I will explain here how I met the wubi installer from Ubuntu.
Wubi is the officially supported Ubuntu installer for Windows users, that can install and uninstall Ubuntu as any other Windows application, in a simple and safe way.
Now the story.
My father has a computer with Windows XP installed, and he uses it mostly for surfing the web and saving, retouching and organising his photos. From time to time he uses an USB stick to carry some files to the copy shop or photo shop to print them in high quality, or to my cousins’ home to show them to my family (all of them Windows users).
He has been always very afraid of bringing viruses home in this USB stick. Yesterday my father asked me an easy way to be safe from virus, and I suggested him to install Ubuntu in his computer. In fact his most used programs are Firefox and Gimp so I thought it could be an easy change.
I have to say that we live in different cities so I must give him support by telephone. My little sister lives in the same city as my parents, and she also uses Ubuntu (in fact, the computer that my parents are using now, first it was my sisters’ computer, and she used it with Ubuntu, I don’t know why she removed it and installed Windows for them!). But my father prefers to call me (he says I have more patient in the telephone, and my sisters gets tired soon and says to him “ok tomorrow or the day after, I will come home to solve it” and he does not like it, he wants to solve the problem at the moment).
Anyway; I explained to my father: first, go to the Ubuntu site, download an updated ISO image and burn it to CD. Second: I said to him that once the computer boots with the Ubuntu CD inside, the menu brings him several options and he could choose one like “trying Ubuntu without making any changes to the disk” so he could start Ubuntu, play with it a bit, and third: if he likes, later we would install it (I was planning to use GParted to shrink the windows partition, and install Ubuntu in the new unallocated area). Meanwhile, my baby was getting bored so we stopped here the conversation, he would call me later with his decision about installing it or not.
After several minutes, he called me and gave me some news. First. He found a ready-made “Ubuntu 9.04” disk in the cupboard (later I realised maybe it was my sister’s CD) so he didn’t go to the Ubuntu site to download the new version (I thought #@!, but anyway, it was only for trying…). Second, he did not boot the computer with it, he just inserted the CD meanwhile he was using Windows, and a menu for installing Ubuntu appeared (#@!&#@!). Third: he could not find the “Try Ubuntu” option so he chose a different one, he could not remember exactly the text of the option (##@!&#@!#@!&#@!!!!) but it was something about Install Ubuntu with windows. And he was calling me because it was saying all the time “copying files” and the process was never finishing (“never finishing” means “more than 5 minutes” for him) and he was afraid to loose all his photos in this process.
I said to him that it was very interesting that he called me when he already chose that option in the installer, not following my instructions, and not remembering or writing down the steps he was doing. He said “if it was your mother doing what I did, I would tell her off…” so it seems he understood the situation and I took a deep breath.
When my baby is awake I cannot turn on the computer (I use a small laptop and he jumps on it to touch everything, open and close the screen, so is impossible to search, read or write anything). I am not an expert on Ubuntu and I always installed it with manual partitioning so I didn’t know what the option “Install Ubuntu along windows” was exactly doing. So the only thing that we could do is waiting to the “copy process” to finish, and see what it happens.
When the process finished, my father rebooted the computer and said to me that he had two options, booting to Windows (which was selected) or Ubuntu. I said to him to choose windows and see if all was “the same” and his photos were there. We waited several never-ending minutes and then he said that everything was untouched. I guided him to go to the disk administrator and he only found one partition, his windows partition. Then I supposed that Ubuntu made a kind of virtual machine; so I asked him to reboot again and choose Ubuntu this time. I guided him to go to Places>>Computer and he only saw the filesystem, he could not see the windows folders. So then both of us were happy (the photos are safe! and he could install Ubuntu by himself!) but he was a little bit unhappy (the photos seemed to be unaccessible from Ubuntu) and I was also a little bit unhappy too (he installed an old version!). So I said to him that he could play a little bit with it and when my boy goes to bed I would search the web in order to learn what exactly was this type of installation.
That’s how we met Wubi.
In short, the thing is that Ubuntu is installed as a windows application, the Windows bootloader is used to launch windows or ubuntu at boot time, and you can remove it easily booting windows, going to Control Panel >> Add and remove programs, and selecting Ubuntu for Change/Uninstall.
This is what I suggest my father to do, and after that, following my first, second and third instructions to download and try Ubuntu. This time he was going to follow them, he said, but I preferred to stay at the phone until he got downloading Ubuntu Lucid (in fact we could try Maverick but it is not LTS and we already had enough experimenting for that evening).
Two more short explanations about Ubuntu Wubi
Reading the Wubi Guide I learned that the Windows partition where you installed Wubi is available as /host within Ubuntu (places > computer > file system > host), and all the other partitions (if exist) will be available under places > removable media.
Also you can access Ubuntu filesystem from Windows, if you install an application that can mount ext2-based file systems. For instance:
- http://ext2read.sf.net (has ext4 support)
The relevant Wubi files you need to access are located under C:\ubuntu\disks\