I married him. Er, installed Ubuntu 7.04. (Jane Eyre I’m not. Nor either Bronte sister. Nor indeed Kate Bush, though they’re all wonderful.) I don’t bother dividing the hard drive to allow another operating system — called “partitioning” — though readers who need Linux and Windows might want to do so; indeed, I did for the first month I used Mandrake Linux.
The setup is terribly easy: follow the on-screen directions.
User and superuser
Note: you will be asked to create a password and it is extraordinarily important that you never loose it. The first user created in Ubuntu Linux is also the “superuser” or administrator. So in essence, even if you are the only person to use your computer, you fill two roles: mild-mannered word processor jockey and blogger, and the superuser who allows what software is installed and from where, and other issues related to your computer’s security. Subsequent users — say a spouse, visiting family member or other members of staff; handy to create if you don’t like people messing with your desktop — will need to come back to you to alter basic computer functions. This is part of why Linux is so well protected against malware and viruses.
Not working under the hood
In earlier versions of Ubuntu Linux and with most other editions (“distributions” in Linux speak) it takes a bit of tinkering “on the command line,” that is, not using a graphical interface to add features most mainstream users want. (DOS users of yore will remember this.) I wanted to set up my computer without going to the command line; sure, the command line is powerful, quick and elegant. So are bow and arrow, but I don’t expect everyone to use those either. So far, I haven’t had to use it. That’s good news for newcomers.
Free and unfree
Linux has been able to grow and develop because of its liberal license, which allows end-users to see, share and alter the code. That, and not the financial cost, is the “free” in “free software.” (To distinguish between the two kinds of “free” you will sometimes hear people speak of “free as in freedom” versus “free as in beer.” Or will speak of the former as “libre.” Some Christian Linux users speak of “free as in grace” — which also gets to the motivation to share free software.)
Ubuntu Linux has gotten some criticism for integrating chunks of non-free software. Feisty is easier to add non-free packages (additional software, particularly device drivers and media decoders) than any previous version of Ubuntu. But if you want to play most media, you’ll have to accept that. Most users won’t care. Perhaps I should, but I want to hear MP3s. Just a warning in case you wonder what the debate is over free-this and free-that.