Installing Ubuntu 9.10

This tutorial will describe how to install Ubuntu 9.10 (Karmic Koala) for a desktop or server machine. Obviously I’ll be using the normal version of Ubuntu for the desktop install, but less obviously, I’ll also be using this same version for the server install. This is because I don’t find much need for most of the things in the server version, and this install is primarily intended for home use, where the central function of the server is to share files amongst the desktop machines. So think of it as installing a simple home file server. From there you can do whatever you want with the server, but I’ll leave that for another tutorial.

Given that we’ll be installing the same version of Ubuntu on the desktop and server machines, the only real difference in the two installs is how the hard disk is partitioned. In a nutshell, both machines will have a small partition (20 GB) for the system files and a swap partition (4 GB) for virtual memory. For the desktop machine, the rest of the disk will be for the home directories, where each user’s personal files are stored. For the server machine, there will also be a partition for the home directories, but it will be quite small (10 GB), since it’s not intended that user’s will store personal files on the server. The rest of the disk on the server machine will be dedicated to storing the shared files.

You should take note of the fact that the fundamental reason for partitioning the hard disk in this manner is to keep the system files separate from the user files. While you can change the partition sizes if you want, I highly recommend that you don’t change the basic organization of the partitions. This organization makes it possible to completely reinstall Ubuntu (i.e. not an upgrade, but a completely fresh install) without disturbing the user files. It’s all about never losing your data. One further note on the partitioning. While the system partition may seem rather small at 20 GB (especially compared to a Windows install), I have yet to see this partition grow to any more than 7 GB on any Ubuntu machine that I’ve used, even after installing numerous applications. So 20 GB should be plenty big enough.

If you’re coming from the Windows world, this kind of organization will probably be new to you, since Windows is usually installed into one large partition which takes up the entire hard disk. In my experience, it’s a royal pain in the ass when you want to do a fresh install of Windows onto the same disk, which is inevitable due to the steady degredation of Windows over time. Keep in mind that I have worked with Windows every day for the last 18 years, and every Windows system I’ve had has gotten slower and slower over time. The general rule of thumb in my business (progamming) is that you do a fresh install of Windows at least every two years, in most cases every year. I don’t know why, but that’s the way it is. So far, I haven’t seen that problem with Linux, but good disk organization will make it easy to do a reinstall if I ever need to.

Now then, this tutorial is organized into the following four parts:

  1. starting the install and the steps before the hard disk configuration,
  2. the hard disk configuration during the install,
  3. the steps after the hard disk configuration and finishing the install,
  4. updating the system after the install.

It turns out that the Ubuntu installation process is so simple that there really isn’t much to say about what comes before and after the disk configuration steps. Those parts will be self evident. And even the disk configuration steps are quite simple, although it seems sensible (and safest) to describe them in some detail.

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