Wubi is the way to go

So here’s the situation, you’re running a MS Windows based machine and you really want to work in Linux – maybe you just want to check out the environment, maybe you want to test software in Linux as well as Windows or maybe, like me, it gives you a clean break from you daytime work environment and allows you to keep your skills up.

So why Wubi? Here’s my reasoning, your mileage may vary.

1. Build a new machine and load Linux as the primary operating system

The ideal – a separate machine with Linux installed as the default operating system. Unfortunately for me that while I can definitely create this I don’t really have the room to set up a desktop machine for the minimum amount of time I would be using it. Yes, I could install it on a laptop but that would entail actually buying something and I prefer to use what I have on hand. So for now, this option is out.

2. Setup a second partition and dual boot

Another good option and like the one above one taken by many people. The issue I have is that the primary machine I’m using (a laptop) is owned by the company I work for during the day and they really discourage this type of “customization.” So while I could probably do this and have it working, should I need the support of the IT department and they may balk at supporting this configuration. So again, I have to pass.

3. Setup a virtual machine

Truth be told I have done this a number of times with the likes of VMWare, Virtual Box, as well as Portable Ubuntu and Cygwin. All of them are good options if you want to dabble with a Linux based system with minimal impact to the system you’re on. The drawback as I saw it, based on what I’m looking to do, is that you’re still in Windows. If you run into an issue you can just load up something you’re intimately familiar with and get the task done. So while a really solid option I’ll pass for this run.

4. Use Wubi to install Ubuntu

This is the option I finally settled on and so far (I’m only a few days into using it) I’m pleased with the decision. Wubi, for those of you who don’t know what it is, allows you to install Ubuntu in a manner that makes it appear as an application to Windows. This is a nice feature as it makes removal from the system a snap (just remove the program). Once you’ve installed it and rebooted your system you should see a menu screen allowing you to pick the operating system to boot to – pick Ubuntu (the default load for Wubi) and it boots into Ubuntu – slick.

There is one small snag – if you’re running XP you might not get the boot screen, an issue I ran into, but there is a simple fix.

1. Right click on your ‘My Computer’ icon on the desktop or Windows’ Start menu
2. Select ‘Properties’
3. Select the Advanced tab
4. Select Startup and Recovery (Edit settings)

On the screen that comes up there will be a button to click that will allow you to edit the boot.ini file which will look something like:

[operating systems]
multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(4)WINDOWS=”Windows XP Media Center Edition” /noexecute=optin /fastdetect
[boot loader]
default=multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(4)WINDOW S

To which Wubi should add the line: c:wubildr.mbr=”Ubuntu”

The issue is that the line can’t be appended to the end and have it work, you need to insert that line before the [boot loader] line so that the system knows about the Ubuntu system. Put the line in the correct space and it works just fine.

So, I’m happy now, I can reboot my system when I get home and load up Ubuntu without issue. It’s a nice change of pace and keep my Linux skills up.

Do you dual boot? Virtual machine it? Could care less about the world beyond Windows? Why not share in the comments?

Oh yeah, I’m entering this post from a Firefox installation on my Wubi installed Ubuntu 10.04.