Sunday, April 02, 2006

Ubuntu: The Saga Begins

Having abandoned Fedora Core (for now), I'm going to start working with Ubuntu Linux. Ubuntu is based on Debian GNU/Linux, without some of the political rhetoric (not that anything's wrong with that). So the next few hundred posts will be describing how I get my new Ubuntu system to look exactly like my old Fedora Core system. (Hey, my wife's greatest dream is to move into a house that looks exactly like the one she grew up in — why can't guys do that with computers?)

To start, we have to install the system. This presents a problem, because my Linux box, through every fault of my own, is completely useless. The only thing good you can say about it is that I didn't actually get so far as to repartition the entire disk (not that I didn't try), hence my personal files in the /home directory are still intact and I won't have to reload them from backups if I finagle the install correctly.

Fortunately, I have access to a Mac running OS X, which will let me go to Ubuntu's download page and download version 5.10, "Hoary Hedgehog" (don't ask). I could then burn it to a CD.

Which created a toaster. You download a CD ISO image. Unfortunately, the default Mac CD burning software copies the image as a file, creating a CD which won't boot. You need to search the Application/Utilities folder to find the correct program, which changed its name between Mac X.2 and Mac X.4. Anyway, once I'd done that I got a bootable CD.

So I loaded into my Linux box, and it booted without problems. I selected a default install, everything in English. Actually, you don't get much of a chance to change things at this point, anyway.

Ubuntu has no root account, everything involving system administration is done using the sudo command from accounts that are given the priviledge of using it. More on that in a later post. So the install program asks you for the name of a user's account, and an initial password.

Then the computer starts searching the CD and maybe the web for more programs. Eventually it gets to a screen which says "Setting Up Primary Installation Repository." It gets up the 25% done.

And then the system hangs.

This has been mentioned in the Ubuntu forums, where we find that there is a workaround:

  • When you reach the screen that asks you for a username/password, hit the Escape key
  • In the ensuing menu will be an item which says "Install Grub." This is the boot loader that selects the operating system you use when your machine boots.
  • When that's done, kick out the CD and reboot.
  • Fill in the information asked about the username/password, reinsert the CD when asked, and complete the installation.

This isn't a particularly friendly procedure, is it? Ubuntu is supposed to be "Linux for Human Beings," not "Linux for Human Beings who have an extra computer on hand and can Google for help in the middle of an install." But it worked for me, and I really need to get some form of Linux on this machine, so we're running Ubuntu at the moment.