Linux. Do it your way!

I like to think that Linux is about a flexible an operating system as you can find. But it can be easy to forget just how flexible it is. We can get ourselves stuck in our computing habits and stick with the old and familiar. And sometimes, just trying something new can sometimes seem daunting and just not worth the effort.

But I believe it is worth the effort. And by the end of the process, you will have probably learned something that you did not know already. One of the aspects of Linux that I would like to point out and focus on is the amount of different processes and methods of what can be used for Linux operating system installation.

Sure, we have fancy graphical installers such as Ubuntu’s Ubiquity and Red Hat’s Anaconda. But despite coming a long way in the last 5 years or more, they are still not the one-solution-for-all of installers that you might like to think. There never will be a one-solution-for-all installer that covers all architectures, methods and options.

Ubuntu provide an alternate (non-graphical) installer. And as great an option as the alternate installer is, it’s still not the only option available other than graphical installers.
As a side note; Red Hat used to provide a text-installer option on the Fedora discs which could be called upon when running the Live CD with a specific boot command. I have not tried this option for many years now and am still not too sure whether this is provided on the Live CD of Fedora. If someone know, feel free to email me and let me know.

What prompted me to write this is something I am currently experiencing with my own system. I can’t install the latest Ubuntu 12.04 Beta 2. I have no idea what is preventing it to boot into my system, but I have tried the Live CD, the alternate installer on both x86 and AMD64. Neither boot. And without going into any more specifics of that particular issue, it prompted me to look for different methods of installation other than the regular and obvious choices that 9 out of 10 of us usually go for, purely out of habit and convenience.

I decided to build a new Ubuntu system within Oracle VM VirtualBox, but I decided to stick with Ubuntu 11.10 x86 for stability. I will re-visit 12.04 once the final version has been released. Both the Live CD and alternate installers perform the full Ubuntu system installation, which I do not want to have installed. Yes, there is a Server option also, but is also too big and bloated for my needs. I wanted something very light, sleek and fast. I decided to install my new Ubuntu VM using the Mini ISO. Or otherwise known as a Net Boot Installer.

The ISO basically provides you with just enough support to get your network running and the rest is all downloaded and installed over your network. I have to admit, this was my first time doing this with Ubuntu. I have done many net installations with Arch Linux and Gentoo, but until this occasion I had no idea that Ubuntu provided the Mini ISO. Which I might mention weighs in at a mere ~23MB. So it’s super quick to download and boot into a VM.

The rest of the process really depends on your network speed and bandwidth capability and the mirror selected during the network setup. And also, a lot depends on your system specifications as to how fast the whole process will take. In my case, under a virtual machine environment, the process of Boot > Network and Mirror Setup > Download of base packages > Configuration and Installation of packages took not much longer than 1 hour. And that was downloading from the Official US based mirror. This could be a lot faster or a lot slower on your own system, depending on the aforementioned points that I have raised.

I found the whole experience exciting and interesting. And getting full control of what goes into your system from the very beginning can be very handy. Particularly if you are fussy like me and don’t use a graphical environment for your Linux systems. I just installed the base packages and no more. And it boots fast and operates fast due to the lightweight nature of the whole operating system. But of course, a graphical environment can also be installed if you wish. You can install whatever you like, it’s your system!

I have really enjoyed my latest experience of building an operating system from scratch. And I could not help but think about how flexible and versatile Linux is and has become. I just couldn’t stop my self from thinking, “Windows can’t do this”.

If you have never built a system from scratch using a Net Boot Installer, I highly recommend you try it. It gives you complete control over everything right from the very beginning.

So my advice is to all the users out there complaining that X Distribution is hopeless, or Y Distribution is not listening to what the users are saying, then get out there and explore Linux from a different angle and do something different. Take advantage of Linux from the initial installation process and do it the way you want it done. There’s no longer an excuse. And especially considering the now widespread usage of virtual machines with the use of Oracle VM VirtualBox and other virtualization packages. The choices are infinite and you can run as many Linux system as you want. (Or what your hardware permits). And also remember, there’s plenty of Linux distributions out there on the internet that allow Net Boot Installs. Just Google your favorite Linux distribution and the search term “Net Boot” and you should find what you’re looking for. Explore the options available. You might even find something new that you were not previously aware of, as I did with the Ubuntu Mini ISO.

Let us know what systems you run and how you like to install your own Linux operating systems.


  • snowhawkyrf

    Thanks for your advice and I’m interested in Ubuntu Mini ISO. But as a newbie, I’ll still install Ubuntu 12.04 with its graphical installer. I think it’s enough for me.

  • buzzingrobot

    I can’t get the 12.04 Beta2 installed, either.  Glad to know it isn’t just me.

    The install runs per normal, but I always boot into the infamous blinking cursor. Various incantations have not worked.

  • Bill_Toulas

    I can boot beta 2 but can’t install it no matter what. The same happens to a friend of mine. Looks like Ubuntu beta 2 is a bit problematic but hey, it is still in beta right?

  • Mammal

    Also guides you through building your own variant of Linux from the ground up, definitely worth a look.

  • cdunlap

    I had a heck of a time getting 12.04 to run in virtualbox as well.  my problems were fixed by checking the ‘Enable PAE/NX’ under Setting->System>Processor tab.

    not sure if this will help you guys but since I made that change I have had zero issues.  I guess the new kernel for 12.04 is only going to be PAE enabled, unlike 11.10.

    Hope it helps!

  • Medtanmay

    there was no problem what so ever… if you are a linux user u probably should have used UNetbootin to install via a PD(do you still get CD’s?) it also worked quiet well in vm….but after installation thr are some diff bugs whch is a diff issue

  • GreyGeek77

    Is the UEFI getting in your way, blocking any attempts to boot Ubuntu?

  • Bob_Robert

    As a long-time Debian user whose tried other distributions as well, I agree that there have been times over the last 17 years that a particular distro or LiveCD just won’t boot on a particular machine. But others will, and it really does become an opportunity to experiment and stretch out. See other ways to do things.

    If you want to keep your personal data intact while experimenting, lots of different “desktops” on the same system is one way, which I wrote about:

    There are people who seem to be afraid of change, they want things to be the same way they’ve always been. Sure, Linux can do that, too.

  • Psychorat

    I wrote a script that makes it easier to create a custom installation from mini.iso if that helps.

    There is also Ubuntu Builder tool where you can create a custom ubuntu distribution.

  • Psychorat

    Feels like the the system cannot run the boot manager.

    If you press Ctrl-Alt-F1 to login and then give the “startx” command?

  • Psychorat

    “cannot run the boot manager.”

    srry i mean the login manager..

  • jgm

    The irony is that the article is about checking out the power and flexibility of Linux, but in reality is just another article talking about Ubuntu. The author needs to take his own device. OpenSUSE not only has a net installer ISO, for instance, but the DVD installer allows customization of *everything* down to each package, GRUB’s timeout for the default OS, enabling/disabling PulseAudio, configuring the firewall, choosing KDE, Gnome 3, LCDE, XFCE, X with no desktop or no X (server) options, saving options (and/or partition info) to automate future installs,  installing all updates before entering the system, and if the kernel wasn’t updated you can go from booting the DVD to final running updated system without ever needing to reboot! All of these features were probably around since before Ubuntu even existed. I actually did try all of the major and several minor distros when I was in the process of examining distros to try and switch to Linux with, and OpenSUSE’s DVD and net installers (the installer on the live CD does not offer full customizability like the others) was the most flexible, powerful OS installer I’d ever encountered since the days of the original IBM PC.

    I’ve been privy to several discussions where a Linux user wasn’t happy with Ubuntu and suggestions start pouring in… Kubuntu, Xubuntu, Lubuntu, Linux Mint (based on Ubuntu). Maybe to “explore  what options are available” the generation of Linux users who came because of Ubuntu need to “put down the ‘buntu” and branch out into seeing what other distros (not derived from Ubuntu) have to offer.

  • jabez

    The way to get Ubuntu 12.04 LTS to work is to select the No local apic option in the boot menu. This gets the installer to run or if you choose the try without installing it will run as well. However, there will be other problems depending on your system. My system is a laptop; dell xps 15z w 256GB SSD, 2GB Nvidia Optimus graphics card, Intel i7 2640, bluetooth, wifi and gigabit ethernet. Even though I was able to get ubuntu 12.04lts installed I had to connect an external keyboard and mouse as the laptop trackpad and keyboard was not picked up by ubuntu. Wifi worked but the ethernet didn’t at times. Hopefully, the final release will fix a lot of the problems because I would love to make it my permanent system but had to install opensuse 12.1 instead to get some good use out of it. Running KDE 4.8.2 which flies like a jet airplane!

  • buzzingrobot

    I got it working later.  I tried one more time and got beyond the blinking cursor to a kernel panic.   I had seen the same behavior on Fedora 16, where the recommended fix is adding “pcie_aspm=force” as a boot option.  

    That got me as far as Grub, which failed. I followed the procedure outlined here to reinstall Grub.  

    Two kernel updates have come down since then and all is still working. This is looking to be a very nice release.  

  • Joehulanweberson

    don’t use bumtu, will work better.

    every other linux distro out there offers the same, and more, install options, and most work better.

    stop living a sheltered baby buntu life.

  • Weltenfeind ….Or use Gentoo, Arch, and so forth.
    There you go, now step away from the crazy silly Ubuntu talk, and move along.

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