Wednesday, May 13, 2009

software: installing Linux details

I could have compiled the Linux kernel and utilities from scratch, but decided to start with a distribution: a compiled set of programs with an installer that people have tested and believe work well together.

Linux allows a choice of window system environments. I've followed the progress of the K Desktop Environment for years. I've even installed it on Windows (which brings to mind Samuel Johnson's quotation, it “is like a dog’s walking on his hind legs. It is not done well [yet]; but you are surprised to find it done at all.” So I knew I wanted KDE.

Ubuntu is known for being a popular GNU/Linux distribution, and it has a variant Kubuntu that ships KDE as its desktop.

The good I downloaded the CD-ROM image for Kubuntu 9.04 in mere minutes over BitTorrent, burned it onto CD-ROM, and rebooted. The CD-ROM lets you run Kubuntu from the CD-ROM or install it onto your hard drive. I chose the latter. But the installer itself is a full Linux installation! You're running a graphical desktop, your mouse works. I clicked the link for _Release notes_ and a web browser started up and went to a web site. So if the installer works you can be confident that graphics, input, and networking are going to work.

Woes I had left an empty partition for a Linux install, but at some point formatted it for Windows because I got tired of Windows' disk check complaining about it. That confused the installer, I couldn't tell it "Put Linux on D: and give me a dual-boot system." But I was able to fire up an IRC client in the browser in the installer and visit the #kubuntu IRC channel to ask strangers for help, where an insanely helpful person named "firefishe" took me through configuring /dev/sda1. My disk problems meant that the alleged migration assistant that would transfer my settings from Windows didn't run.

GoodUpon reboot I was running KDE! The desktop is handsome and rich.

OK I was able to access my Windows C: drive and all my document, though the installer didn't set it up and the command to do so is very arcane.


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