It is official, Windows XP is finally dead. Windows XP was released to manufacturing on August 24, 2001, and generally released for retail sale on October 25, 2001. The operating system was almost 13 years old. The good news is if you are developing for the web you don’t need to worry about Internet Explorer 6 any more because that died with XP. Microsoft would have you believe that they only way to go is to Windows 7 or maybe even Windows 8 if you are brave and Some will move over to a Mac. That is the case for a lot of the users out there but for some, you will be tempted to try an alternative OS that you have heard people talking about.
Ubuntu is a flavor of Linux that I talk about quite frequently on CMDann.ca and it happens to be my favorite flavor of Linux. It is also the world’s most popular Linux distro (if you don’t count Android) and is really a nice solution. Linux has a bit of a reputation for running nicely on older hardware but that is not always the case, especially if you choose a desktop environment that is not so light weight. Linux does not necessarily equal difficult. My Granny switched from Windows to Ubuntu and I have never got any frantic emails asking for help and she is not a tech wizard or anything along those lines.
If you have never seen Ubuntu before maybe you should take a tour and look. The first thing you may notice is there are familiar programs like FireFox and ThunderBird, as well as an office suite similar to word. These come preinstalled with the OS and they might even be the programs you already use on Windows.
There isn’t a whole lot you need to know before getting started except that you will lose all your current data depending on how you choose to set up. Likely you will wipe the entire operating system off the disk on your computer but there are other options like dual booting which allows you to choose your operating system at start up. For the sake of time I am going to only talk as if you are deleting Windows XP (because you should, it is dead) and installing Ubuntu.
You need to download Ubuntu from the website. There are several options when doing this. Currently the LTS (Long Term Support) release is version 12.04. The LTS release means that they are supporting this version for a longer period of time. If you choose a newer release you will recieve newer packages but they are not supported as long before a new version comes out. You can currently download 13.10 on the website but 14.04 is about to come out as well.
For extended support,
choose Ubuntu 12.04 LTS
Ubuntu 12.04.4 LTS is a long-term support release. It has continuous hardware support improvements as well as guaranteed security and support updates until April 2017.
For the latest features,
choose Ubuntu 13.10
Ubuntu 13.10 will be supported for 9 months and includes cutting-edge new features that make your music, videos, documents and apps much easier to access.
You will need to download the version appropriate to what you want. I use the versions for the latest features, I suggest if you are new to all this that you don’t. Once you have your image downloaded you will need to install it as a bootable USB or burn it to a DVD.
The install process for Ubuntu is not that long and not that different from any other version of Linux and is even similar to installing Windows 7. The main difference between installing Ubuntu and Windows is that when you boot to the install disk you actually have the option to run Ubuntu from the install disk and try it out with what is called a live disk. This will give you the opportunity to play with the UI, check out the software center and even look at some of the applications before making the final decision.
After you have played around a bit with the live disk you will likely want to install the OS to the disk at this point, otherwise you would have stopped reading. On the desktop of the live disk you will see an icon that says Ubuntu Installation (with the version number you chose). Selecting this will initialize the installation. I would echo the installation steps here but there is a really easy 10 step guide with pictures in the official documentation right here.
Once you have finished the install and rebooted into Ubuntu there are some things you might want to install.
Setting Up Some Software
Whatever it is you use your computer for there is likely something available to you on Linux that will allow you to do that. If you are looking for Google Chrome or FireFox for your browser, these are available to you. You can install Skype and VLC media player. If you are a developer a lot of the software you might use is already cross platform. Software like Sublime Text, Eclipse, FileZilla and Android Studio are all available on Linux. These are all programs that are very popular on Windows that are also available on Linux. The nice thing is that if the command line scares you, you can avoid it.
Ubuntu Software Center
If you are looking for a central place for software you are in luck. Similar to Apple’s app store the Ubuntu Software Center is somewhere that you can go to look for programs to install. The software is categorized and you can read and leave reviews for the software you have used. There is paid and free software, even games available. In a couple quick searhes I was easily able to install VLC media player, Chromium (Chrome is also available from the website) and Steam.
In Ubuntu there is a plethora of ways to install software. I am still avoiding the command line so I am going to talk about .deb packages instead. a .deb is similar to a .exe on Windows. If you want to download Skype or Google Chrome, or really anything else available to Ubuntu you can easily install it. If you double click on the .deb package you will open the package in the software center. From there you can click install, enter your password and you are good to go.
After installing Ubuntu you are going to be presented with the Unity desktop. Once you become more comfortable with the operating system you can do things like change the desktop environment, change the themes and even try other Linux distributions. The reason I talk about Ubuntu so much is because of the large community and the ease of use but I am not limited to Ubuntu in what I do. I also enjoy distros like Fedora, Arch and Linux Mint. These are all worth checking out.
If you are setting up Ubuntu for somebody else it is worth mentioning that I have set up computers for both sets of my grandparents. One is using Ubuntu and one is using Windows. I have never got a question about Ubuntu aside from the very first, basic stuff. Windows is a monthly thing for me. Even if you don’t plan on installing Linux yet, it is worth checking out.