Do we need an Ubuntu installer for Windows?

Do we need an Ubuntu installer for Windows?


If you haven’t heard yet, there’s a new Ubuntu-oriented project that’s been making waves: install.exe. In short, it’s a way to install Ubuntu onto the same file system as Microsoft Windows without repartitioning your drive. Justifications include minimizing the risk of data loss during repartitioning, a more user-friendly installation process, and eliminating the need of burning a CD to install. However, is there truly a need for an Ubuntu installer for Windows?

On the surface, it sounds like a good idea. Avoiding repartitioning? Bringing Ubuntu to a larger, less technologically inclined audience? Making the installation process even simpler than it already is? These are all excellent ideas. However, I feel that there are many flaws with the concept that need to be considered.

One of the scenarios from the documentation is installing on a laptop without a CD drive. Their solution is to use their installer’s built-in BitTorrent client to get the necessary files without burning a CD. However, this doesn’t take into account networks where BitTorrent traffic is regulated, limited, or completely blocked to preserve quality of service for other users. Also, I'm having a hard time thinking of anyone I know who has a laptop without an internal optical drive who doesn't have an external one instead.

Another official scenario contains phrases like “Josh and his coworkers are employees at Microshaft Corporation who would like to use their favorite OS, Ubuntu, at work”. Unprofessional, snarky descriptions like that won’t win anyone over; if anything, it’ll turn people away. I hope that passages like this will be cleaned up in the near future.

The example continues to describe how install.exe allows for a clean installation in a corporate environment as it doesn’t affect the existing operating system. This is fundamentally flawed; in many corporate environments, employees are actively discouraged from deviating from the standard set of software for uniformity, security and ease of support.

Is it productive to have one employee using one product, and another using a different product, then troubleshooting compatibility issues? While products like OpenOffice.org offer excellent support of other common document types, not all packages are as compatible. What if the employee spends all afternoon fiddling with his alternate operating system and non-standard applications instead of getting work done? That’s lost productivity.

Finally, if an employee is allowed to install an alternate operating system with no centralized control, then the employer has tacitly allowed circumvention of any desktop security that has been developed to protect the company and privacy. A system administrator in a tightly controlled and secure environment would not allow this under any circumstances.

I’m not saying that alternate and diverse installations and operating systems are a bad thing; I work in an University environment, and diversity is the norm. Also, when appropriate, I actively propose and implement solutions that utilize free software in place of commercial software—using software like FileZilla, PuTTY and Audacity. What I am saying is that from a corporate perspective, the good of the group outweighs the needs of a few, and that using weaseling and excuses to find ways around rules or limitations is not good practice.

An Ubuntu Blog brings up a good point; why not just use a Live CD if you want to test an alternate operating system? It’s a mature, stable product. In addition, if you’re looking for a read-write system without altering the file system, try LiveCDPersistence and install to a pen drive. Is install.exe a viable alternative to a Live CD? I think it’s too early to say.

Some blogs and forums have been touting install.exe as a ready-to-go solution, even though it’s still a prototype. It’s not ready for full deployment or release at this time, and users need to be more aware of that. One of its core functionalities, NTFS support comes from ntfs-3g, a read-write driver which is itself experimental. Bringing the product to a large audience is a good thing, but people will be turned off if they use an incomplete product when they’re expecting maturity and stability. I don’t feel that the misperception of its readiness is the developer’s fault; they’ve clearly labeled it as an incomplete, experimental partially-functioning prototype.

When the product is complete, I’d be interested in conversion statistics. Out of the people who try a finished release of install.exe, how many fully switched to a “real” Ubuntu installation on its own partition? Currently, there’s no easy way to migrate settings and software from an install.exe installation, but that may change in the future.

If progress continues as the developers have outlined, then install.exe has the potential to be a positive addition in the array of marketing tools for free software. While it may not be the universal solution to a problem that doesn’t really exist, it is another voice and set of hands that will help the free software community grow.

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Comments

cantormath's picture
Submitted by cantormath on

They should call it Windows Optimization.
The ultimate windows update.
--
"As we open our newspapers or watch our television screens, we seem to be continually assaulted by the fruits of Mankind's stupidity."
-Roger Penrose

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

I do somewhat agree with the statements made in this article. I agree that linux users have to stop bashing MS if it hopes to gain support amongst those to do use windows now. I would suggest a focus on what linux does better and not how much MS is perceived to suck. This behavior is not productive at all. I also agree that install.exe does not seem suited to a corporate setting. Companies have policies to protect their data, intellectual property, and anything else others might want.

However, install.exe would surely be more beneficial in a home environment. I do run linux exclusively on my computers, ny wife has a laptop running XP. However, if we were sharing a computer, using something like install.exe would seem ideal as it would allow me to play with linux without permanently altering the computer. It would also give me read AND write access and be much faster than any liveCD. Used as a tool to get windows users to try something else, it can be great. However, trumpeted as the savior of linux it will never live up to expectations. People really need to see it for what it is and don't treat it as the holy grail.

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

Repartition, install.exe, LiveCD or...why not install VMware on Windows and run Ubuntu as virtual machine...Much better performance then LiveCD, but no hardware support apart from basics. I do this at work, and it saves time rebooting into another partition, and I get to try a lot of stuff even if I dont get full access to hardware.

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

"Unprofessional, snarky descriptions like that won’t win anyone over; if anything, it’ll turn people away."

This install.exe isn't an official creation.. its being made by regular average users who thought it would be useful. That's the thing with linux, if you want to change and improve something, YOU have the power to, and there are no limits to what you can do with the platform. There is a limit due to the closed nature of Windows.

As for productivity, linux is not for the lazy.. its a power platform for those who are determined and capable of solving their own problems, yet need more flexibility in their environment which is provided by other OS's. It already suceeds in "winning over" those who actually need to use it

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

I would rather have it the other way around, windows running within the Ubuntu OS - since ubuntu has more functionality and I would imagine some things may not work as they should when running ubuntu within windows. Still a great idea though, will give more windows users the chance to easily try out ubuntu.

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

Most of the corporate environments won't allow unauthorized installation of third party software’s.

But one thing I don't understand is how ubuntu going to open up security holes in corporate environment which were patched in windows?

Fortunately I can do install and maintain Linux system myself with out any hassle, but I think for someone who wants to try out Linux or some one who wants to learn Linux this thing will be a great tool in assisting them.

Yes NTFS driver is still in beta stage, new complications will arise with bitlocker in vista as it is proprietary encryption method and specifications are not opened up by Microsoft.

Having two OS’s by hand is a good thing if one thing screwed up you can trouble shoot second one at file system level.

Anyway this is good news as far as I am concerned.

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

If nothing else, this kind of thing brings Ubuntu and other linux based operating systems more publicity. If someone asked me about this, I'd probably just recommend they pop in the LiveCD if they want to try out Ubuntu. Then if they wanted to go further, I'd recommend a full install. Publicity is what Ubuntu needs and the constant stream of innovations that come out of the linux development community are the best kind of publicity you can get. Get Ubuntu in front of Windows users any civil way you can.

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

Why your at it, how about creating a descent install routine to run GNU/Linux as a subsystem under Windows. Yes, there are a couple of projects, but none have managed to get X running native (and most are limited by Posix compatibility issues). If you are going to introduce a trojan (not bad, just bait to get people to switch), why not allow the system to run side by side with Windows (kind of like SFU) only with full support. It has to be possible to reverse engineer the Windows subsystems.

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

What's your point? It's another way to make Linux available. Some people like it even if they don't need it. Just look at the forums.

We don't *need* Linux, OS X, Windows, free software, or computers. But it's sure nice they're here.

Live CD's are extremely slow on some machines. USB is not an option on every machine. And yes, not all computers can boot from CD. My laptop has a broken CD player that is not reliable enough to use for a full Ubuntu install, and replacing it is neither important or feasible at this time. Finally, there are some of us with Windows installations that are so screwed that it is not possible to resize the hard drive using tools such as Partition Magic or gparted.

Do we need it? No. But that's a pretty high standard that is not applied to anything else. Perhaps you have too much time on your hands to write an article like this.

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

i have an old toshiba portege without an internal optical drive. it cannot boot from an external drive, which is really annoying. while i appreciate that you can't imagine someone who would need this, i can, because i am one of them. i wanted an ubuntu laptop, and couldn't install it until this came along.

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

windows users usually only use windows because of 3 things - 1, it comes installed on their computer fresh out of the box. 2, they aren't aware that there are actually real alternatives. and 3, even if they know of the alternatives they are afraid of the windows-to-linux switch, which can be a daunting task for the inexpirianced computer user.

if they want to create software to eleminate the third, by all means they should. we who actually spend our time tinkering with our computers and reading online forums by other people who tinker with their computers don't understand what it's like to be one of the vast majority of PC users who honestly have no idea what's going on in the world of technology. remember that just cause install.exe exists for ubuntu now, you don't have to use it, it's only there for the people who wouldn't ever instal linux otherwise. nobody likes windows, not even novice computer users, so to put a product out there that will make it easier for them to make the first step in switching to linux, i think is a great idea.

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

That isn't the official ubuntu blog. He's just a ubuntu fan.

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

"Finally, if an employee is allowed to install an alternate operating system with no centralized control, then the employer has tacitly allowed circumvention of any desktop security that has been developed to protect the company and privacy. A system administrator in a tightly controlled and secure environment would not allow this under any circumstances."

Mr. Peck,

How is the above an argument against the product?

Linux isn't about what authoritarian corporations want. It's about what power and privacy we the users can gather for ourselves by any means we can.

We grow up through the gaps in the wire.

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

Linux for the masses is a non-starter w/o efforts like this.

As long as the average user has to hear things like "partition", "sudo", "mount" "rewrite the MBR." Linux is going to be a non- mainstream OS.

I like LINUX a whole lot, but it is only user friendly for install and maintenance by 1985 standards. Once you are installed and have everything up, UBUNTU is easy. It is the install and when something goes wrong that the newbie is at a loss.

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

your article is flawed.

- the win32 installer for Ubuntu is not targeted at corporations, it's for experimental home use in order to popularize Ubuntu and the Linux movement.

- LiveCDs are for ********. people want the real thing without the hassle of repartitioning.

- ntfs-3g is stable and has no records of messed up hard disks and loss of data. it is still deemed as a beta since it's still in development for some tweaks.

and do yourself a favor and install Ubuntu + Beryl interface. when you'll return to WinXP you'd think you landed in Win 3.1

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

For me, install.exe is a brilliant thing. The reason is that while I am allowed to do almost whatever I want with my work-provided, I don't have access to the BIOS. And the BIOS is configured not to let me boot from CD. So a Windows-based installer is like a godsend for me.

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

This article seems to be wrong on many levels....

The security and compatibility concerns you state are really edge cases, and it should be the responsibility of the person downloading the software to figure out if their company, etc will disapprove.

The compatibility argument seems to flow exactly from Microsoft-logic... surprising for this place.

Migration from install.exe installations is a feature that will definitely be implemented... there's no reason to judge the concept by that.

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

This project is a need. DOn't try to indentify all the possible cases. We must admit the world i still dominated by Windows and Windows is not deserving it's position anymore.

It doesn't matter how many study cases you can bash, a general purpose linux for home users HAS to be easy to install!

Imagine if after 4 years of bashing windows my sister decides to isntall linux. What woudl happen right now? She would ready GEEky stuff about repartitioning and would flee from the linux geek idea in a matter of minutes. install.exe would solve that.

SOrry for my 3 am sleepy english.

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

It's "a Ubuntu installer" not "an Ubuntu installer" If you say it out loud you'll see how bad the incorrect grammar sounds. In general "an" is used before words that start with the letter "a".

Oh, and yes, we do need a Ubuntu installer.

admin's picture
Submitted by admin on

Hi,

From the official Ubuntu FAQ.

How do you pronounce Ubuntu?

Ubuntu, an African word from Zulu and Xhosa, is pronounced "oo-BOON-too". See the other FAQ on its meaning, it's a worthwhile read, and no, you're not the first person to wonder.

The "oo" sound requires the article "an"; not the article "a". I can only guess you are pronouncing Ubuntu with a "you" sound at the beginning.

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

"...see how bad the incorrect grammar sounds."

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

I have an old Viewsonic Viewpad 1000 (tablet-like PC, Celeron 700, Win2K, 800x600) that is unable to boot from any device I presently own, other than the internal 20 GB HD.

LiveCDs don't work: The external PCMCIA optical drive is not bootable due to BIOS limitations. The USB 1.0 interface also is not bootable (I've tried flash drives). The only other alternative I see is to open the unit to add another bootable IDE device (I do have a spare 2.5" HD somehwere), something I'd like to avoid if at all possible. Or buy a USB floppy drive, something I have no other need for.

For me, Install.exe is appears to be the only way I can try Linux on this system and still keep Windows (just in case).

This is also the only Windows system I own, and I need it every year at this time to do my taxes. I'll dump Windows when Intuit and/or H&R Block support Linux (or Mono, or Wine, or ReactOS, or ...).

The goal? For the rest of the year I want to use the Viewpad 1000 as a giant remote control and video previewer for the MythTV system I'm putting together. Why have PiP when I can have PoP? Cool, eh?

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

"Also, I'm having a hard time thinking of anyone I know who has a laptop without an internal optical drive who doesn't have an external one instead."

Well then, you haven't met me. (used to own a Panasonic Toughbook R1)

Also, there are places in the world where broken drives aren't so easily replaced.

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

This is long time existing: ZipSlack of Slackware. It comes without grafical surface, however, one can easily add this and any other progs.

Thus, there is no reason to be worry about the Ubuntu win installer. Whom use it, use it; whom not, not. :)

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

What a deeply flawed article. While I respect the author's right to his opinion, this is the kind of of submissive attitude that hinders the right way to go about spreading the "gospel" of what we, believers in the ideals of Linux, do.

I just started working for a place completely mired in proprietary software. Now, I know more about how this stuff works than most people here (and given the technical nature of the place, you'd be surprised.) We do good work here (this is a non-profit), and I will use whatever tool it takes to get it done most efficiently--regardless of what the higher-ups might have in some policy.

I'm not trying to be an OMG M$ sUx0rz kind of person--but sometimes you do have to buck the system a little bit. I plan to use install.exe on my OFFICE GIVEN laptop as soon as possible, policy be danged.

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

The existing security infrastructure is nil if users can install software and don't know that installing a different OS without consulting IT staff might be a problem. If you are letting (from a permissions and corporate policy point of view) end users install software with nothing in place to keep them from installing a new OS, then people installing Ubuntu are the least of your worries, since multiple rootkits are vying for control to determine which botnet pwns the machines on your network, and large chunks of the world are adding your netblocks to their spam black-lists. Large numbers of people in the Linux camp are refugees, they didn't end up here because of ideology or technical merit, they simply hate Microsoft, and will use anything that doesn't support Microsoft, those people are going to have bad things to say about Microsoft at any given opportunity. The idea that the Linux community needs to "grow up" and stop bashing Microsoft is odd, since the daily defectees are often only coming over to be able to more meaninfully bash Microsoft. Mature members of the community probably shouldn't be touting overly simplistic ideas like "M$ sucks", but they should probably be explaining why taking money from end-users to reduce their freedom is evil. While introducing a click-installer to the world without specific plans to support them after they do actually click and install might be irresponsible, but since we have only recently gotten remotely stable access to NTFS and its been shipping by default for a while now (maybe as much as 7 years) I don't think the specifics can have been worked out, but noone is advocating orphanning the people who try this out. Technology is going to advance, advocating the stifling of advances on the idea that people might be irresponsible falls under Pure Silliness, since people are going to be irresponsible anyway, and there's no shortage or irresponisble outlets at this point such that adding a new technology would give a sudden outlet to those people who were just dying for a new way to be irresponsible.

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

A live CD is only good for trying the distro - nothing else, it is too slow.

Avoiding partitioning is a great virtue: you may not like to delete your existing installation and data and start from scratch. Resizing partitions is risky. Partitioning is a bad thing per se - you always get the partition sizes wrong and end up with one partition too small and the other one too large. It can be a problem on old PCs with little space.

Otherwise the objections brought up in this article have their place.

Martin Jasny

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

- My Toshiba portege doesnt have a built-in cdrom drive and I dont hv an external one either
- If I do have one, booting up LiveCD every time is too much of a hassle, and it's slow
- You sounds like a smart guy, next time write something else, this article doesnt make much sense

apjone's picture
Submitted by apjone on

Just a quick marketing point of view. When businesses create product X they do not ask 'Do we need it?', they ask 'Can we sell it?'. If you can sell it, then it gets made, 'Do we need it?' is never the main concern. Thus with install.exe we may not need it, but curious windows users who dont have a Local Linux Guru handy to help them install it will use it. Thus in answer to the question, YES it can be sold.
I believe that it is an interesting concept and great idea, although I myself may never use it. Good Luck guys

AJ

ps I KNOW IT WONT BE SOLD, its just marketing speak.
Any feedback welcome

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

Judging by how many people incorrectly burn CDs, or even look around the burnt CD in Windows for an installer program (a .exe file), this really is something that can get the newbies into a Linux installation without being scared off prematurely.

The perminant installation does include ntfs-3g, however there are a number of other distributions that also have it configured from boot-up time. Also, the tricky bit with NTFS is resizing files, which the native Ubuntu installation would not do as its files are stored within an Ext3 filesystem inside a file of fixed size. Writing to files on NTFS without resizing them is definately stable, and has been done for years on Puppy Linux.

Of course, there's the argument that anyone who can't burn an ISO to CD and boot from it isn't ready for Windows... well, my answer is, there's no harm in removing one barrier!

loloyd's picture
Submitted by loloyd on

I'm more of a Windows user than an Ubuntu user - and that's by productivity and not necessarily by choice. I've installed quite a few Dapper Drakes since last year at home and at work but they were all, as I remember, in dual-boot mode with Windows. In my early days with Ubuntu, I was quite an excited advocate but ***productivity reality*** does kick in and then eventually I'd have to settle back to my old Windows XP ways. And sometimes, I get a nice kick in the butt when my colleagues claim that I wasted some HD GBs after I installed Ubuntu in a few servers and workstations without regularly using them. Sadly, they may have a point.

But I feel that install.exe is A STEP in THE RIGHT DIRECTION. Think of Ubuntu as Firefox and Windows as IE. Firefox became as popular as hell when it brought performance, sensibility, security and stability over to the gardens of Ease Of Use. Ubuntu install.exe might just become the next Firefox in my prediction.

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

I think its great. I've messed of plenty of dual-boot installs using the Ubuntu CD's too. I don't know what to do if I get an Error 17 or Error 18. Partly because I don't really understand how partitions work and partly because I don't have a Toshiba tool to partition my laptop hard drive. Anything that provides another way is fine by me.

ravedid's picture

Kubuntu follows the same system as Ubuntu, with each release having a code name, and a version number based on the year and month of release. Canonical provides support and security updates for most Kubuntu versions for 18 months after release.

The first Kubuntu release was version 5.04 on April 8, 2005. It included KDE 3.4 and a selection of the most useful KDE programs. Some of these are not in the official KDE itself, including Amarok, Kaffeine, Gwenview, and K3b.

Shannon VanWagner's picture

Simple Way to install Kubuntu alongside Windows ...
Suggestion: "Shrink" Windows partition to make room for Linux
Submitted by Shannon VanWagner (not verified) on Tue, 2007-06-05 18:24.

Have a lot of free space on your hard drive? If so, instead of formatting and losing your Windows installation, why not "Shrink" the Windows Partition to make room for the Linux installation. See how to do this below.

Disclaimer: As a safeguard you should always perform a backup of your system to an external source prior to performing any changes such as outlined below. I am not responsible for any data-loss or other issues you may experience when using the information below to install Linux.

About GParted: The GParted utility is an easy-to-use yet very powerful graphical Open-Source partition editor that is available in "LiveCD" format(meaning that it boots from CDROM).

To use a "LiveCD, download the *.iso file and then use your favorite cd-burning software to burn the .iso image to a cdrom disk (My favorite cd-burning app for Windows is DeepBurner Free 1.8 from http://deepburner.com/?r=download for Linux use K3B).

Here are the steps that I used to "Shrink" my Windows partition with a nifty utility called "Gparted". I was then able to install KUbuntu 7.04 in the free space that was left over.

1.) Download and burn to cdrom the free Gparted Partition Editor Utility in LiveCD format http://gparted.sourceforge.net/download.php (direct link to the gparted-livecd-0.3.4-7.iso file: http://tinyurl.com/24ph7r)

2.) Boot into Windows, perform a full disk cleanup (checkout www.ccleaner.com for a good cleanup utility for this), then run a full defragmentation of your Windows drive(s) to move all the physical data on your hard drive and provide room to "Shrink" the Windows partition.

3.) Boot up your computer to the GParted LiveCD (from Step #1 above). Upon booting into Gparted, try pushing Enter to accept the defaults at each of the configuration screens - this will get you into the GParted graphical utility, which is very simple to use.

4.) To "Shrink" your Windows partition, simply right-click it from within the GParted graphical utility, then select "resize". From the resize dialog simply use the slidebar to adjust the size of your Windows partition to a smaller size (slide to the left or enter a number). Be sure to leave some free space for Windows (4GB or more would be great)to avoid Windows performance problems. For Kubuntu you can set aside 4GB of free space for the install. I suggest that you free up 20GB or more to have plenty of space for using Kubuntu.

5.) Click "Apply Changes" and watch the magic of the GParted as it performs a "Shrink" of your Windows partition. Note: GParted may not work properly if you have any type of RAID array, so you're on your own for testing that.

6.) After all changes are applied, reboot the machine without the GParted disk in the drive. Windows will then perform a "chkdsk" - this is normal, let it complete. Note: Be sure to let the chkdsk fully complete and then login to Windows to test to see that everything changed properly. If you look in "My Computer" it should show that your Windows partition is now smaller. If you were to run Start>Run>diskmgmt.msc , you would see that your drive now has the free space you created in steps 4 & 5 from above.

7.) Reboot with the Kubuntu LiveCD in your drive, once you get to the point where you can install Kubuntu you can install the linux partitions (swap, and / (e.g. ext3 root)) in the free space you created. Kubuntu will automatically detect your Windows partition and will add it as a selection for the GRUB Boot loader.

Have fun using Kubuntu - I use it on all my computers and I think it's great!!

Shannon VanWagner

Author information

Jon Peck's picture

Biography

Jon Peck is a Zend PHP 4 & 5 Certified Engineer and Staff Developer / System Administrator for ProZ.com. He writes a blog about technology and web programming at jonpeck.blogspot.com.