For this, you will use virtualization software to emulate a computer within a computer. Your installation will "think" it is a real computer, but instead it will operate more or less like any other application within your regular OS.
You should use this option if
1) your computer is relatively fast and
2) is in a situation in which it's absolutely critical to preserve the existing OS, e.g. it's your only machine and you have no external drives, or you're borrowing a friends, etc. Mac users should probably consider this option.
The advantage here is that it does not require any low-level changes to your hard drive, and you can stay within your familiar OS while using Linux. You do, however, lose most of the practical advantages of having a Linux system, but this will at least allow you to become familiar with the interface/OS in class.
IF YOU ARE NOT USING YOUR OWN COMPUTER — you'll need an external hard drive or flash drive with at least 8 gigs free. We'll create a virtual install that you can keep on your external drive.
Virtual Install prep tips
- Make sure you have 10-20 Gigabytes of free space on your hard drive.
- Make sure your computer stays plugged in for the duration of the install.
- If possible, also be connected to the Internet for the duration of the install.
Arguably, "Ubuntu" is the most famous name in desktop Linux. It is also still not a bad choice, though it's gotten arguably a little bloated. Some lighter options include, Mint, Xubuntu, Lubuntu; for our class I'm going to use Lubuntu (that's hilarious, I was going to recommend LXDE (https://www.lxde.org) — but THEIR website points newbies to Lubuntu.
Debian or any other Debian-based distro are recommended, but you may use *any* other GNU/Linux distribution that you like. I'm fairly certain that any distro should work for what we do in class. Feel free to browse here: https://distrowatch.com/
(if you have no clue and have a newish computer, just get Ubuntu here:) https://www.ubuntu.com/#download
Slightly older computer? Go for LXDE : (Use a torrent or check one of the USA mirrors) -https://lubuntu.me/
Whichever one you use (I believe you'll see many of them at something like 20.04), if there is any option labelled "LTS", use that. — e.g. if you use Lubuntu I recommend the one labelled 20.04.3 LTS (Focal Fossa), not the newer one. But it shouldn't much matter.
Download it — but unless you know what you are doing — do NOT install or double click this .iso file. Just make sure it is somewhere on your computer and you know how to get to it.
Download (and optionally DO install) VirtualBox, whatever version corresponds to your real, physical computer.
You may stop here if you'd like to just follow along in class.
We will cover this in more detail later, but here is the procedure:-
- Start Virtualbox, once installed.
- Click New to create a new machine. You will encounter a number of options.
- Memory size: the default of 512 MB (or more) is fine, maybe kick it up a bit more if you can spare it.
- For "Hard Drive File Type" the default of VDI is fine.
- For Dynamic vs Fixed, the default of Dynamic is preferred.
- Create a new virtual hard drive, which will just be another file on your real hard drive. 8 gb is more than enough, if you're low on space you can take this down to 4 or 5 gb. (Note that, if you chose Dynamic, the virtual hard drive will only take up as much space as it needs, UP TO whatever you choose here)
The virtual machine has been created; this is the same as if someone had just given you a working, but completely blank, computer. You will now install the actual system. In real life, you'd have to insert a CD-Rom with an operating system (or use a bootable USB drive) and turn it on. Let's do this virtually, now.
Select your machine and click "Settings." Since a CD-Rom is a type of storage device, click storage. Ensure that "Controller: IDE" is highlighted and click the little CD-Rom/green plus sign icon (the left one) to add a CD-Rom. It will tell you that you're adding a new drive. Here, select "Choose Disk," and select the Lubuntu ISO file you downloaded earlier.
The Start icon in Virtualbox's menu should now be green/clickable. Boot your new virtual computer by clicking this icon. You will periodically get pop-up windows that will tell you about how to interact with your virtual machine; pay attention here for the sake of learning, but most display warnings can be safely ignored.
From here, the process is exactly the same as if you were installing on a real machine (in fact, the installation itself doesn't "know" the difference)
If you're using the default lubuntu installation, you'll soon see a startup screen. Select the language of your choice, and you will be presented with the Lubuntu startup menu. Select "Install Ubuntu." The installation will begin.
From here, it is relatively straightforward. A few notes.
"Preparing to install (L)ubuntu"
- You should be "connected to the Internet," but if not, we can fix this later. Continue regardless.
- Feel free to install third-party software, especially if you might play music or watch video in your install.
Select "erase disk and install" -- remember, it's not talking about your REAL hard drive, but the virtual 8gb one you created a few minutes ago; it's okay to "erase" it.
Time zone and keyboard ought to be self explanatory.
"Who are you"
What you choose for a name and password is mostly up to you, though you should choose a decent password in case you begin to use this installation frequently. I recommend requiring your password to log in, but not encrypting your home folder. While entering your password frequently in Linux might be annoying at first, it's like that for good reasons.
Watch the install screens; you can get a sense of how the formerly "technical/geeky" Linux has become rather user-friendly. You'll also be introduced to some terms we will learn more about in class, like "desktop environment." Note that Lubuntu is designed to be as lightweight as possible, and the default programs reflect that. I'll recommend different day-to-day software instead of Lubuntu defaults, e.g. Firefox instead of Chromium and Libreoffice instead of Abiword/Gnumeric. But we can worry about that later.
The installation will soon ask you to restart. NOTE, remember that the "virtual CD rom" is still in the drive. You should either "remove it" (via Settings/Storage) before restarting -- or simply just wait until the CD-Rom boots and select "Boot from first hard drive" instead of "Install" or "Try."