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Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Up and Running on Ubuntu Feisty Fawn

So last week I bought a Western Digital 160 GB external hard drive specifically to run a version of Linux on it. For those of you that don't know much about Linux, it is an open source operating system that can be used instead of Windows, Mac OS or other operating systems. Because Linux is open source, it also comes in many different flavors or distributors such as Red Hat, SUSE, and name a few. I have used Red Hat in the past but decided to go with Ubuntu and the Feisty Fawn release this time. When I had Red Hat in the past I had it installed on my internal hard drive with Windows which requires you to partition your hard drive to dual boot. This time I decided to install Ubuntu on my external hard drive and leave my internal hard drive and Windows alone. Another reason I took this approach is because I can use my external hard drive kinda like a laptop and plug it into practically any computer to run Ubuntu. Because I took this approach the installation was a little bit more tricky but thanks to the Ubuntu forum and some good instructions I am up and running. Here is the post that helped coach me through it if you are interested. I hope this will slowly help ween me off of Windows so that one day I will only use Linux as my operating system!

Some of you might ask Why use Linux? Well there are many reasons why someone should be interested in using Linux. First off, it's free! you don't have to buy any upgrades or new version they just automagically upgrade you. Secondly, security and support. Linux is known for its security because it is open source and developed by thousands of engineers, computer geeks and hackers from around the world...ones like you and me. Because of all these people you also have an amazing amount of support! Another reason to use Linux is for the customization. If you don't like it, then you can change it! Though this usually involves coding, this is a very nice feature!

I am sure you might still be asking What about all my Windows/Mac applications? Good question! Linux and the open source world offer free open source versions of all of the applications you use. For example take Microsoft Office, the open source version for this is Open Office and it is compatible with all of your Microsoft documents that you have created and acts and feels just like Microsoft. If there are still some Windows specific programs that you must have there are tools to run them as they are in Linux!

Interested? Many people around the world are starting to get more interested in Linux and that is why Dell Computers has started offering laptops and desktops with Linux systems installed instead of Windows (and soon Firefox instead of Internet Explorer)! So if you are still interested check out some of these sites....

-Red Hat
-Novell: SUSE Linux
-Dell and Linux


Anonymous said...

That is a very good option to run Linux. I also run it on an USB HD with excellent results. But there are 3 things to be aware of:

1- Your computer USB must be 2.0 to have a fair performance. And your computer should be able to boot from USB devices. You can check your BIOS boot option.

2- as you mention the installation is more tricky. And so they are the kernel upgrades, because the grub menulist file is not correctly updated and needs manual fixing. So maybe is not recommended for beginners.

3- you need to have enough RAM available. The reason is that the external USB Hard Disks do not support DMA (Direct Memory Access), so when you run out of physical RAM memory and start to use the SWAP the system can get really slow. With 1GB of RAM you should not have any problems. With 512MB you may start to notice slow down when you have multiple applications opened.

So I would still recommend to install Linux on the internal Hard Disk for a good performance and easy maintenance. I don't follow my own advice because I like also to be able to carry just the Hard Disk with me to run Linux in any computer with USB 2.0 ports and capable to boot from USB.

Simon said...

Very good points. The install took me a few days to figure out and I am still having some small issues (because of my computer). I have installed Linux to my internal drive before and this installation was a lot harder but very rewarding. I also learned a great deal about grub and some of the internal workings of Ubuntu which is really cool

The point about the BIOS is key since your computer must be able to boot from USB to take the external HD approach

Thanks for the comment!