In a blog item titled, "Playing nicely with Windows," Shuttleworth calls Windows "an important platform," and then praises an open-source application called WUBI that allows Ubuntu to be installed onto a Windows PC. What makes WUBI different than other technology is that, instead of creating a virtual machine or installing Ubuntu into a partition, it installs the Linux OS into a file on the PC. On boot up, it provides the option of loading Windows or Ubuntu.
What I think is really classy about it is the way it uses the Windows Boot Manager sensibly to offer you the Ubuntu option. If I was a Windows user who was intrigued but nervous about Linux, this would be a really great way to get a taste of it, at low risk. Being able to install and uninstall a Linux OS as if it were a Windows app is a brilliant innovation.
Where Shuttleworth once exhorted other developers to think about building Ubuntu into the server space, he says he is now encouraging them to focus on sparking interest from the Windows world: "(Y)esterday I suggested folks hammer on the (Ubuntu 8.04 LTS) Heron for servers, today, here's a call for folks who have a Windows machine and would like to see WUBI in action to test it out and let the developers know if there are any last-minute gotchas."
Comments beneath Shuttleworth's post were mostly, though not universally, positive. Wrote one commenter: "You are absolutely right that we (the free software world) need to deliver good applications for Windows. My own road to Linux on the desktop began with using programs like Firefox, Thunderbird, gaim (aka pidgin), jEdit, Unison etc. for Windows. When I eventually found myself using almost nothing but free software I knew that I was ready to switch to Linux full-time."
While WUBI works, in the Test Center the easiest way to sample Linux on a Windows PC, so far, has proven to be VMware's Workstation 6. That involved creating a partition but was easier and faster than WUBI. Another way is to simply buy a PC with Linux pre-installed.
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