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Yes! They both include most every program one can think of - you can use all programs with a GUI in any desktop-environment - they will just not "blend in" when not specially made for use with this particular desktop-environment.
Does Ubuntu come with Gnome in the default package?
Yes! - it is the default desktop-environment used by Ubuntu - though there is the possibility to re-configure it to use any other of the already mentioned...
Ubuntu is (hopefully) a good choice to get you started - very easy.
...just read a little of the documentation prior to installing - only with luck will you be able to bet by by just popping the CD in and hit "Enter" a few times
Any distribution can be made to look like you want - so: there is no point really in saying "I like the look of Gentoo..." It is up to you to change the initial default (if there is such a thing) to whatever you like.
Also back to my other question, if I have a new computer with a 500 gig hard-drive, is it better to purchase another hard-drive so I can install Vista on one and Linux on the other? (does this avoid problems?)
If you haven't already purchased Vista, don't; It's a rotten OS. But I assume you already have it.
A 500 GB drive is plenty for both Vista and Linux. The installation is a little simpler if you install both on that one drive. Not that it is terribly complicated to install on separate drives, just a bit more complicated and several more choices you need to make before really understanding the factors for making the decision wisely.
If you're really careless, you can misunderstand the Linux install process and destroy the installed copy of Vista while installing Linux. So some experts suggest not only using a second drive, but physically removing the Vista drive while installing Linux. That introduces a bunch of extra complications (because the logical numbering of the two drives then varies), so I would decide that safety vs. simplicity decision in favor of simplicity.
The basic dual boot configuration has Windows at the beginning of the drive, followed by Linux. That has the minor disadvantage that the beginning of a disk drive is faster than the end, so Linux disk access will be slower. But usually caching and other factors make raw disk speed less important.
The basic dual boot configuration uses the GRUB bootloader (installed with Linux) to give you a boot time menu to boot either Windows or Linux. It is possible (but harder and usually without advantage) to have the Windows bootloader give you the menu to select Windows or Linux.
In the simple install process, you install Vista first, then use partitioning tools inside Vista to reduce the size of the Vista partition (unless you figured out how to make it use only the beginning of the physical drive during initial install) and leave the rest of the drive unused (no partition defined).
Usually users are confused by Vista partitioning tools and end up with a second empty partition using the rest of the drive, instead of empty space without a partition. The Linux liveCD partitioning tool can easily delete that empty partition to make room for Linux, but it is an extra chance to get confused and delete the wrong thing and destroy Vista.
Once you have a Vista install using only part of a hard drive, most Linux distribution installers (certainly the Mepis one) will understand the situation on guide you clearly through the process of using the rest of the hard drive for Linux. But pay attention to all the prompts, you will have the choice to destroy Vista and use the whole hard drive and that isn't what you want. During that install process it will install Grub and by default it will insert the right menu item to make Vista bootable.
No - not unless you tell it to That is the thing I meant: read some documentation and try to get a picture of what the instructions are actually doing to your computer.
What I know about "wubi" is that it will allocate some space inside your current OS (Vista?/XP? - does not matter...) - just like another large file.
Then it will install into that file - and boot from it. No harm done to your Vista aside from the filesize that is now missing as free space. http://wubi-installer.org/
I think most of your doubts will be clarified if you try out a LiveCd of any of the "distros". Ubuntu would be a good starting point. By trying out a Live CD you do not run the risk of damaging your system/data in any way. Just pop the CD/DVD in the drive and boot from it. The experience may be a bit slow but you'll get a hang of what Linux is about. Then if you like it, you can install it on your hard-drive. It may appear to be an imposing task but believe me it isn't.
Nah, I've been meaning to reformat XP for some time. So what I think I'll do now is download gparter, burn it to a cd, go to bios, make it boot from cd, delete everything I see, put in ubuntu and install from there.
As said: wubi will install Ubuntu to a file on your disk - no harm done.
Will your connection be auto-detected? probably - If you use a live-cd (the Ubuntu installation-cd is one) you can test-drive it - and see what works and what does not.
It also helps if you know what kind of connection you have as this knowledge is important should something not "just work".
As for the next two questions: I don't see there what you are asking.
The alternate cd is one that enables you to boot from a little less capable systems (processor and memory wise) - the requirements are not as high - and it will default to Xfce instead of Gnome.
- Gnome and KDE are both desktops?
- Does Ubuntu come with Gnome in the default package?
Just go with Ubuntu, it defaults to the gnome desktop and you do have the option to logout and try kde, but gnome is the norm for ubuntu and easy enough for most to use...
You can make a desktop virtually look whatever way you wish,,,,
First is to get a dvd liveboot copy of ubuntu, and then boot that, it should come up easy and you can then have a play, without installing(albiet a bit slow), once you like what you see, then you can click on the install icon on the desktop and it will take you thru the install process...Only critical thing to remember is(in Gparted), if you have less than 1 gb ram then you must set up a partition for swap, and you must also setup at least one partition labelled / for the system to work, beyond that, play and learn first then learn about using a /home partition etc etc...
Linux is not windows, so you will find it a steep learning curve if you wish to understand it more than just using the net and email...
As for open office versus MS office, I think, other than the incompatible ms formats, OO is a lot more powerful, but in time things will get closer, just dont save OO doc's expecting MS office to be able to open them, some oo formats are just not supported by ms office...
I find imgburn much easier to understand than most burning programs and it is free.
Many beginners, with most programs, get confused between writing a file to cd and burning a .iso to cd. The .iso is downloaded to your hard drive as a file, but not written to the cd as a file. Imgburn makes it very clear whether you are building a .iso from files or you are burning a .iso to cd. Other programs try to make it easier where you think you are writing files to a cd and the program silently creates a .iso from the files. But the end result is users accidentally creating a new .iso that contains the downloaded one as a file (which then won't be bootable).
Originally Posted by klopper
I've been meaning to reformat XP for some time. So what I think I'll do now is download gparter, burn it to a cd, go to bios, make it boot from cd, delete everything I see, put in ubuntu and install from there.
I don't know what gparter is, but any Linux liveCD will include good partitioning tools, so you don't need a separate partitioning cd.
While it is possible to install Windows after Linux (both in time and position) it is more complicated and fewer people will know the answers when you get confused and ask for help.
If you plan to end up with both Windows an Linux (dual boot) it's simpler to have Windows installed before you install Linux.
As others already said, it is worth playing around with a Linux liveCD before installing. It is slow and the pauses (almost hangs) occur at odd annoying moments. But it still lets you look before you leap, which is very valuable in choosing a distribution and in getting away from Windows.
Most liveCDs use part of your ram to make part of the filesystem read/write, so the whole thing acts more like a real installed Linux (except that when you reboot everything you wrote vanishes, because it was only in ram).
Some (including Mepis) have a boot time option to use ram to make the entire filesystem read/write. That gives you a much better environment for trying Linux, but only if you have enough ram (certainly 2GB is enough. Below that, maybe.) In Mepis the boot time choice isn't clearly described. It sounds like it will try to make the CD writable, which does not occur. It just uses ram to make the filesystem (most of which stays on the CD) writable. Only the modified files go into ram. Any unmodified file is used from the cd.