The Hopeful Hacker Ubuntu Linux

 The simple, safe, first step to using linux


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The First Step

It was the first step that kept me out of Linux for a long time.  I didn't know how to get started and didn't want to damage my computer.

Good news!  The first step is a piece of cake, and you can't hurt you computer.  Here's why: you can run Ubuntu from a CD.  That means you can try it without installing it on your computer.  Completely safe and amazingly easy.


Getting Ubuntu on a CD

Here's what you're going to do.  You're going to start by downloading Ubuntu from the web. (You can also buy it on a CD or DVD, but if you have a reasonably fast internet connection downloading it is fast and free).

What you're downloading is CD image in the form of an iso file.  It's simpler that it sounds.  A CD image is just a file that mirrors what's actually on a CD-ROM.  It has the files and the CD index information all put together so all you have to do is place it on the disk.

If you're using Windows, the easiest way to do it is with a free Windows power toy called ISO recorder.  Once you install it on your computer, it will associate itself with any ISO files on your computer.  Then you just go to the ISO file in Windows Explorer, right click on it, and from the menu choose "burn iso."

You can download the ISO Recorder power toy and get the instructions for using it here.  If you install ISO Recorder now, you'll be ready to burn when the time comes.

Once you've  got Ubuntu on a disk, all you have to do is slide it into your CD drive and reboot your computer.  But that's getting ahead of ourselves.

Downloading Ubuntu

The Ubuntu download page walks you through the steps.  

Choosing a version

First you'll choose the version of Ubuntu you want.  I use 8.04 Desktop Edition for the x86 architecture.  It's nicknamed Hardy Heron.  It's probably the one you want.

Matching your computer

Next, select the version for your computer. The Server Edition is for servers.  The 64 bit version is for computers with 64 bit processors.

If you're using Windows, you can go to Control Panel > Performance and Maintenance > System to see what kind of computer you have.  If it says 32 bit, Standard is what you want.  If it says 64-bit, you can choose that option, but you don't have to. I loaded it on my son's laptop and had some problems -- probably my fault, but there wasn't much 64 bit software available anyway. 

Here's some more information on matching Ubuntu to you computer.


You may notice that the full name is 8.04 LTS.  The LTS stands for "long term support."  It means Ubuntu will support the system for 3 years before moving on to the next supported system.

New versions will come out before the next LTS, but Ubuntu won't offer long-term support for them.  I don't think it matters.  The Ubuntu community is so big and so helpful that you can find or get help for any problems on any version almost immediately. You just put "Ubuntu (version) (question)" into Google and chance are pretty good you'll find the answer on your own.  If not, just post to a forum and someone will help.

Download location

Next, choose a download location somewhere near you and click the big green "Start Download" icon.

Make the disk 

When the download finishes, find the file on your computer, right click and choose burn iso.

When the disk is done, you're ready to run Ubuntu.