Ubuntu Linux: The Easy Installation Guide

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Ubuntu Installation (continued)

The steps outlined on the previous pages will yield a complete Ubuntu installation. But to enable all of this distribution's bells and whistles, read on.

Create Your Own Partitions (For Experts Only)

Ubuntu lets you free up this disk space in the course of installation, but if you're unfamiliar with Ubuntu's included Gparted disk-partition utility and with Linux partition-naming conventions, you may prefer to shrink or delete partitions beforehand. Warning: Before making changes to disk partitions, always back up your hard disk, or at least any key files that you can't afford to lose.

Windows XP's Computer Management console lets you delete partitions, if you happen to have an existing partition that you can afford to lose. Choose Start, Run, type compmgmt.msc, and select Disk Management under Storage. The Windows XP Disk Management tool can't shrink existing partitions, so if your existing Windows partition takes up the entire hard disk, you'll need a third-party partitioning tool to shrink it down. I recommend Andy McLaughlin's free Partition Logic.

The Windows Vista version of the Disk Management tool does allow you to shrink--though not move--partitions (to launch this tool, enter the same command as above in Vista's search field). If you have Vista, we recommend using it in lieu of Partition Logic, which is not yet completely compatible with Vista. Often you'll be able shrink partitions to their smallest size by first defragmenting them.

Whichever partitioning tool you use, it will ultimately display all of your existing partitions. Any Windows partitions should be clearly labeled as type 'ntfs' or 'fat32'. Create a swap partition that is approximately one and a half times the size of your system memory, and create an ext3 or ReiserFS partition of at least 4GB mounted at the file system root (/). As we warned earlier, always back up important files before performing this kind of operation.

Let Your Restricted Drivers Roam Free

Much like Windows or Mac OS X, Ubuntu automatically downloads updates over the Internet.
After the initial installation is complete and you boot Ubuntu for the first time, one of the first things that will happen (assuming that you have network connectivity) is that Update Manager will prompt you to download and install updates. By all means, do it--Ubuntu 8.10 is wonderful, but some parts of it are still incomplete and the first fix you download could be the one that keeps you from pulling your hair out.

Next, if your system contains hardware that isn't supported by open-source drivers, the Restricted Driver Manager toolbar applet will pop up a balloon notifying you that proprietary drivers for audio, video, or other hardware devices are available but are not enabled. To review and enable the proprietary drivers in use, click the toolbar applet, or choose System, Administration, Hardware Drivers, and then enable the ones that you want to try out. If you plan to use the advanced effects of the Compiz Fusion window manager, the 3D acceleration and other features that proprietary drivers usually provide are a must for satisfactory performance.

Ubuntu does such a great job of recognizing your PC's hardware via both open-source and proprietary drivers that its limited support for wireless networking cards may come as a shock (unless you're familiar with the opaque licensing practices of some leading wireless card vendors--we're looking at you, VIA). Even more shocking, however, is the solution: Just use Windows drivers.

If Ubuntu doesn't recognize your wireless network adapter, you can use an ingenious piece of software called ndiswrapper to replicate in Linux the Windows networking interface that the Windows wireless drivers expect to see, thus allowing them to run natively in Linux.

To install ndiswrapper, first launch Synaptic Package Manager by clicking System, Administration, Synaptic Package Manager. Type ndiswrapper in the search field and wait for the results; then select the three resulting packages (ndiskgtk, ndiswrapper-common, and ndiswrapper-utils) for installation, click Apply, and restart the computer when installation is complete. Download the Windows driver from the manufacturer of your wireless hardware, and choose System, Administration, Windows Wireless Drivers to launch the ndiswrapper configuration utility. Click on Install New Driver, browse to the manufacturer's .inf file (we were able to browse directly to the folder in our Windows partition where the driver was installed), and click Install.

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