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Inside Ubuntu 9.04

Critics are calling 'Jaunty Jackalope' as slick and seamless as Mac OS X. We uncover the Linux distro's pitfalls and gotchas -- as well as its hidden delights.

Host add-ons under VirtualBox should be installed directly via the software repository.
(click for image gallery)

Aside from the desktop edition (which we all know) and the server edition (which probably deserves an article unto itself), add a new version: the "netbook remix," a variant of Ubuntu specifically for netbooks with small screens. Don't shy away from trying regular Ubuntu on such machines, though, or the scaled-down Xubuntu build -- especially since you can give 'em all a whirl from a CD or a USB stick with no installation required.

Give The Jackalope A Whirl

Before executing the actual install, boot Ubuntu in live-CD (or live-USB-stick) mode and try out a few things that way. Check that all your hardware can be seen by the system including printers, cameras, scanners, multifunction devices, etc. If something doesn't show up, make a note of it; there may be a relatively simple fix that you can apply later on down the line.

A system that doesn't boot Ubuntu at all is rare, but it does happen. If you try to boot and get dropped to the infamous BusyBox prompt, that's a sign that the boot process failed for some reason -- usually due to a flaky storage controller, system chipset, or video card. Try booting in safe video mode, or using the noacpi option at startup. Any errors before the BusyBox prompt should be written down. Keep in mind that not all builds of Ubuntu exhibit the same problems on the same hardware: if you have this issue with Netbook Remix, for instance, Xubuntu may work fine.

If you plan on running Ubuntu from inside a virtual machine, consider the VirtualBox virtual-machine app -- it's free, open source, runs well on all architectures, and Ubuntu has its own set of add-ons that let it run well within VirtualBox. These guest extensions as they're called, should be installed within Ubuntu itself; Ubuntu has them in the software repositories. Don't install the guest extensions provided with VirtualBox itself; as of this writing they don't work reliably with Ubuntu 9.04.

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