Technology Tales

Adventures & experiences in contemporary technology

An introduction to Wubi

14th July 2008

An introduction to Wubi

The Toshiba laptop that I acquired at the start of the year is a Windows Vista box and it isn’t something with which I want to play too roughly because the OS came pre-installed on it. I still want to continue to see how Vista goes at close quarters so removing it to put Ubuntu or some other Linux distribution on there wasn’t ever going to be an option that I was willing to take either. Neither was the option of setting up a dual booting arrangement using disk partitioning; I have plenty of experience of doing that to set up dual booting machines over the years and I don’t needed any more than what I already have. So, I was happy to leave it as a Windows box and only as a Windows box.

That situation has changed and the cause was Canonical’s decision to go for something novel when it brought out Ubuntu 8.04. The premise is as follows: a Windows style installation that popped an entry in the Windows boot menu that allowed you to fire up Ubuntu without ever having to do disk partitioning or other similar rough play. For those who are less than enamoured with the Linux option, it’s even easy to remove too, as easy any other Windows program in fact. Removal of Linux is very definitely not what I’d do and that’s even without the pain and upheaval of more more customary means for setting dual booting machines. In these days of virtualisation and hypervisor technology, I have my ideas as to what has been used to give us that easy way in.

Being an Ubuntu user anyway, the possibility of having Ubuntu on the laptop and the interesting opportunity that Wubi offered for getting it on there was too tempting for me to give it a miss. A small download from the Wubi website is all that is needed to set things off. You get a number of options up front like where to put the (large) file to be used to house the Ubuntu world and how large you might want it. Setting a user name and password for the thing gets included among other items. The next stage is to download the files to be used to perform the installation. Once that is completed and it took me a few goes to get the whole lot (thankfully, it stores things up to the point where the downloading operation cuts out so you didn’t start from scratch each time; even so, it’s still annoying and could put some off), it is time to restart the computer and boot into Ubuntu to complete the set up of the operating system itself; it is at this point that the familiar very much returns. A reboot later and you are into a world that does its level best to fool you into thinking that Windows is another universe and never existed on that machine at all.

So, a machine that seemed destined only ever run Windows can run Linux now as well. Wubi comes across as a neat and clever way to get a dual booting computer and I hope to leave mine as I now have it. No feathers were ruffled on the Windows side and I saw no sign of any destruction. That makes Ubuntu’s way of doing things a much better option than other distributions that make you go down more invasive routes when creating a dual booting PC. A question remains in my mind. Could this approach take off?

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