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|The Road to Freedom - The Base Camp
A progressive migration from Windows to Ubuntu for Safety, Security and Savings in Home Computing - part 2
Base camp - noun: A main encampment providing supplies, shelter, and communications for persons engaged in wide-ranging activities
This part continues with the installation and configuration of Ubuntu Linux to the point that it has at least the same capabilities as a typical Windows machine you buy which would typically including a basic set of utility software preinstalled. This provides the firm foundations on which you can build the system to do what you want.
This is part 2 of my guide to how a normal computer user can improve the Safety and Security of their existing Microsoft Windows XP or Vista system and enable them to easily make the transition to a Dual Booted Windows and Ubuntu Linux system. The First Part of the Road to Freedom completed all the changes one can make to improve the existing Windows system finishing with partitioning the hard drive to give a Data Partition so Data and System are separated for ease of backing up and rebuilding if problems ever occur. If you intended to continue the first part will have also left sufficient free space on the drive to install Ubuntu without and further changes to the Windows partitions or system. If you have a brand new Windows 8 machine, in particular a high performance laptop there will be additional stages to get access to dual processors or avoiding overheating which will be covered in a future article
This was originally written for the Ubuntu 10.04 LTS version which has just been replaced by the 12.04 LTS version called Precise Pangolin. This uses a slightly different interface called Unity with an Application Launcher on the left rather than panels on top and bottom. I have removed several sections which are very different; there is a lot of information on the new 'Desktop' at Ubuntu Unity - Evolution or Revolution and an alternative flavour that I am using at Adding Spice to Ubuntu - Cinnamon and Mint
This can actually be very quick. I have downloaded a complete new distribution of Ubuntu to try, burnt to CD, verified the CD, checked the MD5sum hash was correct and booted into it on a Windows machine in a total of 35 minutes. Admittedly I knew exactly what I was doing, the download speed was a steady 700 kbytes/second and it was a fast CD/DVD burner
Lets now start for real and download the the .iso file, burn it to DVD and verify the resulting DVDs MD5SUM checksum to make sure that not a single bit is in error in the ~900 Mbytes you have downloaded. The download page is Get Ubuntu and this has lots of useful links to keep you busy whilst the file is downloading, you want the standard desktop edition 12.04 LTS Precise Pangolin. If you have a legacy machine with 762 Mbytes memory or less and a 1.5 Ghz or less processor then Lubuntu is a good choice, less bells and whistles but much faster on an old machine - have an old Toshiba 500 Mhz Pentium 3 with 192 Mbytes memory in use as a music machine under Lubuntu. I have broadband in the up to 8Mb download speed class and the download took almost exactly 15 minutes.
Whilst the download is taking place it is also a good time to find out the MD5Sum for your download so you can check that you have got a perfect CD/DVD. They are on the UbuntuHashes page which you can get to by my link or via the various help pages which are linked on the Download page - I tend to just write down the last few characters to check.
When you have the .iso on your desktop (probably called ubuntu-xx.yy-desktop-i386.iso) you need to burn it to CD. How you do that and check the Md5Sum depends on your software. If you have Nero or Sonic the chances are that if you right click on the .iso file the menu will contain a link to your CD/DVD burning package - it is certainly true if you have downloaded and set up ImgBurn as covered in the earlier steps. It should then only be a click or two to start it burning. ImgBurn will also display the Md5Sum in the log file so you can check that both the download and the final verified version are perfect. If you have used an existing CD/DVD burning package then you need to load some more software to check the download and assume the CD/DVD is correct if it verified OK. I have used Md5Sum Portable which can be put on a USB stick to check Md5Sums in Windows - you do not have to put it on a stick, it will install into any directory and run without making any registry changes or make changes outside of its own directories.
It is also possible to load the Ubuntu system onto a LiveUSB if you do not have a CD/DVD reader and your machine will boot from USB - most modern machines will do so even if they have CD reader. It will also be faster in operation - there are details on the Ubuntu download pages and it saves having a CD burning program. This is actually a better way to test out Ubuntu on a machine which is capable of booting from a USB stick - the advantages are:
At this point in time I am assuming one needs to make the LiveUSB under Windows and there are several programs to do this including Unetbootin which I have used in the past under both Windows and Linux and PenDriveLinux.Com which is the site which Ubuntu itself sends you to and the one I will cover here.
Universal USB Installer is a Live Linux USB Creator that allows you to choose from a selection of Linux Distributions to put on your USB Flash Drive. The Universal USB Installer is easy to use. Simply choose a Live Linux Distribution, the ISO file, your Flash Drive and, Click Install. Other features include; Persistence (if available), and the ability to fat32 format the flash drive to ensure a clean install. Upon completion, you should have a ready to run bootable USB Flash Drive with your select Linux version installed.
It is very simple to use you first download a small .exe file and run it (double click it) - there is no need to install anything and you will get a screen like that below. Note: you may have to confirm it is safe to run or convince you virus checker and or firewall you know what you are doing when you first run it or during actions such as making the USB stick bootable.
There is a huge drop down list of Distributions - you will be interested in Ubuntu xx.yy Desktop or Lubuntu xx.yy Desktop or possibly a flavour of Mint which is based on Ubuntu. You have the option for it to find it and download it for you or you can use an existing .iso. You then need to enter the drive letter for the USB stick - it is best to check what it is mounted as in 'Computer' especially if you intend to format it! You then have the option of adding an area for a Persistent file for storing changes on the drive - it can use all the remaing empty space and finally hit create. You will be kept informed what it is doing but it is not quick, there is plenty of time for a coffeee especially if you are creating a big Persistence file.
So what is 'Persistence' and why do I think it is such a big step forwards for LiveUSBs. The Wikipedia definitionis : "Persistence – in computer science refers to the characteristic of data that outlives the execution of the program that created it. Without this capability, data only exists in RAM, and will be lost when the memory loses power, such as on computer shutdown." and that means in our case that a persistent Linux install save data changes back to the USB storage device instead of leaving the information in system RAM. This data can then be recovered and used again on subsequent boots, even when booting from different machines. There are limitations but the latest versions of Ubuntu seem to maintain even system configuration changes such as setting up Wifi and even allows one to load programs and I have done a full update successfully. You can then take the stick to a different machine and plug it in. I have not tried it but there is even a version which allows you to have several different systems on the same [large] USB stick and choose when you boot up - perfect for compairing systems and demonstrating.
We are almost there. We now have the LiveDVD or LiveUSB and we just have to persuade the machine to boot from it. Some computers require you to hold down or press a key to give you a menu of boot choices, the best place to find this information is in your computers user manual or the manufactures website. Common keys to try - Toshiba, IBM and others: press F12 while booting to get to the boot menu and choose CD-ROM or you USB drive. HP Asus and others: press TAB key while booting and select CD-ROM or your USB drive from the boot menu. HP press F12 while booting to get to the boot menu and select. The options usually flash up on the screen at the start of the boot process but you do not usually have time to catch it that time!
Older machines will need you to enter the BIOS (Basic Input Output System) often also called CMOS. The most common way to enter the BIOS is to press the DELETE key when the computer is first booted (this seems to be becoming standard). On other systems it could be a different key, or combination of keys like ESC, F1, F2 (Toshiba), F9 (HP) F10, Ctrl-Esc, Alt-Esc, Ctrl-Alt-Esc, Ctrl-Alt-Enter, Ins or even others. You might have to press, press and hold, or press multiple times. The best way to find out the details of that is to look in the users manual or search the manufactures website. Tip: If your computer is a new computer and you are unsure of what key to press when the computer is booting, try pressing and holding one or more keys the keyboard. This will cause a stuck key error, which may allow you to enter the BIOS setup.
Once in the BIOS setup you then have to navigate the very basic menus using the instructions at the bottom of the screen until you find the Boot order and change it so that the CD is first. Then exit saving your change. (you may want to change back after you have finished experimenting as it is easy to leave a CD in the drive).
In most cases you will get a couple of menus asking for your keyboard language and what you want to do, the default is what you want and then you have wait a few minutes while it loads most of the CD into memory then comes up with the Ubuntu desktop. There is a folder of examples so you can quickly find out if sound and video are working and you can try out the Word processor, spread sheets and presentations to name a few. If you are connect as I recommended via a ethernet connection to a router you will almost certainly have internet access via Firefox. In about 80% of cases you will also have Wifi subject to giving the WEP or WAP key, other machines will need the Windows Wifi drivers to be wrapped up and used with a facility called ndiswrapper but that really needs to be done on a full installation or a WUBI installation as there is no persistence and you may need a reboot even to try it out.
It is possible that one can not even start up with a LiveDVD with some motherboards, BIOS and SATA drive configurations. At an early stage one is dumped into a terminal with a statement about busybox and initramfs. This is unlikely and has only happened to me once and all is not lost as there are various options at GRUB boot time which can be appended to the startup string - I have covered workarounds here and there is a long Forum Post on 'initramfs + busybox trouble installing'
Firstly you will find that everything is a bit slow if you are using a CD/DVD, this is to be expected as even a 52x CD speed is very much below that of a hard drive everything is compressed - the speed will improve dramatically when you install - be patient. It is faster with a LiveUSB but still much slower than when have Ubuntu installed on a disk.
The Unity Desktop that Ubuntu now uses is rather different to what a Windows user expects, it will be much more familiar to a an Apple user.
It is a good idea to try out the various examples that have been provided in a folder on the desktop.
You can see if any Wifi cards have been detected - top right will have an icon for the internet connection click it and see what connections have been found and try to connect by Wifi if you can remember your WEP/WAP code.
You can even try to set up your Printer if it is local. System -> Administration -> Printing -> Edit -> New -> printer and follow the instructions if it has found your printer. You will normally not need any drivers - select from a comprehensive list which is built in for most common printers or try a generic/similar printer by the same manufacturer. I also found I could print to a printer on another networked machine just as easily by System -> Administration -> Printing -> Edit -> New -> Windows Printer via Samba -> screens to identify the machine and printer which will be different in every case. It took me only a minute to set up my printer over the network - the printing of a test page took almost as long!
You should be able to see your local Windows Drives by Places -> Removable Media and mount them by clicking - they will then open and also be on the desktop.
You should be able to see any shared drives on other Windows Machines if you are on a local network by Places -> Network -> Windows Network.
For reasons of security it seems to be impossible to set up a machine to be visible from the network which needs Samba loaded and its daemons running.
It should be possible to access your documents, spreadsheets and presentations on the Windows drives and open them using Open Office.
The time will come when you want to stop using a LiveDVD or WUBI and do a full installation. This is basically the list of the things I do when I set up an Ubuntu system for a friend or client. It looks a long list but I do it all in between one and two hours if not run into unexpected problems which have not been sorted out with the LiveCD/DVD/USB or Wubi. The first time it is probably better to allow two evenings and just relax when you have completed the install and do the configuration at your leisure.
The more difficult activities are indicated by extra stars * and ** - it is a good idea to have gained some familiarity with the terminal and file manager before doing those activities unless you are used to Windows Explorer and using a terminal from DOS days or under Windows via Run -> cmd
We have discussed Partitioning earlier and hopefully you have already completed the first stage, at least to the point where you have a data partition and free space you can use for the install.
We load the Ubuntu LiveDVD just as you have been doing for your testing and acclimatisation and now we use the link marked install on the desktop. You will be taken through a series of simple questions on language, country and keyboard until you finally reach the point of disk partitioning. You need to take a lot of care here unless you are going to install into unallocated space on the drive which is the third tick box called Guided - use the largest allocated free space - if you this is the point to ask yourself what you would miss most if it all goes pear shaped and have I backed it up!
The follow assumes you use the manual option. You will be presented with a list of the drives which have been identified with sizes and file systems. You need to positively identify each one and what you plan to do with it. Then highlight the ones you are using in turn and click on edit which will bring up a fresh window where you can set the size (normally leave alone if you have done your job before), whether you plan to use it and what files system (ext3/4 normally for Linux) and the mount point. This is again via a drop down list and should be / for the root directory and /home if you intend to have a separate home directory (recommended). Unless you are sure the partitions are empty it is best to tick the box to format them. You can get them all set and checked before you proceed.
If you have not done any partitioning in advance it is possible to it all at this point but somewhat more risky as you are more likely to make a mistake. If you insist and are using XP then you can select and edit the main Windows partition (probably NTFS and the largest present - leave others alone as they may be for backup or reinstalling). If using Vista or 7/8 wait and use a Windows program to change the Windows partitions to make space. Now shrink it from the top - do not move the bottom at all even under XP. It may insist that this is done before you continue. Now you have a suitable free space so you can add partitions. I suggest first filling the space with an extended partition and the adding four logical partitions into it for the root (ext3), /home (ext3), DATA (NTFS) and swap. Use between 5 and 10 Gbytes for /, 2 - 3 times your maximum ram size for swap and divide the rest equally. If you have not worked it all out in advance then it may be better to abort and sit down quietly and read up all I wrote earlier and be sure you understand what you are doing. You can now edit the ext3 partitions to set them their mount points to / and /home and tick the boxes to format them all (BUT not the Windows partition or swap which does not need it).
The following shows the partitioning on my new Wind U100 with a 120 Gbyte drive which had the FAT32 restore and NTFS Windows partitions already in place.
When partitioning is finished you will have a wait of quite a long time whilst the partitioning takes place and the Ubuntu system is installed after which you reboot the machine. You should be patient and boot into Windows before Ubuntu when everything is finished as Windows knows the partition table has changed and must check the Windows System drive before any changes are made to it which you could make by mounting it from your new Ubuntu system. The Grub menu which is now installed gives the the choice when you boot up.
Note: Some computer manufacturers have a complex partition structure with partitions holding backup drivers, system disks and restore partitions. Often the 'restore' partitions can be booted by a special sequence in the bios start-up and then return the whole machine to the state it left the factory by reformating the hard drive and restoring an image of its factory state. The Grub boot loader may detect this restore partition as a valid start-up option (which it is) and add it to the boot menu and it may not be obvious that this start option leaves you a few key strokes from disaster. If you have more than one Widows start up option shown take great care until you hide that option from view by Modifying the Grub boot configuration file. The link currently takes one to a page which you can read at this point but needs you to develope a few more skills or for me to rewrite before you make this change. My intention is to add a simplified version to the configuration tips at the end of this page.
Hopefully the hairy it bit is now over and it is time to start to load extra some programs and services we may need. Some are not included by default as they are a choice or involve proprietary software which is not loaded for reasons of principle of legality in some countries. The loading of software is very easy on Ubuntu and many other Linux distributions as almost everything you need has been put into Software Repositories. What are Repositories?
To put it simply there are thousands of programs available for installation on Ubuntu which have been tailored and are supported. These programs are stored in software archives (repositories) and are available over the Internet. This makes it very easy to install new programs. It is also very secure, because each program you install through the official repositories is thoroughly tested and built specifically for Ubuntu.
The Ubuntu software repository is organized into four "components", on the basis of the level of support Ubuntu can offer them, and whether or not they comply with Ubuntu's Free Software Philosophy. The components are called:
There are other sets of software which are held in repositories which can be used by Ubuntu but not supported by the Ubuntu team which can be added - we will add one called Medibuntu in due course. But first we need to enable some more of the 'official repositories' in readiness for some of the software I suggest you install.
We do this by System -> Administration -> Software Sources - You will be presented with 5 tabs
When you close you will be asked to download the updates and extra repository information. After you have done this you will probably find there are some updates to download showing in the top right panel. Click the icon and let them install.
Now that we have done all the preliminary work we come to installing software. There are two methods, the highest level method, loosely for programs which will be installed in the Applications or System dropdowns is to use Applications -> Add/Remove. First set the Dropdown to show All Programs and enter the name in the Search box. We want to install Thunderbird so start typing Thunderbird and after a few characters you will find the list is narrowed down. Tick Thunderbird [and Lightening if you want to add the calendaring extension] and click apply. Sit back and wait and when it has finished you will find that Thunderbird has been added to the Applications Menu -> Internet. You can drag it up onto the top panel so it is accessible and if you right click on Evolution Mail you will be offered the choice of removing it from the panel. The proceedures for the latest versions of Ubuntu which have the Unity interface are similar using the Ubuntu Software Center.
The setting up is identical to that under Windows so I will not repeat it here.
System -> Preferences -> Preferred Applications -> Internet and select Thunderbird from the dropdown box beside Mail Reader. Under Unity the System Settings are on a drop down under the 'shutdown menu' far right top corner.
This is required to be able to send emails from Firefox using Thunderbird
Contacts: The move from Windows Thunderbird to Linux Thunderbird is not difficult especially for contacts where one can export in LDIF format by -> Address Book -> Tools -> Export -> Save as type LDIF and Import the same way by -> Address Book -> Tools -> Import as type LDIF.
Email takes a little more work as you have to identify your profile folder and move the appropriate files and folders into the matching profile on the other machine. You can do this by a drag and drop or copy and paste in the file manager program which opens whenever you click on any of the menu items under Places. In Linux system files can be hidden by the expedient of starting there name with a . dot so when you have, for example, opened the file manager using Places -> Computer you will need to use View -> Show Hidden Files to see them.
On the Linux machine the mail is in your home folder in .mozilla-thunderbird/sillyname.default/mail/Local Folders/ . Remember files starting in . are hidden in the File Browser so use View -> Show Hidden Files. under Windoz it is likely to be in C/Documents and Settings/Username/Application Data/Thunderbird/profile/sillyname.default/Mail/Local Folders/ The mail folders have to be transferred in groups comprising a folder called say Outlook Mail.sbd and two files called Outlook Mail and Outlook Mail.msf . This should give you everything from you transferred in from Outlook - if you want other mail from Thunderbird you can identify it and do the same trick transferring each set of two or three files/folders you want.
First I should explain a little more how all the Mozilla programs hold their data grouped into 'profiles'. Since version 2 of Firefox and Thunderbird the profiles are nearly identical under Windows and Linux, earlier versions had some differences in file names whilst the latest versions seem to just have relative addressing. It is therefore possible in some cases to copy your Windows profile to the Linux system. I find it is safest to copy it into the same folder as your Linux folder then use the profile manager to create a new profile - this has the option to select a folder and you select the one you have copied from Windows. There are caveats on the use of extensions, Lightning seems to be compatible if you have it loaded in both cases before the transfer. Some Virus checkers may add extensions which cause problems so try it and see. In Ubuntu you have to start the Thunderbird Profile manager from the command line in a terminal by
and for completeness I will note that you start the Firefox profile manager by
All the configuration and data for Mozilla programs are held in what is called a profile and the profile folders for all the main Mozilla programs look very similar. The profiles have what is called a salted name – that means it is randomly generated and 8 characters long so it is difficult for a hacker to identify. However the first default profile is in standard place and has an extension of .default and new profiles are reached by pointers in an .ini file one level up in a folder often called profiles. The easy way to find your profiles is to do a search for files with a *.default search. Ubuntu has a file search under Places or in the File Manager. This all opens up some very interesting opportunities as I recently realised. If one is running Thunderbird and Firefox under both Ubuntu and Windows then it should be possible to put their internal and configuration data (which is all in the 'Profile' folder) on the common drive and access my emails, address books, calendars, browser favourites, cookies and history etc from both machines. This is a big step forwards and so far has worked well. If you share data you must never hibernate a machine or it will lead to disaster if changes are made.
The only problem, other than hibernation, I have found in sharing the profiles for Firefox is with Extensions. In Windows AVG forces in a couple of extensions which are not available under Linux and there is an extension for Ubuntu when running in Linux which is clearly not available in Windows. I find that when I swap I get a popup saying extensions are being installed when I swap from one system to the other - this is to be expected but it would be nice if the messages could be suppressed. In general Extensions are likely to be a problem unless they are available and compatible in both Windows and Ubuntu. The Lightening extension seems to be compatible if the versions are the same for Thunderbird and Lightening in both cases but automatic updates can lead to disasters.
When you make changes using Administration they are system wide so you can only make them if you are an administrator and you will be asked for you password.
Lets Add and set up a Printer by System -> Administration -> Printing -> Edit -> New -> printer and follow the instructions if it has found your printer. You will normally not need any drivers - select from a comprehensive list which is built in for most common printers or try a generic/similar printer by the same manufacturer. You can print to a printer on another networked machine just as easily by System -> Administration -> Printing -> Edit -> New -> Windows Printer via Samba -> screens to identify the machine and printer which will be different in every case. It took me only a minute to set up my printer over the network last time - the printing of a test page took almost as long! Under Unity Printers is under System Settings.
THIS NEEDS TO BE CHANGED AS THE MEDIBUNTU REPOSITORY IS NO LONGER AVAILABLE. The Medibuntu Repository is a third-party repository contains many useful programs which are not true open source, allows one to enable DVD playback and to add the codecs for MP3 playing and ripping etc. It can be included by way of a few quick commands in a terminal.
It is often much easier and quicker to use text input rather than a Graphical User Interface and even in Windows one has to resort to it for complex system work. A terminal is opened by Applications -> Accessories -> Terminal. The terminal is very basic, for example Ctrl C and Ctrl V do not work for cut and paste but unusually clicking the center button of a three button mouse will paste. Up and down arrows scroll through the last commands used. Do not try to type any of the commands just cut and paste in turn from this web page and then hit enter after each one. If they start with Sudo you will be asked to enter your password. Try it on the following. Note there are two lines to cut and paste but on a small screen one or both may have 'wrapped round' so make sure you highlight and copy the whole lines.
This will add the Medibuntu repository, import the Medibuntu GPG key and make the new packages available for installing using the Synaptic Package Manager access by System -> Administration -> Synaptic Package Manager.
The Synaptic package manager is similar to Add/Remove but at a lower level and used more for adding services than main stream programs although it will do so just as well - we could have used it for Thunderbird we are going to be adding a number of library routines to for playing and ripping media files. The package manager is clever and every program in Ubuntu carries the information on its dependence on any other services and automatically downloads them, if required.
The latest version of Ubuntu do not include the Synaptic Package manager by default so the first job is to install it using the following command in a terminal:
sudo apt-get install synaptic
Open the Synaptic Package Manager by System -> Administration -> Synaptic Package Manage.
When the Synaptic Package Manager has opened use Search to find the package/program you want, click the box and click Mark for Installation each one. When they are all marked, click Apply. The following is the list I use whe setting up a machine.
If you want to play commercial encrypted DVDs using the Totem Movie Player there is more information in Ubuntu documentation on Movies, DVDs and Videos
These are activities which I carry out on a new installation but are probably best read about but left for a few days. I have tried to indicate the level of experience and/or difficulty.
For those of you who have been reading or using The Road to Freedom I should note that I have moved all the sections covering Permanently Mounting Drives, Networking, Backing Up and Synchronising Machines to a separate page titled Sharing, Networking, Backup, Synchronisation and Encryption under Ubuntu Linux . They are very important topics and you should implement them at an early stage but they go beyond my original intention of getting to the stage that you would be in if you bought a machine with Linux preinstalled. In particular if we are going to use a shared drive for data then we must ensure that it is permanently mounted and Permanently Mounting a drive shared with Windows is an activity for your next quiet evening.
Ubuntu has an option for adding a Trash Can icon to the desktop. This time open a run dialog by Alt+F2 and run the Gnome Configuration Editor by typing:
Now browse down to the apps \ nautilus \ desktop key and on the right hand side, you'll see an entry called trash_icon_visible. Just check the box - you can also change the trash_icon_name to Recycle Bin if you have a Windows background! You can also add your Home Folder and there are many other useful changes you can make using gconf-editor which are not accessible in the programs but without having to edit configuration files if you explore - try searching for a program name using Edit -> Find
I had problems when testing suspend and hibernate on some laptops which resulted in some very peculiar happenings. I therefore looked for a way to prevent them being activated. GNOME contains a database for storing your preferences called gconf, which is a similar database to the Windows registry. There is a Configuration Editor Program for Gnome which can be accessed via Applications -> System Tools -> Configuration Editor to easily make changes for the current user. To make global changes it has to be run with 'root privileges' which can be done by opening it in a terminal by:
Whichever way you have started it you should Navigate through the left hand tree to apps -> gnome-power-manager. Find the options named 'can_hibernate' and 'can_suspend' and uncheck them both.
If you started it as root in a terminal you can also Right-click on each in turn and click Set as Mandatory if you want to make sure that it applies to all users.
Now exit the Configuration Editor. Changes will not appear until after a reboot.
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