Leaving The Nest: From Windows To Linux

Well, I was talking with a friend of mine on IRC a few days back and was pretty much egging him to be an author here at HackTalk. After a while of deliberating he decided he’d write up an article but didn’t really know what to write about. He came back a few days later and said he was going to dualboot Windows and Linux and we decided he should catalogue his journey into the “secret” world of Linux-topia and thus this series was born.

A little bit of background into Vladimir, this dude is a really dedicated Windows user and so the fact that he is even trying Linux is a big step for him as it is for many first time Linux users. He decided if he wrote this article from the view point of a Windows born,taught,raised,and fed user that many other people could relate to it and be able to at least give Linux a try.

Without further adieu here is his article. (I’ll be posting the first chapter but he will be posting the rest)

Chapter -1: Apathy and Open-Source Software

I’m sitting here at my netbook, staring at my desktop. Why, you ask? Because… I’m about to do something dangerous. Live on the wild side. Play with the animals, that sort of thing. I’m going to install Linux. Ubuntu 9.04, desktop edition, to be precise.

I’m the sort that always raged against Micro$oft, and thought that using Firefox, Thunderbird, and OpenOffice was enough to prove my rebellious ways—in essence, I was interested in open-source because it was a fad. People at school would talk about open-source projects as if my very own dollars were the determining factor in the business plan of Bill Gates. It wasn’t until one of my classmates (in English class, of all places!) started talking about what it meant to take part in open-source software. He spoke of being part of a team, of getting off of the computer and feeling damn good, because he was part of something that would benefit many poor people, who couldn’t afford the more expensive software. In the end, it was the geek version of what environmentalists do when they show you pictures of dead endangered species.

I’d always said “Oh, I’m gonna go to Linux eventually, but what about my games?” Whenever anyone mentioned dual-booting, I quickly found an excuse to change the subject. Truth be told, I didn’t want the “work” that Linux seemed to be. However, after reading several articles concerning the multitude of benefits to Linux, I finally decided to bite the bullet. After reviewing several distributions (very) briefly, I decided to use Ubuntu because of its strong GUI presence, not to mention that I knew a few people using it, so help wouldn’t ever be too far away.

I’ve decided to write this because of the fear I feel just thinking about switching from Windows to a dual-boot system. I understand that others may feel this fear also, and I wish to catalogue my experiences (for good or ill), so that people considering this change can see what to expect.

If you have any questions for me at all, please say something in the comments box.


Chapter 1: Installation and Partitions

At the very word ‘partition’, my blood runs cold. In the back of my head, that little ungainly robot is running in circles yelling “Danger, Will Robinson!”, and it becomes difficult t o concentrate. After this has passed, I decide that I’m going to make the partition from within Windows. Why? I know that I’m still addicted to Windows, and I know that using it to do something in preparation will make me feel better. I used the software Partition Magic to create a 15 GB “Dead Space” on my HDD. Please note that 15 GB is on the large side for the average user. I was getting estimates from other Ubuntu fans of 4-6 GB, if I wasn’t planning on doing anything massive with it. However, I like to play it safe. I accomplished this by telling Partition Magic to shrink my current Partition down 15 GB, but not replace it or format it. I am told that Linux works with dead space easier than Windows formatting. Partition shrunk, there’s really nothing left to do but put the Ubuntu Live CD that I downloaded into my drive and restart. It was with no small trepidation that I told Windows to go away.

Immediately, the Ubuntu Live CD asked me if I wanted to run the distribution from the CD, or install. Since I was sure of what I wanted to do, I told it to install. If you would rather play around with it before-hand, running Ubuntu from the CD does nothing to your Windows files. Just keep in mind that it’s going to be a couple shades slower running from a CD than running from your HDD. After telling it to install, it asked me to set up my language, which I selected from a long list. To my surprise, my USB Trackball was already working. Often, we come under the misconception that Linux is incredibly difficult to work with, simply because it is free. Not so… or more accurately, not yet. In any case, after selecting a keyboard, I come to the partition screen. I tell Ubuntu to use / (the root of the partition) as the mount point for the installation (NOTE: This is where some fancy terms start being used. ‘Selecting a Mount Point’ for our purposes, is no different when Windows asking you ‘Where would you like to install this?’ when you’re trying to put Office or a game on your computer), and click forward.

My first error! Not so much an error as a warning, though: “You have not selected a swap space: Doing so will improve your computer’s function”. Well, function is important, right? Ubuntu lets you choose how big your swap space is, something that Windows (mis)handles for you. Well, I look at my Windows partition and decide to take another chunk out of it… 4 GB, to be exact. That’s pretty large for a swap file, but I didn’t want to take any chances. I’m expecting to have to reboot twice, as I did with Windows when I used Partition Magic. After a moment, the new partition appeared ready to use! Well, I’ve certainly seen the first improvement.  Finally, with Swap File and Mount Point set, I click forward. After making my user name and password, I am greeted with my second shock: Not only does Linux realize that I have Microsoft XP installed, but it asks me if I want to import my Mozilla Firefox and Thunderbird settings, and if I want My Documents / Pictures / Music / Video available to me in Linux. As tempted as I am, I don’t select any of them. I want to do this from the ground up. It’s amazing that the option is there, though. With just one more click to verify, I’m installing Ubuntu proper. In the time it took to type the previous two sentences, the installation is 29% done. As someone who fixes his family’s computers and has had to sit through countless XP and Vista installs, I almost shed a tear at this point. What merciful being has allowed such a marvelous creation?

About ten to fifteen minutes later, Ubuntu informs me that it does have to restart. Fair enough, it just installed itself. However, I jump out of my chair as I hear my disc tray open, sure that my computer has decided to commit suicide. False alarm: Ubuntu is kind enough to have a screen that reminds you to remove the CD from the drive, lest you try to install it again.

After reboot, it asks me if I want to run Ubuntu or WinXP Pro. I resist the urge to boot into Windows ‘just to make sure everything is fine’, and select Ubuntu. I’m greeted with a very nice looking screen, and a login box. After typing my username and password, I’m in. Call me silly, but just doing that much on a Linux system makes me feel as if I am in the movie Hackers. Two boxes immediately pop onto the screen: One says Update Manager, and the other says “Restricted Drivers Available”. The latter sounds more severe, so I click on it and read. Apparently, ATI (the manufacturers of my video card) do not allow their drivers to be modified. According to the dialog box, there is a driver available, and it has been tested by the Ubuntu developers. So I feel calm as I tell the computer to activate the driver. While it’s doing that, I move over to the other window. Apparently, Ubuntu has updated some things since they released 9.04. Looks like relatively dry stuff, though I’m sure that it would be interesting if I knew what half the applications mentioned did at this point. I tell Ubuntu to go ahead and update, which brings up a security prompt. “Oh, no… just like UAC for Vista!” Not quite. This box actually tells you why it requires your password, and what part of the system you’re giving the application permission to modify. Fantastic, in my opinion: as long as I understand why it wants to do something, I really have no qualms. The update and the video drive install take less than seven minutes total—and unlike XP, there is no second, third, fourth, and fifth round of updates to do after the first. When Ubuntu says it’s updating, it means it.

The hour grows late, so after installing the updates I restart my computer. I can’t help but wonder if Windows is okay. This time I select XP Pro from the menu options, and my breath catches in my throat. Soon enough, I am staring at the progress bar. Already I find myself aggravated by the time it takes for my system to load. Sure enough, Windows is still there, just how I left it. It has already lost some of its glamour. I grin as I shut it down, thinking that I’ve made a wise choice today.

As always, any questions can go in the comments box.



26 Responses

  1. Enjoyed this post very much and look forward to reading more about your continuing experiences with Ubuntu. Good luck 🙂

    • Thank you! I try to write in sort of a narrative, dry-humor style, to avoid blocks of senseless informative text. Besides, it is a common religious belief that no one can bring more passion to bear than the newly converted. 🙂

  2. Welcome To Linux. Enjoy yourself and Good Luck!

  3. Great read! Well written too, enjoy the freedom!

  4. I predict that pretty soon you will only boot into Windows to play a particular game or two. Once you get tired of the games, you’ll stop using Windows altogether. (My last dual-boot machine had Windows ME on it!) Enjoy!

    — damon

  5. ati vedio cards do not work well with Linux and it is better not to use restricted driver. It is my personal experience and blogger sjvn wote an article about this.

    • Please avoid over-generalized statements like this, especially where restricted drivers are concerned.

      ATI and nVidia both provide restricted drivers which greatly enhance their user’s graphics capabilities in Linux, at the cost of being tied to that company for driver updates. I, and many others, accept that limitation to get the enhanced graphics capability.

      A very recent example of the possible downside of my choice was the Ubuntu 9.04 release – ATI chose not to support some older cards in their driver release, which left those users with no choice but the open source driver. Note that the consequence was not total loss of video capability, it was loss of the enhanced capabilities provided by the restricted drivers.

  6. Welcome !!!

  7. Welcome to the experience of a lifetime(computer-wise). I dropped Win. 6 yrs ago and have never looked back(except to help or convert someone) Enjoy !

  8. Excellent writing, made me laugh a couple of times.. Glad to have you in the Linux world, enjoy the real freedom!

    Oh, and I wish you would write “Top 7 Reasons People Quit Windows”, as opposed to this post “Top 7 Reasons People Quit Linux” (http://www.pcworld.com/businesscenter/article/164205/top_7_reasons_people_quit_linux.html).

    You seem like the perfect candidate for the job… Good luck Vladimir..

  9. Maybe even “Top 7 Reasons People Quit Internet Explorer”….
    And “Top 7 Reasons People Quit Microsoft Office”

  10. Vladimir —

    You won’t regret trying Linux. I have switched two non-geek friends to Linux, mostly so I wouldn’t have to worry about keeping their machines virus-free. I, myself, ran a dual-boot system for a year before I switched completely to Linux at home. At work, I have two systems, Ubuntu 9.04 (for development tools and utilities) and Windows XP (for official applications).

    My two friends had no problem moving from Windows to Linux, and I suspect you won’t either. Linux really isn’t so different to use, the big difference is in control and flexibility — it’s all up to you (instead of being done for you by Microsoft).

    Have fun!

  11. Oh man, I actually envy you the thrill of installing Linux for the first time. I’ve been using Linux for almost a decade and there was no bigger thrill than getting all my stuff to work without having to pay an arm and a leg to do so.

    You may already know this – I don’t know how far your postings trail your actual experience – but you will have some habits from using Windows that will not translate directly into Linux. I would suggest delving into some basic lessons; I usually point folks to linux.org’s lessons for starters, although there are PLENTY of similar books and articles.


  12. Vladimir –
    Welcome to Linux…after you are more comfortable with it, you may wan to use Virtual Box to install Windows in it so you wont have to keep rebooting in a dual boot configuration. You can use Windows like any other application since you already paid for it.

    Good Luck and hang in there.

  13. Good work, very funny indeed. Go GNU/Linux!

  14. […] Leaving The Nest: From Windows To Linux The hour grows late, so after installing the updates I restart my computer. I can’t help but wonder if Windows is okay. This time I select XP Pro from the menu options, and my breath catches in my throat. Soon enough, I am staring at the progress bar. Already I find myself aggravated by the time it takes for my system to load. Sure enough, Windows is still there, just how I left it. It has already lost some of its glamour. I grin as I shut it down, thinking that I’ve made a wise choice today. […]

  15. Great text !!!

    I’m myself a Linux addicted since long, but I’m tired of nonsense flames and name calling.

    I wish to congratulate you for your choice, not for Linux and not for Ubuntu, but just to try a new technoglogy, the pure essence of geekdom, just the joy of new possibilities.

    I’m looking forward for the new chapters of your quest to a brave new world !

    Cheers ! Have fun !

  16. That was a fun story. You should go to justlinux.com and find the thread where Saikee tells how to run 100+ OS on one machine. His latest is almost 150 copies of XP on one machine, which I assume he is doing to dispel those rumors you can’t run but one copy of Windows on a machine.

  17. Congratulations on making the switch!

    I dumped Windows 2 years ago, and it’s been a joy ever since, no virii, no trojans, no registry… I suspect tht you will find that you use Windows less and less, and start to resent it’s frailties. I know I did.

    One warning – it’s easy to join the Distro of the Month club. I have spare machine, and I used it to check out all the neat distros available. My wife thinks I’m nuts .

  18. […] hacktalk wrote an interesting post today onLeaving The Nest: From bWindows/b To Linux « HackTalkHere’s a quick excerptI predict that pretty soon you will only boot into bWindows/b to play a particular game or two. Once you get tired of the games, you’ll bstop/b using bWindows/b altogether. (My last dual-boot machine had bWindows/b ME on it!) Enjoy! … Maybe even “Top b7/b Reasons People Quit Internet bExplorer/b”…. And “Top b7/b Reasons People Quit Microsoft Office”. Reply. Peter, on May 13th, 2009 at 12:17 pm Said: Vladimir –. You won’t regret trying Linux. I have switched two non-geek friends to Linux, … […]

  19. Now that you have your own Ubuntu box ready, you might as well like to tell Ubuntu that you are not Richard Stallman and that you ought to play multimedia by getting the package “ubuntu-restricted-extras” from the Synaptic package manager. Also you should try VLC media player.

  20. In a few months, when you’ll find that you haven’t booted into Windows for a looooong time, you’ll read this article again and wonder, just like I did: Where’s chapter 0?

  21. I just switched to linux too.Ubuntu is great,no more troians or viruses here,awesome post.

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