How-To: Install Linux Risk Free, With No Formatting or Repartitioning Required, Part 3

February 25, 2009

6. Driver Configuration

If you only plan to use your copy of Linux for basic applications such as email, web browsing, or Open Office, you may not need to worry about additional drivers. Ubuntu comes bundled with many open source-equivalent drivers. But if you plan on running anything that requires 3D acceleration, rock out to an aftermarket sound card, or even enable most wifi devices, a bit of extra configuration might be required.

If Ubuntu didn’t automatically activate your hardware, it doesn’t necessarily imply that the appropriate drivers don’t exist, rather it might just mean it might not open source. The primary vision of the Linux project is an operating system without restrictions. Some companies such as ATI and Nvidia, however, don’t want to open its drivers because doing so could reveal proprietary information to their competitors. To enable accelerated graphics using proprietary drivers you need to access the menu system and click System, Administration, Hardware Drivers to view a list of your options and activate them manually. You can download the latest versions of these drivers using the links listed below, but until you become more familiar with how to work under the Unix terminal it might be best to stick with the built-in generic drivers.

ATI Linux Display Drivers and FAQ

Nvidia Linux Display Drivers and FAQ

Creative Labs Linux Display Drivers and FAQ

All Other Drivers

Because we are dealing with an entirely new operating system, most of your Windows applications will be incompatible (ie. you can’t just pop in an install CD and expect it work). While some of your apps can be made to work under Linux using emulation packages such as Wine and Cross Over, the process could end up being more trouble then it is worth. I’ve listed a few of the recommended open source options below.

Web Browsing

Hardy Heron comes with Firefox 3 built in, but if you prefer an alternative you can also use the newest version of Opera.

Word Processing

If you aren’t satisfied with the preinstalled Open Office you can try installing Microsoft Office using Wine, try something like KOffice , or even just use Google Docs.

Image Editing

The built in GIMP image editor is powerful enough for most users, but if you find yourself needing more manipulation options you could always try Photogenics.

Media Viewers

The built in Movie Player works well for standard media formats, but for extra codec support I suggest trying VLC Player. Additionally, MP3 play back isn’t supported in Linux because it’s actually a proprietary format. If you aren’t prepared to convert your entire music collection to the open source OGG format, some alternatives exist such as Zinf or MJS to play MP3’s natively in Linux.

8. Enjoy Linux!

If you decide Linux isn’t for you, you can always boot back into Windows and navigate over to the Add/Remove Programs Utility to turn back the clock. If you do decide to stick with Ubuntu, you can always try running a dedicated install on another machine or set up a permanent dual-boot the next time you format and repartition your system. To do this, just skip step 4 and double click “install” on the Ubuntu desktop when you boot from your live CD.

Share your Ubuntu experiences in the comments section below!

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