April 26, 2010, 2:55 PM — by Kevin Purdy - The next release from Ubuntu, the (relatively) popular Linux desktop operating system, is due out April 29, and it's looking very nice. Want to give it a go? Here's how you can load in the stuff you need--MP3s, DVD playing, and quick settings access--in a matter of minutes.
The easiest way to install Ubuntu, in this humble writer's opinion, is with a USB "thumb" drive. Head to the Get Ubuntu section of Ubuntu's site, then grab the ISO file for the standard desktop (32-bit). You can also grab the 64-bit version if that's the hardware you've got, but beginners should stick with the more evenly-supported 32-bit version. Once you've got the ISO, you can burn it to a CD with an application like ImgBurn or Mac's built-in Disk Utility, but things will move faster with a USB stick. Plug a USB drive into your system, download and double-click UNetBootin, which needs no installation, and select the ISO option to point it at the file you just grabbed, and hit OK to make that thumb drive into an installation disk.
You'll need to run through the installation details yourself--I've previously written a guide at Lifehacker on dual-booting Ubuntu and Windows 7 that may help--but you can also just continue using Ubuntu from a thumb drive to see how it works with your hardware and peripherals. Your system changes won't be saved, but you can try out everything else in this post to get a convenient system running. Alright, then--start the ten-minute timer.
First things first: install the "ubuntu-restricted-extras" package. The easy way to do this is by heading to the "Applications" menu in the upper-left corner, choosing the "Ubuntu Software Center" at the bottom, then typing "ubuntu-restricted-extras" into the search box and hitting "Install" on the relevant result. This gives you all the goodies you enjoy on most modern systems--music codecs, Flash web video, Java applets, Windows fonts--but that don't quite meet the totally open code requirements of Ubuntu's core mission.