ubuntu is my preferred Linux distribution, but all software is somewhat buggy when first released.  The new release is 8.04, called "Hardy Heron", and is a long term support (LTS) release, so it will be around for awhile (3 years for the desktop version, and 5 years for the server version)

Having just upgraded from 7.10 and also tried a new install using 8.04, I can tell you that the upgraded 7.10 approach works better.  I documented a significant problem when just installing from scratch.  So my suggestion is to first get and install 7.10, update it, and as part of the update, you will also get the option to upgrade it to 8.04.  7.10 is a very good release in its own right, so you may not even want to upgrade, or at least not right away.

Updating and Upgrading are done very simply in Ubuntu due to the power of its Update Manager.  Most of the effort is behind the scenes, and you can actually carry on with other tasks while it is doing its thing.  Restarts are not forced on you - a notification that a restart is required will appear on the top toolbar, but far fewer restarts are needed than required for Windows, so the update process is far less disruptive than with Windows.

Some of my other threads cover installing and updating 7.10 in detail, and I also have a thread on upgrading to 8.04.  Hopefully, these will be of value to you.

Getting the ,ISO images for Ubuntu off the internet should be straightforward, but sicn each is about 700 MB in size (intended to be burned to CD), it can take quite a while over even a broadband connection (a lot depends upon the available resources at the server end).  You can also order the CD to be shipped to you from several places, and that might be better if you have problems fetching the download or burning the CD.  Note that some CD burner software may only copy the image to the CD as a file, not write it to the CD as an image.  The difference is whether the image can be booted off the CD or not.

As an LTS, Ubuntu 8.04 will also be available on a DVD image with all available source code and many additional packages.  Trying to download a full DVD image takes a lot more time than just getting a CD image, and would justify having the DVD version ordered and mailed instead.  But installing the whole DVD to your PC might also require a rather large partition being set up for Ubuntu, or several Ext3 partitions (Linux allows multiple partitions to be "chained" and treated as one).  So if you want to confine the full Ubuntu DVD distro to a single partiton, plan on having one of 100 GB or more available for it.

I did find two problems when upgrading from 7.10 to 8.04.  The first was that I went to a lot of added effort to get Firefox and mplayer to work together and to find the necessary codecs so that it would play video news clips uner 7.10,  That has all been simplified under 8.04, which comes with the latest Firefox and with mplayer and other plu-ins already incorporated.  But I had to disable and redisignate mplayer in Firefox in order to get it to go back and acquire the necessary codec on its own.  So skip the setup under 7.10, and just do what is necessary to get it to work when you get into 8.04.

The other thing, is that you can install VirtualBox with either 7.10 or 8.04, and set up your virtual environments as you like.  The upgrade will not effect your VEs or the installs you make using them.  But at present Sun Microsystem is in the progress of moving VirtualBox into its domain (it bought the company),, and finding and getting VirtualBox is a little bit more fluid now (but still possible, and still free),  You can settle for the Open Source version, or get the binary that also includes USB support.  Right now, Sun does not identify Hardy as a release, but actually Hardy, Gutsy, and Edgy all appear to be the same, and if you can get it to download and install, you should be fine.  There is one new update for it which the Update Manager found and handled for me.  Read the 8,04 thread I wrote for more details.

Today I tried to start VirtualBox that was set up under 7.10 before it was upgraded to 8.04, and it failed to startup correctly,  However, it gave me an error message and the cure in a message.  Essentially, it wanted me to recompile the VirtualBox driver, and gave me the command to do so.  So I did the following in a terminal window:

sudo -s
[entered password]
/etc/init.d/vboxdrv setup

That was it.  After that, VirtualBox started with no problem, and I am sitting in my virtual Win2K enviornment using its version of Firefox to write this post. And when I say "virtual Win2k environment", I mean that it is really Windows 2000 tPro that is running in VirtualBox that is running under Ubuntu, so actually I can cut and paste between a terminal window on Ubuntu to this message box under Firefox on Windows.  How cool is that?

Donald Darden

One thing that you may not like about Ubuntu, if you are accustomed to managing your PC as Administrator, is that it tries to enforce rules that limit what the average user can do without administrative priveleges.  In particular, the OS will not let you log in to the GUI interface (Gnome or KDE) as either root or superuser.

However, most administrators are probably accustomed to working via a terminal console and using the sudo command to temporarily gain superuser rights.  So you get used to just having normal user rights except when you need more.  And the plus side is that you can let other people have access as normal users, or set up their PCs with the same version of Linux, and you will gain the experience of managing what you have and what they share.  So it's pretty much all good.

As I said elsewhere, there are a couple of things that Ubuntu makes a bit harder than they have to be.  First, with Firefox, you may have to go to some extra length to get mplayer installed and get the right codecs for it.  That was pretty much detailed out in my discussion about 7.10.  For 8.04, you may have to disable the video plug-ins in Firefox (look under Tools/Add-ons), then attempt to view a video via a connection, then follow the screen prompts for getting the codecs loaded.

If you update from 7.10, your /etc/fstab file will remain largely intact, so if you did what I suggested earlier, and replace all the UUID= entries with the device name from the /dev folder, you will have an easier time dealing with the occasional reformat of existing partitions.  This is because each time a partiton is reformatted, it gets a new UUID, but the /etc/fstab does not get updated automatically.

In order to correctly match up the UUID to the specific drive, you can go to Places/Computer, then right click on any device and select Properties/Volume.  There you can see the Label, partition size, UUID, mount point, file system, and related information.  You also have Settings, which you can expand, but since the average user does not have the power to mount or umount devices, or to change anything related to them, the Settings may not be of much help here.

In /etc/fstab, I enter a comment on a new line above each drive entry, such as this:
#/dev/sda1 (DRIVE_C)
Once I confirm that all these are in and correct. I can then copy the /dev/sda1 from this line to the line below it and replace the UUID= paramter in the process.  When the system is restarted, the drives should again show up on the desktop.

It seems that the reason you cannot change the drive label is because Ubuntu identifies these as removable media drives, referencing them in /media.  This has the advantage is that the drives automatically appear on the desktop when mounted, and the system will automatically mount them on booting up.

If you want to make it so that you can relabel the drives, you can do this by making a change in the /etc/fstab file.  For instance, you can take the entry for what is normally Drive C, which might look something like this:
Quote# /dev/sda1 (Drive C)
/dev/sda1           /media/sda1              ntfs    defaults,umask=007,gid=46 0       1

and change it to this:

Quote# /dev/sda1 (Drive C)
#/dev/sda1        /sda1                         ntfs    defaults,umask=007,gid=46 0        1

Now that drive will appear to be a permanent drive, and you can change the label.

You can also change the label in a different OS, Such as Windows.  The advantage of doing this is that Windows will assign a drive letter (or you can specify one manually), and then you can use that as part of the name.  In my case, I would then name the partiton as DRIVE_C, which Windows would show as DRIVE_C (C:), and when I next boot into Ubuntu, it would appear on the desktop as DRIVE_C.