Done with Windows

Since last week I was getting a SMART error from my laptop. This means some sector of my drive has become bad and drive is going to fail in near future. Nice little warning means a big work. Recovery disks I made for this laptop was about four year old, I don’t rely on them. So burnt a new set of recovery disks, backed up my data and set out to replace my Hard drive.


This is a HP Pavilion dm4 model, with i5 Dual core CPU. It is old, but I never faced much of a performance issue. The drive I had was 600GB. This time I purchased a 1TB drive. Idea was to put some version of Linux in dual boot mode. I use lot of Mukt (Free) software, most of these are port of Linux, so using them with Linux makes better sense. After some contemplation, I settled for Ubuntu. I had a disk of Ubuntu installer, but that was around two years old. I decided to download the latest version for Desktop, Ubuntu 14.10. Ubuntu comes in four major flavors:

  1. Desktop : that comes with GUI and window manager
  2. Server: that will setup a Linux Webserver but does not have GUI
  3. Kylin: With Chinese support
  4. Cloud: for building openstack cloud

Ubuntu disk images are available for free. Desktop version is around 1.5GB. It is better to use bittorrent to download such big files. There is no point in straining the central server and collecting the data from far away location. To download Ubuntu, I installed a bittorrent client and selected alternate download location. Let the download run for the night. In morning, I had the disk image waiting for me to be burnt into a fresh DVD.

Replacing the disk was 10 min job. Thanks to HP, all you need to do is to take out 2 screw and HDD is accessible. I knew, recovery will take time. I had to feed 6 disks one after another when computer will copy all the files. Manual at HP site says it will take 2 – 3 hours. I started the work at 11:00 AM on Saturday, expecting it to finish by 2:00PM. Anyway the work actually completed only at 8:00PM. To be fair, couple of times I went out and computer was waiting for disk change, but a increase in this factor of 3 was not expected.

Work done and with a factory fresh setting, I went to install install Ubuntu. First thing for this is to change boot setting to allow computer to boot from DVD. Next is to make some room for the new OS. So I started windows Disk Manager. Oh, it shows me 4 partition. I knew there will be a partition for recovery files. It was there, then there is a tiny 200 MB boot partition, well I grant that there it makes things safe, then there is the main partition nice 970GB of it, with around 70 GB occupied by Windows 7. There is another partition called HP tools. Which is not something I bargained for. Four primary partition is basically aimed to ensure that I can not install another OS over it. IBM hardware has this restriction of 4 primary partition. I take this as nothing but pure mischief. As it is I am now having second thought with HP products. HP has a policy of push advertisement. In the name of assistance it keeps bugging me to buy this or that. Now this restriction had my patience with HP to its limits. I scrapped dual boot idea and decided for all Linux machine.

Once the decision is made rest of the work becomes easy. Popped in the Linux DVD in drive and reboot the machine. Within minute the machine booted from DVD and asked for option to install. It was simple, install over entire drive. Next screens were name, password location etc. It asked me if I want to update the software, I selected yes. That’s it, for about two hours softwares were installed and then I got a screen to log in.

Ubuntu comes with most required software pre-installed. Out-of-box you get full libre office suit. C++ compiler is part of core Linux. For programming a feature rich text editor is required. Gedit does the job to certain extent. But there is nothing to beat emacs. Emacs is not packaged with ubuntu. To install open Ubuntu software center, type emacs and click on install button. That’s it. After few seconds emacs is installed. Here you go:

Biggest problem that one has to shift OS are the collection of programs that one builds. I also have a good number of Windows program that I can’t leave without. Office and text editors taken care of, now I want to have a comfort. I do not want to search for replacement for each and every windows program. There are two ways to run Windows program within ubuntu. First and easiest is wine. No, it is not the drink. Wine in ubuntu stands for windows emulator. I use software center again and install wine. For my microprocessor programming, I use a program called picpgm. I don’t know of any ubuntu alternative for it, nor do I care much. I run this one with wine. For this I select picpgm executable in file browser, right click and select run with wine program loader option. Thats it!

Other programs that I use frequently are password saver – keepassx; messenger – pidgin; SIP – ekiga; Voice recorder – Audacity; Photoeditor – gimp all of these are available with ubuntu. Some of these are preinstalled, rest I installed from software center. Ubuntu comes with screen capture tool, but I wanted a tool that will allow me to capture a part of it, like I am using it here. Shutter is the software of my choice. For typing in Bengali, Avro is again readily available. But Libre office language needs to be installed to use it. It takes some work, that took around 30min. That’s it ! After about 4 Hrs, I am done with almost all functionality that I had in Windows. 
There is one additional feature that’s lacking in Windows, that the multiple desktop.
Some 8 Hrs of work later, I am back in business with all tools that I had earlier and some more. Now let us take a peek on my disk:
Just 15GB. I could have carried the OS in a SD card!!!