The Ubuntu Installation Experience

By Frank Ohlhorst  |  Print this article Print


Desktop-as-a-Service Designed for Any Cloud ? Nutanix Frame

 We took a system builders point of view for installing Ubuntu (and Kubuntu) to judge what would be involved in distributing a business class Linux PC to an end user. With that in mind, we assembled a mid range desktop PC, with newer components and even switched in and out various components to further complicate the installation process. The idea here was to test driver installation and compatibility offered out of the box (or actually the down loaded ISO file) and gauge the ability to swap or upgrade hardware, deal with various assembly line changes and judge the skill set needed to build Ubuntu based white boxes.

Initial installations were done with a system built using a Tyan Tomcat motherboard, AMD Phenom X3 processor, 2 Gbytes of DDR2 Corsair RAM, a Western Digital EIDE hard drive, LG DVD-RW drive and an ATI HD3470 PCI-E video card. We also did installs, hardware swap outs and upgrades by switching video cards with an Nvidia GeForce 6800 video card and a Seagate Sata hard drive, along with a Benq Optical drive. We also tried the system with 1 Gbyte of RAM instead of two.

Installation was performed directly from a Ubuntu ISO CD, which was created by downloading an ISO image and burned to a blank CD. Install CDs were created for both Ubuntu and Kubuntu.

Booting from the CD offered several installation choices, ranging from standard installs, to manual installs to OEM installs. For both Ubuntu and Kubuntu we chose to go with the OEM install process, which is meant for system builders looking to distribute the OS with a new PC.

As part of the installation process, we could choose how to partition and allocate the hard drive, we chose the easiest route, which automatically formats and partitions the whole hard drive. That means all previous data/partitions would be overwritten. The install process took about 15 minutes and the OS detected all of the major hardware components and installed the appropriate drivers - at least well enough for the system to boot up. The final step of the initial install process consists of removing the install CD and rebooting the system.

Once rebooted, both Ubuntu and Kubuntu asked for login credentials. Ubuntu defaulted to the system builders credentials, while Kubuntu offered the system builders credentials as a choice during login.Those credentials were entered during the first stage of setup, along with some other basic information, such as a system name, time zone and other locality settings.

Once logged in, the system automatically contacted an update server and downloaded the latest drivers, patches and any application updates that were needed, a process that does need to be confirmed by the user.

Once the initial update completes, a system builder can launch an application which readies the system for shipment. Basically, that application removes any accounts and settings that were used during the initial install. That preps the system for the end user and when the end user first fires up the new system, a guided install to personalize the system will automatically run. Basically, both Ubuntu and Kubuntu offer a very slick interface for system builders looking to ready a new system for shipment and prepares the system adequately for a new user to have a straightforward experience.

We did encounter a few driver issues during the basic install; both video cards needed additional driver downloads to function properly. That said, only OpenGL and 3D were affected by the lack of the new drivers, the overall user interface still functioned well enough to configure and even use the system.

Arguably, the most important requirement during installation seems to be having a compatible network card and a connection to the internet. If the operating system can connect to the Internet during installation, then critical drivers can be downloaded and installed as part of the setup process.

We did run into some problems when switching video cards. If we replaced the ATI card with the NVidia card the system would hang (or at least not load the GUI) when we tried to boot. The simplest way to overcome the problem was to reinstall the OS . That said, both Ubuntu and Kubuntu offer boot up utilities or a "safe mode" that allows a technician to change or reload drivers. Interestingly, switching from an Nvidia card to an ATI card seemed to work without a hitch, the system auto-detected the new card and loaded the appropriate basic drivers, akin to how Windows XP or Vista would handle that same situation.

Simply put, hardware detection has come a long way with the 8.04 release and is a major improvement over previous releases. It is still not perfect, but comes pretty close to offering a Windows style experience and should suit even the most particular of end users.

Frank Ohlhorst Frank J. Ohlhorst is the Executive Technology Editor for eWeek Channel Insider and brings with him over 20 years of experience in the Information Technology field.He began his career as a network administrator and applications program in the private sector for two years before joining a computer consulting firm as a programmer analyst. In 1988 Frank founded a computer consulting company, which specialized in network design, implementation, and support, along with custom accounting applications developed in a variety of programming languages.In 1991, Frank took a position with the United States Department of Energy as a Network Manager for multiple DOE Area Offices with locations at Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL), Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPL), Argonne National Laboratory (ANL), FermiLAB and the Ames Area Office (AMESAO). Frank's duties included managing the site networks, associated staff and the inter-network links between the area offices. He also served at the Computer Security Officer (CSO) for multiple DOE sites. Frank joined CMP Technology's Channel group in 1999 as a Technical Editor assigned to the CRN Test Center, within a year, Frank became the Senior Technical Editor, and was responsible for designing product testing methodologies, assigning product reviews, roundups and bakeoffs to the CRN Test Center staff.In 2003, Frank was named Technology Editor of CRN. In that capacity, he ensured that CRN maintained a clearer focus on technology and increased the integration of the Test Center's review content into both CRN's print and web properties. He also contributed to Netseminar's, hosted sessions at CMP's Xchange Channel trade shows and helped to develop new methods of content delivery, Such as CRN-TV.In September of 2004, Frank became the Director of the CRN Test Center and was charged with increasing the Test Center's contributions to CMP's Channel Web online presence and CMP's latest monthly publication, Digital Connect, a magazine geared towards the home integrator. He also continued to contribute to CMP's Netseminar series, Xchange events, industry conferences and CRN-TV.In January of 2007, CMP Launched CRNtech, a monthly publication focused on technology for the channel, with a mailed audience of 70,000 qualified readers. Frank was instrumental in the development and design of CRNTech and was the editorial director of the publication as well as its primary contributor. He also maintained the edit calendar, and hosted quarterly CRNTech Live events.In June 2007, Frank was named Senior Technology Analyst and became responsible for the technical focus and edit calendars of all the Channel Group's publications, including CRN, CRNTech, and VARBusiness, along with the Channel Group's specialized publications Solutions Inc., Government VAR, TechBuilder and various custom publications. Frank joined Ziff Davis Enterprise in September of 2007 and focuses on creating editorial content geared towards the purveyors of Information Technology products and services. Frank writes comparative reviews, channel analysis pieces and participates in many of Ziff Davis Enterprise's tradeshows and webinars. He has received several awards for his writing and editing, including back to back best review of the year awards, and a president's award for CRN-TV. Frank speaks at many industry conferences, is a contributor to several IT Books, holds several records for online hits and has several industry certifications, including Novell's CNE, Microsoft's MCP.Frank can be reached at frank.ohlhorst@ziffdavisenterprise.com

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