Portable Ubuntu Remix Plays Nice with Windows

Posted on Monday 17 May 2010

So after all the issues I ran through trying to get our CherryPal Bing up to speed, the next thing I wanted to do was to get some form of Linux or Ubuntu installed within the Windows environment so that I could use it’s more powerful tools to help manage the system.

I had done this in the past using a not very well known release of Linux called Cygwin, which is a Linux-like device designed specifically for Windows. I’ve used it on all my previous laptops and it has paid for itself many, many, many times over. One of the favorite tasks I liked to use it for was to open up a window on my Windows machine that would ( for all intensive purposes ) allow me to access my main Linux machines desktop as if I was logged into it directly.

So now, that the Bing was operating as it should, I decided to see what else was out there and with luck maybe Ubuntu ( my favorite version of Linux ) had such a release itself. It really didn’t take very long to discover it. It’s called Portable Ubuntu Remix and it plays very well indeed. It’s installed just like a regular Windows application and can be uninstalled just as easily. It doesn’t partition your drive, nor even take up a lot of disk space. The whole package is very very compact and self contained ( from what I could discern. )

Once the program launches you get a small menu bar on your desktop ( usually near the top ) that looks very similar to the top bar of a normal Ubuntu desktop, and that’s all. The menu’s are your typical drop-down menu’s found in Ubuntu which open up to show you all the options, programs, tools, etc as those found on a usual Ubuntu install. It even includes the Ubuntu software center under the System menu to add and delete programs as you see fit. Open Office, Firefox and a bunch of other programs, tools and games come preinstalled.

The regular Windows programs are left untouched and still run fine. Launching an Ubuntu application actually opens up a window that looks just like a normal Windows application and can be manipulated just the same way. The Ubuntu menu bar can be shrunk down to a small, running icon on the desktop by just clicking either the right or left arrow at the edges of the menu.

The really neat thing is that, after a bit of digging behind the scenes, I’ve discovered that the main engine of Portable Ubuntu Remix is Cygwin! Which means all the tools and scripts that I had previously developed on my other laptops should be readily portable and straightforward to implement.

Also, since it works and installs Cygwin I was able to find its’ bin path  ( the directory that contains all the binary programs essential to Cygwin ) and add it to my Windows path giving me instantaneous access to Linux tools when I need them in Windows!

For those looking at a simple way to install Linux on their laptop without doing a partition, but making it a completely independent installation ( without the overhead of Windows getting in the way ) and doing it without too much trouble I recommend two other ways that I have found:

  1. The first option is to download and install a LiveCD version of Ubuntu on either an SD card ( if you have one available ) or a USB stick. This will run slower than if it was installed on a hard drive, but it will give you an idea as to whether it will work on you computer or not. Configure your computer to check either/both of those ports for a bootable operating system first and voila, when you turn or reboot your computer you will boot up into your Linux environment! For those who are hoping to do this on a smaller Netbook ( like the CherryPal Africa for example, ) Ubuntu now makes a version configured for smaller netbook screens called the Ubuntu Netbook Edition. Their webpage even has further directions on how to install it on a USB stick if you need help!
  2. The second  ( which I haven’t tried out yet ) is something called Ubuntu Wubi. It somehow installs Ubuntu within your current disk structure but sets up the computer to dual boot ( give you an option as to which operating system you want to run. ) It also, like Cygwin, or Portable Unix Remix, keeps all the files within one folder structure, making it easy to install, and easy to uninstall if you are through playing with it. The only trick here is don’t just delete the folder to remove it but rather follow the uninstall instructions that come with it. Needless to say I will be trying it out on one of my older laptops. I’ll let you know if there are any surprises…. but I’m not expecting any.

Till next time!

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