Thursday, June 10, 2010

Using Ubuntu Linux Tools on a Windows Machine

I was using Windows XP SP3 on one machine and Ubuntu 10.04 (Lucid Lynx) on another.  There were times when I found that Ubuntu (my preferred version of the Linux operating system) could do things that Windows could not.  For example, Ubuntu was much faster and cleaner at moving large numbers of files from one folder to another.  It could also delete files and folders that Windows said could not be deleted.  So I wondered if there was a way to use Ubuntu tools on a Windows installation.  This post discusses that question.

One solution that I already knew about was to set up a dual-boot machine, with Windows XP and Ubuntu coexisting side-by-side.  If you wanted to do something in Ubuntu, you could just shut down Windows and reboot into Ubunt.  This wasn't always the world's most convenient approach.

Another solution that I was currently using was to use both of them together via virtualization.  The virtualization tool I had been using was VMware Workstation.  The way it worked for me was that I installed Ubuntu as my base layer, installed VMware Workstation in Ubuntu, and then installed Windows XP in a virtual (i.e., make-believe) "computer" inside Workstation.  So if I was working in Windows and had something I wanted to do in Ubuntu, I could just go out of the Windows virtual machine for a moment, do my thing in Ubuntu, and then resume work in Windows.  I have written lots of posts on this combination.

A different approach, for those who didn't mind rebooting and didn't want to install Ubuntu or VMware on their Windows machines, was to use an Ubuntu Live CD.  In this approach, you wouldn't reboot into an Ubuntu installation that was already present on your hard drive; you would reboot into an Ubuntu installation that was self-contained on a CD.  The CD image was free, and could easily be downloaded and burned to a CD.  It would be necessary to adjust the BIOS settings (typically, by hitting Del or perhaps F2 while the computer was booting) so as to set the CD (or DVD) drive to be the first in the boot sequence, so that the computer would try to boot from a CD (if you had inserted one into the computer) before moving on to the option of booting from your Windows installation on the hard drive.  Assuming your computer supported it (and most did, by this point), it was also possible to boot Ubuntu from a USB drive instead of a CD.

Those approaches were all familiar to me.  Two other approaches or variations were not.  The first was to use an Ubuntu live CD or USB stick, but to customize it to include Ubuntu programs that were not included on the standard Live CD.  Among the various ways of doing this, two that seemed to draw frequent attention were Reconstructor and Remastersys.  A recent post made it sound like Reconstructor was especially easy to use.  Among other possibilities, these tools would apparently allow the user to create a bootable CD or USB stick that would contain the user's own customized Ubuntu installation.

There seemed to be an endless number of variations and possibilities, some of which would require a lot of work and/or would not work well.  The last one mentioned here involved running Ubuntu, or something like it, on a Windows installation.  In essence, Ubuntu in this approach would function like just another Windows application.  As such, it would tend to be limited by the things that Windows could do.  Portable Ubuntu Tres was a recent example of this approach.

These possible approaches suggested two steps I could take, as described in more detail in separate posts.  One was to update my knowledge of virtualization alternatives to VMware Workstation.  It had been a year since I had last reviewed that topic, and I did not know whether there had perhaps been developments that would give me a superior alternative to VMware.  The other was to try my hand at burning a custom live Ubuntu DVD via Reconstructor or Remastersys.



Decided not to write up that Remastersys post. Picked up the topic again briefly in a post circa May 17, 2011.