Thursday, December 19, 2013

Windows to Linux, Part III: Installing the Linux Desktop

Welcome back to my article series on migrating to Linux from Windows. In the previous two parts, we learned to leave a trail behind so that we know the way back to Windows if we want to go back, and we learned a little bit about the variety of Linux desktop operating systems.

Today, we're going to take the plunge into the nether depths, the point of know return. This is where we actually say buh-bye to the data on the disk and install Linux on top. This is a warning to any and all who start this work on a personal computer: the steps in this procedure will destroy any and all data on the disk. This is necessary to install the operating system.

If you have followed along so far, you know how to backup your disk so that you can restore it. But what we didn't cover is how to backup your personal data. Personal data is data you create, like Word files, pictures, sound files you collected, video files you created. These are files that are impossible to recreate. Unless you have a backup, once they are gone, they are incredible difficult to reconstruct.

The steps required to install an operating system will reformat any data on the disk, utterly and completely destroying any data on the disk that was there before. Before we install an operating system, we're going to backup up any data that is present on your computer that you want to keep. This step is actually pretty easy.

The article, Windows to Linux, Part I: leaving a trail of crumbs to get back, discusses the use of an external drive to store a copy of an image of your hard disk. We're going to need that drive here and now. We're going to save any personal files you have created or stored on your new computer there, on the external disk drive used to image your computer. If you have created no new data on the new computer, then you can skip this step. But if you have data you want to keep on the computer, now is the time to back it up.

With Windows running, connect your USB disk to the computer and copy your documents, pictures, music and videos to the external disk. Once that is done, we can proceed.

Your data is backed up. Your disk has been imaged so you can go back to Windows if should ever desire, in one easy step. Now are going to do the unthinkable! We are going to insert a Linux boot DVD into the DVD tray and reboot. 

For the uninitiated, this can be scary. That familiar Windows chime on login will be gone. The grassy hill with the wispy clouds? Gone. The start button, well, it will look different if you install KDE. For the adventurous, this can be exhilarating, as it was for me when I got my hands on a spare computer to try Linux. I was on the bow of a boat on the way to Catalina, feeling the wind in my hair and the spray of salt water on my face, with the bow lunging with each crash through a wave. Yeah, it felt like that to me. So if you have a spare computer, by all means, experiment there.

Today, I want to show you how to install what I like to use, Ubuntu Gnome. I started with Ubuntu in 2007 and never looked back to Windows. I just can't, and don't want to, imagine going back to Windows. I am so compelled that I don't want anything that looks like Windows. So I use Ubuntu Gnome, an operating system free of the tedious Start menu, with endless submenus. No, today, I want to show you Gnome. 

The steps here are much the same regardless of the desktop or distro you choose to run. This is just a sample. Let us begin, shall we?

Newer computers will have UEFI with secure boot turned on by default. You will need to turn off UEFI and secure boot in order to boot the CD/DVD and to run Linux. We covered this briefly in Part I, but each manufacturer handles it a little differently, so please consult your users manual or manufacturer's website for details on how to turn off UEFI. Once you know you have UEFI and secure boot turned off, read on.

Insert your freshly burned Ubuntu Gnome DVD into the tray and boot to your DVD. When the computer is finished booting, it will look like this:

As you can see, I'm running this in a program called Virtualbox. Virtualbox makes it easy for me to test operating systems to see if I like them. For now, just know that the screen should look substantially the same as above.

The next step is to try Ubuntu GNOME. Click the button on the left. The computer will note your selection and present the Gnome Shell to you for use as shown below:

Here, at this point, you can test the desktop for sound, video and network to make sure it will run as expected. But what we're going to do next is install the operating system. Press the Windows key and type "install". A list of possible choices will appear as shown below:

Press Enter to select "Install Ubuntu GNOME". Then you will be presented with the first step to install Ubuntu GNOME:

Here, we're not quite at the point of no return. We're invited to the next step of the journey. Click Continue and you will be presented with the next screen:

Here, you'll want to check off the two boxes to download updates and third party software. The reason for the update is obvious. The reason for the third party software is so you can play MP3s, mainly. Then click Continue.

Here, we're presented with choices. In example above, the disk is blank. But for your Windows machine, you will be given a choice to install Ubuntu alongside Windows. For this exercise, we're going to choose "Erase disk and install Ubuntu GNOME". Take note of the warning below that option. This will absolutely destroy all data on the disk. This, is the point of no return. Once you click "Install Now" there is zero chance you will recover any data on the disk.

If you've backed up your data, imaged your hard disk and you have taken a deep breath, click Install Now and let it run. During the install, you will be presented with images and text describing the benefits of using Ubuntu Gnome. But before that, you will be prompted to enter your Name, select a user name and enter a password. Follow the prompts.

Select the time zone:

Select your keyboard (use the default in the USA):

Now enter your name, username and password:

And so it begins...

When you're done, you will be presented with a choice, you can keep testing or reboot:

We're going to reboot. Tomorrow, we will see what to do next.

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