You Can Switch to Linux!

Using the Alternate Installer

If your machine won’t boot from the graphical install CD, either because you have a new videocard that’s not properly supported (GeForce 8800 series or newer) or you have an older unsupported chipset (notably the i915 integrated graphics), you’ll need to use the nongraphical installer, which is called the alternate installer, for your architecture. Download the correct alternate CD for your CPU (again from Ubuntu's download page ) and follow the prompts.

Connect to the Network

Getting your machine on the network is simple with Ubuntu, whether you use a wired connection or Wi-Fi. When you first boot, the only icon in your system tray at the top of the screen should be for networking. Simply click it, enter your SSID and WPA or WEP key (if necessary), and you’ll be on the network.

Finding and Installing Software

There are two ways to install programs on your new Ubuntu machine. The simplest is to use the Add/Remove panel, which lets you see all the software available to you from Ubuntu software repositories on the Internet. Most apps include a useful description, so if you search for Photo Manager, you’re sure to find some worthy candidates.

Sometimes you’ll need to fire up the more powerful Synaptic Package Manager, which you’ll find in System > Administration. After entering your password, click the Reload button to make sure the list of available apps is up to date. Synaptic provides a powerful search and easy filters that will help you find all the details of the applications installed on your system. You can see what apps are installed and which have updates available. If you want to update a single program to the latest available version, Synaptic is the easiest way to do that—just search for the software package, right-click it, and select “Mark for upgrade.”

You’ll occasionally need to add a new repository to your Linux install. A repository is just a server that contains software that’s configured and ready to run on your machine. If you want to install apps that aren’t included by default with Ubuntu, you’ll need to enable other respositories. To add a respository, you’ll need its apt line, which gives the software manager all the info it needs to access the repository (we’ll include some throughout this article). Open Synaptic and click Settings > Repositories. Go to the Third-Party tab and click Add; then type the apt line, exactly as it appears, in the window. Click Add Source, then click Close.

3D-Accelerated Videocard Drivers

There’s a lot of controversy surrounding the use of closed-source drivers for graphics hardware, but they’re the only option for 3D acceleration in Linux right now. The procedure for Nvidia and ATI hardware is a little different.

Install Nvidia GPU Drivers
Installing Nvidia’s closed-source 3D-accelerated drivers is easy with Feisty. Go to System > Administration > Synaptic Package Manager and search for the nvidia-glx package. Right-click the selection and select “Mark for installation.” You’ll be prompted with a list of dependencies, which you’ll need to approve for the application to work. Click Apply to download and install the app. Then open a new terminal (Applications > Accessories > Terminal) and run this command: sudo nvidia-xconfig –add-argb-glx-visuals ; follow the prompts and reboot.

Install ATI GPU Drivers
Installing ATI drivers is a little more complex. First, you’ll need to disable the Composite option in your xorg.conf. Open a terminal and type sudo gedit /etc/X11/xorg.conf . In the gedit window, scroll to the section labeled Extensions and change the Option “Composite” line from “Enabled” to “Disabled”. Then in your already opened terminal window, type the following six commands:

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install linux-restricted-modules-$(uname –r)
sudo apt-get install xorg-driver-fglrx
sudo depmod –a
sudo aticonfig –initial
sudo aticonfig –overlay-type=Xv

You’ll need to reboot your system to enable the driver.

Install Restricted Software

This one’s pretty simple: All you have to do is open the Applications menu, click Add/Remove, then change the Show: dropdown to read “All available applications.” Search for “Restricted” and check the box next to the package that comes up. This will install support for Flash, Java, some closed audio and video codecs, and TrueType fonts. On previous versions of Linux, installing this stuff was an absolute nightmare that could take several hours, and you weren’t guaranteed success even after you spent that time!