About Me

When not at work with students, I spend my time in my room either reading, calculating something using pen and paper, or using a computer. I read almost anything: from the pornographic to the profound, although my main interests are mathematics and physics. "When I get a little money I buy books; and if any is left I buy food and clothes." -Erasmus

Friday, December 2, 2011

From Windows 7 to a dual-boot with ubuntu 11.10

Since it was a holiday yesterday, I decided to convert my Windows 7 netbook into a dual-boot, with ubuntu 11.10 as the alternate operating system. I've read about how linux distributions use less system resources, and I wanted to try it. Since my computer does have 320 Gb of hard disk space, all I had to do was use Gparted to repartition my hard disk, and then run the ubuntu 11.10 liveCD.

Of course it wasn't that simple. I had to get the partitions right, and make sure that my windows installation would be unaffected. When I originally set up my netbook on win 7, I created three partitions, one for Windows, the second one for an alternate OS, and the third one for a place that both can access.

I spent 5 hours getting it done (swearing all the way!) for the following reasons:
(1) I am a Linux newbie, especially when it comes to administrator tasks such as installations, and system administration. In order to get things  working, I had to  hop between Google searches and the installation process.

(2) I had to learn about the difference between ordinary partitions and logical partitions, since only four partitions were allowed. Since Windows had to have two of these, only two were left for ubuntu. I'd read about the root needing a separate partition, and another one for the swap space ( the linux analog of the windows pagefile), and then the last one for the other files. It took me a while to realize that I could set it up using logical partitions.

(3) The installation stopped somewhere in the middle. Turns out the Live CD has a bug: if you run it first as a Live CD, and then go back and install, the installation will stop somewhere. To get it running, you should restart your computer and then choose the install now option without going through the LiveCD's "try it first" option.  Once I did that, everything went smoothly.

After the install, I decided to use ubuntu and see if I could do my usual tasks: edit MS Office documents, browse the web, listen to music and watch movies. While doing all that, and downloading the necessary program components, I inadvertently unplugged my laptop. Which led me to another bug. Although I knew that the battery was full, and that while on Windows I could get it to run continuously for four hours, the ubuntu power-manager informed me that I only had a few minutes of power left and it was asking me if I wanted to shut down or hibernate. Naturally, I replugged my power cord and then started searching for a fix.

One workaround involved turning off one of the settings of the power manager. After using the workaround, I decided to see if updates for ubuntu were available. I found around 240 Mb of updates waiting for permission to be downloaded and installed.  So I let my computer to download the updates overnight, and slept. The next morning, I tried going back and restoring the settings back, and see if the update fixed the power manager. It did the trick. 

I've been using ubuntu since yesterday to do all of my regular work, and plan to use windows only when necessary. It feels good, especially when I compare how my netbook performs while running GIMP. On windows, I usually use about 600 to 800 MB of RAM, while the same tasks on ubuntu usually take about half as much RAM. GIMP doesn't feel choppy in ubuntu, compared to how it works wile running windows 7. Since I use GIMP or photoshop for making figures for exams and presentations, it's nice to see GIMP running smoothly even when I have other things running side-by-side. 

Other things I did to see if ubuntu and its component programs worked properly: I opened a powerpoint presentation using LibreOffice Impress, and hook up my computer to a projector. While using windows I had to download a driver to get it working properly; In contrast, in ubuntu, it worked automatically.

I also spent time recording student quizzes using LibreOffice Calc (that's the LibreOffice spreadsheet program, an alternative to MS Excel), and it worked fine.

So most of the things I need to do that's office related, such as manipulate spreadsheets, edit documents, and present powerpoint presentations I could easily do with ubuntu. The only other thing I haven't tried yet is printing documents. I'll see how it goes tomorrow.


Tim said...

Wubi would have saved you a lot of trouble for a dual boot system :)


It also lets you quickly un-do all partition changes and the install itself if you decide that you just don't like Ubuntu.

My main desktop is Ubuntu, which is rather necessary. I develop server software and device drivers for systems using the Linux (and other POSIX) kernels.

I used Wubi to install a dual boot scheme on my Windows laptop, using Trisquel (a fork of Ubuntu). It was literally effortless on both XP and Windows 7.

I firmly believe that printers were invented by some unknown evil force in the universe with the sole intent of making human kind suffer. However, if you use a common brand (HP/Brother), printing should be quite easy.

Mike said...

I thought about using wubi, but I also read about the limitations. For example, I read that if for some reason windows crashes, you can't use wubi.

I chose a dual-boot setup so that I could work with two independent operating systems. If windows goes down, I could at least still access the data in the partition reserved for windows without having to immediately repair it or hunt for a liveCD. I save documents in a part of my hard disk that windows and ubuntu shares, so if ubuntu crashes, I would still be able to access all my files using Windows, and vice versa.

I'm quite happy with the performance of ubuntu on the netbook. I've looked at the system monitor time and again, and ubuntu doesn't leave much of a footprint, and GIMP doesn't slow down my system.

My Office needs are taken care of by LibreOffice, and I'm adding additional programs so that I can do my numerical work (I use Fortran, and may have to learn python for teaching purposes) and compile TeX files.

I'm lucky with the printer because my machine immediately recognized the printer at work-- I didn't need to go look for drivers :-)

So far, so good. If this keeps up, I'll probably stick to using ubuntu and use Windows as my backup OS.