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Author Topic: Mini-Review: Wubi - Painless, partion-free WindowsXP/Ubuntu dual booting  (Read 18181 times)
cthorpe
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« on: May 01, 2007, 09:30:52 PM »

Wubi - Painless, partion-free WindowsXP/Ubuntu dual booting

Basic Info

App NameWubi
App URLhttp://cutlersoftware.com/ubuntusetup
App Version ReviewedWubi 7.04 minefield2
Test System Specs
Quote
866 mhz PIII
512 mb ram
32 mb Ge-Force 2-MX
Windows XP SP2
Supported OSesWindows XP, Windows 2000.  Vista is NOT supported at this time.
Support MethodsWubi Guide at https://wiki.ubuntu.com/WubiGuide
Wubi FAQ at http://ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?t=396526
Wubi forums at http://ubuntuforums.org/forumdisplay.php?f=234
PricingGPL
Upgrade PolicyGPL
Trial Version Available?GPL
Author Donation LinkUnknown
Reviewer Donation Linkcthorpe
Relationship btwn. Reviewer and Product REVIEWER: I have no relationship whatsoever with the project and developers of Wubi or Ubuntu.


Intro:



Wubi is an Ubuntu installer that you run from inside Windows.  It installs Ubuntu to a virtual disk file without making any changes to your partitions or doing any formats.  As such, it should be completely safe to install.  Since it is utilizing a virtual disk file on your hard drive, it has the advantage over live cds of retaining changes, installations, etc through rebooting of the system and allowing you to install as much as you want as long as you have the hard drive space to spare.  It also boots considerably faster than a live cd, and is almost as fast as a regular installation.  Unlike live cds, however, it does take up hard drive space and obviously leaves traces behind.

The Wubi program is a mere 9.9mb, but you will need the most recent ubuntu alternate iso.  You can either download it youself and put it in the same directory as Wubi before you run it, or you can have the program download it for you.  I chose to download it myself from a close mirror rather than letting the program download it.

The Wubi program will ask you for a usename and password for the initial Ubuntu account (the usename field will prefill with your Windows usename).  At this point, the program will extract the iso into three virtual disk files in C:\wubi, which are mounted using a loopback when you boot into Ubuntu.  These three disks took +7gigs on my computer.  It will also modify your boot.ini file and drop some grub files into C:\.

At this point, Wubi is done with the Windows part of the job, so you need to reboot to let linux take care of the rest.  Reboot the computer, and get ready for the magic.  You will see the Microsoft bootloader come up with Windows and Ubuntu listed (and anything else you have in your boot.ni).  Select Ubuntu and sit back as Grub takes over and boots.  The text-based installer will kick in and install your linux system.  Once it is done installing, you have a working Ubuntu that you can boot to whenever you want.

Everything is just like it would be with a standard install.  Straight away, you will have read access to all of your data on your NTFS partitions, and the Wubi Guide gives instructions for enabling write access.  All changes made to the linux installation are retained in the virtual disk files that Wubi created.  The Wubi Guide gives instructions for adding more virtual space.

 

My PC is pretty old, so it's no surprise that all my hardware worked right away (your milage may vary).  Gnome is a little slow on my old clunker, so I fired up the package manager and installed xfce.  Also, I was getting Opera withdrawal within minutes, so I installed that as well.



At this point, everything seems to be just like a standard Ubuntu install.  From here, you would refer to your friendly neighborhood linux guru for assistance.

Just to check, I rebooted my computer, and after selecting Windows on the initial boot menu, I was right back into XP without a hitch.  Finally, I booted back into Ubuntu, and found xfce, Opera, and everything else just as I had left it.

Who is this app designed for:

This application is for people who want to dual-boot Ubuntu and Windows without the messy repartitioning and without booting from a CD all the time.

The Good

It works as advertised, Ubuntu is a highly regarded linux distro, and this gives you the most recent version with all the bells and whistles.

No need to repartition your hard drive.

Works much faster than booting from a live cd.

Changes persist through reboots, booting into Windows, etc unlike many live cds.

The needs improvement section

The only version available from the website is called a "minefield" build.  The Wubi forum states
Quote
Minefields are experimental builds to test new prerelease features, if you want something that is supposed to work then forget about minefield builds and use the latest official wubi version. If you do not mind a bumpy ride and want to help us debugging, by all means try the latest minefield build (you will see it announced in a dedicated thread).
Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be a non-minefield build in an easily found location.  To be fair, the minefield build is what allows the final version of Ubuntu 7.04 to work.

According to the website, you can install Xubuntu or Kubuntu using Wubi (and it even has screenshots showing that), but the minefield release doesn't give those options when installing.  I don't know if it would work if you manually downloaded the isos.

When installing, Wubi asks you for a usename and password for the initial Ubuntu account.  The field is automatically filled with your Windows username (and according to the bug list below, it doesn't matter if you try to change it).  My username is my first and last name (Carl Thorpe).  When Ubuntu had booted and was installing, it told me that Carl Thorpe was not a valid usename.  It would be better if the installer caught that and asked me for a different usename.

The Wubi FAQ lists 4 known bugs, but the FAQ was last modified a month ago, so I don't know if they are still issues with the "minefield" release
Quote
* If you change the username in Wubi, it has no effect, and the current Windows username is always used (fixed will be up in next releases)
* USB drives are not supported
* Some SATA Hard Disks are not supported (you will experience an extremely slow installation and it may look like the installation is stalled)
* Wubi does not work with MS Vista (yet)

Why I think you should use this product

If you want to try out linux without having to make major system modifications or boot from a cd, it is a great option.  Also, uninstalling it is a simple matter of using Add/Remove in the control panel or manually deleting the directory, grub loader, and making a minor edit to the boot.ini file.

How does it compare to similar apps

I think the closest approximations to this program are the many live cds that are available.  I haven't really spent a lot of time with them, but I can say that the Ubuntu live cd is much slower than this method of booting linux on my computer.


Conclusions

It does what it says it does, and it works better than a live cd on my computer.  While I still maintain that XP is my OS of choice, Wubi will let me spend a little more time with Ubuntu.  I love that there was little to no risk of trashing my XP installation in the process of setting up the Ubuntu dual-boot.  I built a Ubuntu print server some time ago with a spare PC, and I spend quite a bit of time ssh'ing (or whatever the verb of ssh would be) into a 'nix environment on my webhost, so I can see the benefits of being able to boot into a similar OS for testing and the like.  There are a few little issues that keep it from being perfect.  I haven't had a chance to really put Ubuntu through its paces to see if there are any issues to be found later, but at this point it seems identical to normal installation methods.  I'll give it a 4 out of 5.

Links to other reviews of this application
A mention of Wubi and some user comments on FreewareWiki http://freewarewiki.pbwiki.com/WubiLinux
A forum post reviewing Wubi http://www.mpcforum.com/s...p=1775556&postcount=1
« Last Edit: May 02, 2007, 08:22:33 AM by cthorpe » Logged
mouser
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« Reply #1 on: May 01, 2007, 11:52:42 PM »

pretty cool mini-review  thumbs up
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Darwin
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« Reply #2 on: May 01, 2007, 11:59:23 PM »

Thanks Carl! This looks really cool - nice find and thanks for sharing it with us.
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« Reply #3 on: May 02, 2007, 07:43:08 AM »

Really thorough review, Carl - thank you!  smiley

I think I'll give it a try!
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f0dder
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« Reply #4 on: May 02, 2007, 08:02:37 AM »

Quote
Everything is just like it would be with a standard install.  Straight away, you will have read access to all of your data on your NTFS partitions, and the Wubi Guide gives instructions for enabling write access.
Humm, how well does it work, then, when your boot partition is NTFS (as it should be)? Will no changes persist by default until you enabled NTFS write?
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« Reply #5 on: May 02, 2007, 08:19:37 AM »

When you boot Ubuntu, you will have quite a bit of room formatted in the linux fs.  This space is actually contained within the virtual disk files that Wubi creates for you.  These files are mounted through loopback when you boot.  Everything you do that changes the linux fs is retained in these files.  I mentioned NTFS writiting above meaning that if you want to be able to modify data outside of the linux fs, you will need to enable writing.
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zridling
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« Reply #6 on: May 02, 2007, 08:23:02 AM »

I'll need a Vista version, but wow, thanks. Great find, Carl!
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« Reply #7 on: May 02, 2007, 08:37:13 AM »

Well, cthorpe, how is the access to the ubuntu image on the NTFS partition handled? - that's my question. The typical "inside windows, take note of the sectors it's stored in" (which can get really funny if you defragment your partition), or is there always some degree of NTFS-write enabled in the kernel? And is NTFS-write stable by now?
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« Reply #8 on: May 02, 2007, 09:01:09 AM »

This thread: http://ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?t=305109 on the Ubuntu forums may answer your questions.

Apparently, there is stable kernel mode NTFS writing that can be used to write to a statically sized img file.  The disk images Wubi creates are static in size (they are a lot bigger than the basic Ubuntu install needs, so you have plenty of room to grow).

As for writing outside of the statically sized ntfs partitions, you will need to enable a less stable ntfs writing.
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« Reply #9 on: May 02, 2007, 09:06:30 AM »

Oki doki. I wonder if that "static file" handles fragmented files gracefully...

It's a nice enough idea anyway, for testing it sure beats (slow and limited) live-cds, (slow and limited, especially graphics wise) vmware, and the mess of either repartitioning, or swapping harddrives around.
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« Reply #10 on: May 02, 2007, 01:43:17 PM »

 Sad I don't have enough free disk space to pull this off...  cheesy I wonder if the financial gateke.. er, my wife, would see this as a sufficient reason to lash out on a new hard drive and some RAM?! Could happen... Anything's possible, right?

Crap...
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« Reply #11 on: May 02, 2007, 01:54:58 PM »

Well, we won't tell her that RAM isn't an issue with Wubi  Wink
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« Reply #12 on: May 09, 2007, 05:08:33 PM »

For what it's worth I've tried wubi two ways - both with no success.  I used the only available, minefield, version for both.  First I tried the process of letting it download the ISO.  It downloaded, but then failed to install.  Then I downloaded the ISO separately, put it in the correct folder and tried to install.  No luck, it failed partway through.  When I checked the error code in a forum several others had had the problem which was vaguely attributed to disk fragmentation.  Since my disk isn't particularly fragmented I doubted that solution and sadly gave up.  I have gotten Ubuntu running under VMware though it's very jerky on my brand new Dell P390 - it looks like video driver problems.

Jim Mitchell

5/11/2007
I found the problem and was able to install it successfully.  Wubi needs a lot more space than I realized.  When I put it on a drive with 20G free it installed very nicely and works very well
« Last Edit: May 11, 2007, 05:31:02 PM by AEngineer » Logged

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« Reply #13 on: May 09, 2007, 05:29:26 PM »

What was the error that you were getting?
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« Reply #14 on: May 09, 2007, 06:47:12 PM »

Here's the discussion of error-17
http://ubuntuforums.org/a...e/index.php/t-402638.html
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« Reply #15 on: May 10, 2007, 08:26:51 AM »

"The Wubi program will ask you for a usename and password for the initial Ubuntu account (the usename field will prefill with your Windows usename).  At this point, the program will extract the iso into three virtual disk files in C:\wubi, which are mounted using a loopback when you boot into Ubuntu.  These three disks took +7gigs on my computer.  It will also modify your boot.ini file and drop some grub files into C:\."

Does this mean that I must have +7G free in C: ?
Is it possible to choose that to be placed in one of my other partitions?  I try to have a relatively small C: with only Windows and my MOST common programs, that can be quickly backuped and replaced.
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« Reply #16 on: May 11, 2007, 03:04:24 PM »

Many Thanks Prof.Carl,
-two years of procrastination of installing Linux has paid off!
-Your splendid review made me do it& what a treat it was: utterly goof-proof install, & online in minutes.
Cheers
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« Reply #17 on: May 28, 2007, 09:36:45 AM »

Wubi has appeared on the DailyDownload Blog at Download.com:
http://www.download.com/8...-9723017-12.html?tag=head

Quote
Computer giant Dell made big news yesterday when it began shipping desktops and laptops pre-installed with Ubuntu, a popular Linux distribution. I'm not sure who the heck is going to buy a Linux Dell, but it certainly marks a sea change in retail computing.
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« Reply #18 on: May 28, 2007, 10:17:07 AM »

5/28/2007 One caution for those who backup regularly.  I believe I'm correct that any change in the wubi file means that then entire (in my case 20G) file will needs to be backed up.  This bogged my system down so i went to a dual-boot (eventually chose kUbuntu after a disastrous experience with Mepis totally trashing my windows install).

5/11/2007
I found the problem and was able to install it successfully.  Wubi needs a lot more space than I realized.  When I put it on a drive with 20G free it installed very nicely and works very well
[/quote]
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« Reply #19 on: May 28, 2007, 02:30:30 PM »

5/28/2007 One caution for those who backup regularly.  I believe I'm correct that any change in the wubi file means that then entire (in my case 20G) file will needs to be backed up.  This bogged my system down so i went to a dual-boot (eventually chose kUbuntu after a disastrous experience with Mepis totally trashing my windows install).

I just excluded the Wubi files from my backup program.

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« Reply #20 on: May 28, 2007, 03:24:02 PM »

Has anyone tried hacking this to allow you to use a different (ie installing a non-Ubuntu) distro when selecting to manually download linux? I'd like to give PCLinuxOS 2007 as recommended by Zaine a shot, but would rather not bother with partitioning, installating and dual-booting (I'm lazy and I want to have my cake and eat it too!).

PS Got the harddrive, but not the RAM... As Carl notes, the RAM's not a big issue but I WANTED some more  because enough (1024MB at the moment) is never enough!

EDIT: whoops! Forgot the hyperlink...
« Last Edit: May 28, 2007, 03:31:07 PM by Darwin » Logged

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« Reply #21 on: May 28, 2007, 05:42:19 PM »

Has anyone tried hacking this to allow you to use a different (ie installing a non-Ubuntu) distro when selecting to manually download linux? I'd like to give PCLinuxOS 2007 as recommended by Zaine a shot, but would rather not bother with partitioning, installating and dual-booting (I'm lazy and I want to have my cake and eat it too!).

According to the WubiGuide, you can modify it to work with other Debian based distros: https://wiki.ubuntu.com/W...281c809d27c500b032e20a6b5

Note that to do so, you will have to recompile.  It's beyond my abilities to even try, so good luck.

« Last Edit: May 28, 2007, 05:44:47 PM by cthorpe » Logged
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« Reply #22 on: May 28, 2007, 06:19:34 PM »

Quote
It's beyond my abilities to even try, so good luck.

Forget ability - it's beyond my comprehension! I'm 1m 15s away from the Ubuntu download finishing, so no worries!
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« Reply #23 on: May 28, 2007, 07:20:30 PM »

Sweet! I'm posting this from my Ubuntu install! I would have been on here quite a bit earlier but for the fact that I coudn't remember my log-in details for donationcoder  embarassed

Anyway, one thing I really appreciate about the WUBI installation is that it defaults to your largest partition (or so I suspect as it installed to my My Documents partition, which had 37 GB free versus my Windows partition, which has 8 GB free) so it's painless.

Thanks again Carl!
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« Reply #24 on: May 29, 2007, 12:46:29 PM »

After a few hours with ubuntu, I am really impressed. I've tried Mandrake (versions 8.2 and 10) as dual-boot installs in the past and have also tried a number of live cd distros. Obviously, this beats the pants off a live cd but I am also impressed by how easy to use ubuntu (and presumably other linux distros in 2007) are to use. They really are at the point where anyone who simply needs an internet machine and a glorified word processor is "good to go". I think linux is almost ready for primetime...
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