An Ubuntu Linux question

Question for the Linux people in the audience: I have a PC at home (don’t know the exact hardware stats offhand) that’s running WinXP. The machine is old and I have no idea where the install disc for WinXP is. And WinXP is driving me crazy on this machine for a number of reasons, so I’d like to think about switching it to Linux, specifically Ubuntu because it seems well-supported and I’ve had good experiences with Ubuntu. However, if I install Ubuntu and it doesn’t play nice with my PC, I don’t know where the WinXP install disc is and so I won’t be able to go back. And I’d rather not have to set up a dual-boot system; I know how to do that and manage the system, but the PC is for my kids and I want to keep it simple. 

So, is there a way to try out Ubuntu, just to make sure core hardware stuff like wifi works, without wiping stuff out and installing? 

UPDATE: The partitioning tools virusdoc was mentioning are:

These were getting caught in the spam filter. 



Filed under Linux, Technology

10 responses to “An Ubuntu Linux question

  1. ignorante

    Yes, burn the desktop CD and boot with it. It is a live CD (

  2. I second the live CD suggestion. Also note that Ubuntu comes in an ‘alternate desktop’ version, that is less resource hungry than the default version. I’m running the 8.04 release of the alt version on a number of slow, old lab PCs and they are plenty fast.

  3. virusdoc

    You can also resize the primary partition the hard disk with various utilities, and then create a small bootable partition for Ubuntu that will run the full version (not the live CD version, which will be functional but slow and clunky).

    Partition resize utils I’ve seen used before include qtparted and NTFSresize. Both can be found free online.

    (I had posted links earlier, but I suspect the spam filter flagged my comment for that reason. Let’s see if this one gets through)

  4. ignorante

    The only difference between the LiveCD and the alternate CD is the installer. The later is text-based and uses less memory while installing, but both install the same thing
    The live version has the gparted tool. If you want to install, shrink the NTFS partition and when installing choose “use free space”.

  5. @ignorante: I didn’t realize the desktop CD was a liveCD. That makes it easy.

  6. virusdoc

    @ignorante: I wasn’t implying that the LiveCD version of Ubuntu was different content-wise, but merely that because it runs from the CD-ROM it tends to be rather clunky performance wise. It will give you a definite answer as to hardware compatibility, but you won’t get a sense for how responsive it will be until it’s running from the hard disk.

  7. I suggest you do the dual boot and teach your kids how to pick the system they want to run. If they don’t get it, as they should if they are old enough to play with a computer, they will get it booted to the default system every time they run the computer, and you can pick the default system when you configure the booting program. In fact you can set it up as a game for them to play when the computer is starting to boot: are they fast enough to pick the system they want to run? To make the installation easier and avoid repartitioning the hard disk, you can get an extra hard disk and stick it in, they are very cheap nowadays. I hope it helps.

  8. Oh, and I agree with virusdoc, the LiveCD system will be very slow, even with a very good CR-ROM drive, but, if you install it on a hard drive, it will fly.

  9. The Poster

    I believe I have a great answer to this. First, if you do not have one already, purchase a 2-gigabyte flash drive. Download slax from – click on “download slax for usb”. Uncompress the files onto your flash drive (if you do not know how to do this look for a tutorial – use google). Now move into the boot folder in the slax folder, and double click on bootinst. Follow the instructions to make your flash drive bootable. Now restart your computer, enter the boot menu, and boot from the flash drive. Nothing installs on your computer and you will have a complete operating system!

  10. The latest version of Ubuntu (8.04 – Hardy Heron) comes with another option that would probably be perfect for you: Wubi.

    Wubi allows for installation of Ubuntu from Windows – it is installed/uninstalled as any other Windows application. The difference is that using Wubi, Ubuntu is installed essentially as a virtual drive. Ubuntu is selected as the OS at boot, which means that, at the front end, it works much like a traditional, dual-boot scenario – only, no disk partitioning is required.

    By the way, I prefer Kubuntu (Ubuntu, with the KDE rather than GNOME interface). I’ve heard them compared as KDE being closer to Windows GUI and GNOME being closer to Mac GUI.

    As I’m relatively new (about one year) to Linux use, I’m also new to the KDE-GNOME issue – so this comparison may be overly simplistic. That said, KDE was an easier transition for me from Windows.

    Good luck!