Before we get too deep into this, you need to make sure that you have two very important things: a non-daily use machine and that it has a bootable CD Drive. I went back and forth about the whole bootable CD thing and I finally came to one very important conclusion – if you are running a PC that does not have a bootable CD drive, then you have bigger problems than switching to a new OS. That said, here is an “option” for you that will have most of you breaking down to simply buying a machine that is ready to go.

I don’t have a viable second PC.
Now, when I talk to most Linux enthusiasts, they seem to have the mistaken impression that most new users are trying out Linux because they want to spend their time learning something new. Well guess what, they are wrong. With some limited exceptions, most people are trying out Linux because they are tired of defragmenting, spyware and other crap. Speaking for myself, the idea of spending the better part of my day “configuring” anything is a real turn off. Not because I am lazy or that I am not interested in expanding my understanding, it’s because I have loved ones whom I would rather be spending my time with.

So if your goal is not to spend your time trying to get Ubuntu installed on a really outdated PC better suited for Puppy Linux than Ubuntu, then stop, break out the credit card and make the commitment. If you have tried Ubuntu in the past, were impressed enough to make the investment, then I’d buy a ready to go, modern machine from these guys. This is especially true when considering purchasing a brand new notebook.

Seriously, when it comes to notebooks, which looks more time effective to you? This or this? Guess it depends on what you are looking for, being geeky or not trying to install Ubuntu on really crappy hardware. It’s up to you, moving on.

OK, so you are going to install Ubuntu.
So it looks like buying a new PC was out the question, fair enough, been there myself. Now for the first step, burning the ISO. You need to first either purchase or simply download an ISO of the Ubuntu CD. If possible, I would download Edgy (6.10). Now for the clincher, the utility that I normally use to download and install multimedia codecs appears to be down. Not sure if “Automatix” will be back up soon or not, but in the mean time, let’s just do this instead: Enter Mint Linux. It’s Ubuntu, with a minty after taste!

Java, Flash 9, Multi-Media CODECS, all ready to go, right out of the box.
Even with a number of people squealing about the GPL being violated somehow. Regardless of the hardcore GPL types that get all bent out of shape about this kind of thing, Mint Linux is basically Ubuntu with everything ready to go. Outside of adding extra applications or maybe utilizing a second monitor, this distro is as they say on the Taco Bell commercials: Good To Go!

Gulp, the install.
First you need to set your BIOS to boot from CD. Then assuming you are using an install CD for Mint Linux 2.1 upon booting it, you will be presented with the option to boot from Mint Linux or to boot from the same – with Safe Graphics. Generally, those of you who happen to be using NVIDIA based cards will find that booting into normal mode will be just fine. And for the most part, the same goes for ATI cards as well. Now should your first boot simply result in a black screen, try again with Safe Graphics mode selected.

If you happen to be forced to use Safe Graphics mode, this could be a sign of fun issues to come; like no sound for example. Take my old Averatec 3200 as an example. This aging notebook would only run and install with Safe Graphics as an option. Generally, you ought to be fine with watching videos and that sort of thing, so don’t fret too much about that.

My desktop PC, a self-built machine with a GeForce 6800 GS card, a gig of DDR RAM, an ASUS board with the nForce 4 chipset, an AMD Athlon 64 Processor 3700+ and have had no problems whatsoever. Hence the beauty of building your own box or having a company other than “Dell” building it for you. No odd ball hardware to send you off screaming into the night. Let me say this again, if you are trying to boot into Linux on a HP, Dell, Gateway, whatever, and things are not working – go to the Ubuntu forums for help. Because I can tell you right now that most PC companies use some pretty off the wall stuff for sound and on-board video.

With custom build desktops, it is very rare to have sound issues. Notebooks, well that can be a tough one, but there is some help out there. But generally if you are installing in Safe Graphics mode as a last resort, the only challenge left would be your sound and wireless card. Sound card is a simple yes or no. It either works or you are going to need to visit the forums. As for wireless, well, let’s just say outside of the pesky Broadcom chipsets, Mint does pretty darn well out of the box. Where it leaves off, one can find out how to use their Windows wifi drivers from Mint’s tute found via Places, Documents and then just click the wifi tute page.

Alright, I am assuming that by now you are looking at a rather sparse desktop with an install icon. Great, double click it. Follow the wizard because you really ought to be using a stand-alone machine. Should you be feeling more adventurous and completely understand that you are telling me that if something should go wrong, you don’t mind reinstalling your other OS, then super deal – roll the dice. I did, but I have been working with partitions for a very long time and am comfortable in it. That and my XP partition has very little data on it that I cannot afford to loose. Should I ever hose it, I really could care less. So for me, it’s fine.

Now it should be noted that on some machines, Mint’s disc may not ask you to eject. That’s fine, just use your best judgment as it will be pretty obvious as the shut down process and loading bar have already done their thing.You might need to do a hard reset to get the CD out. Rare, but it happens. Or better yet, boot off the CD again and then choose to boot off the hard drive from the options. You can then just eject the disc after it loads up the login screen.

A brand new OS for a brand new year!
Cool, now you are ready to get down and dirty. Now, most non-installed applications can be found from Applications, Add/Remove. Just enter your password and browse around a bit. With Mint Linux, I believe that all of the non-free (free as in open source) stuff like for drivers and the like are already clicked into place for you ahead of time, as part of the install. A good way to test this is to head on over to The Chris Pirillo Show and try out an audio file. Locate an episode and click on the “pop-up” player. Yup, Flash 9 has your back. Now if Flash popped up and you did not hear anything, check to see if you have any USB headphones plugged in. Close and restart the browser and try it again with the headphones on. Hear sound now? Chances are you do and have no idea how to toggle the sound back to the speakers. You could try going to System, Preferences and Sound, then toggling those switches until the world looked level. Or instead, take my solution for a spin (I’m ctsdownloads on the forums, btw). Thus far, people dig it.

Coming up Thursday, locating and installing applications you won’t likely find elsewhere for your new install. Also, company supported Linux wifi cards, webcams and all-in-one printers.