Image taken from Wubi website.

I guess one of the drawbacks to using Linux exclusively is you miss out on the awesomeness of some Windows-only software.

Case in point: Wubi.

I've heard about Wubi, of course, and I've been curious about it, but not having any Windows machines around, I've never really personally seen the need for it. Until now, that is.

My reaction: "Like...whoa...wow...cool, man!"

The impetus for Wubi arose because of the lab component of a class I'm teaching at the Ateneo de Davao University. I was happy enough to use VirtualBox for my Information Security class, which only had 13 students. But when they gave me another class -- one which I adapted to open source technologies -- with 36 students, well, something needed to be done real quick.

I initially thought of installing Ubuntu on a separate partition. Just thinking about it gave me nightmares. Suboption 1: have the students install it themselves...and risk wiping out the existing partitions due to carelessness. Suboption 2: install Ubuntu on all 36 machines myself...do I really need that much punishment?

Oh, sure, I though of remote automated installation via PXE, but apart from the time element, I ran into another problem. The AdDU computer labs all had Windows XP installed (curse you, Microsoft, and your academic licensing programs) with very wonky partitioning schemes. Their 160GB hard drives were broken up into 4 partitions of varying sizes, and yes, they were extremely messy. The aforementioned wonky partitioning scheme made any direct installation difficult.

Next, I thought of using the Microsoft Virtual PC that was pre-installed on all the AdDU computer lab machines (curse you, Microsoft, and your academic licensing programs). Tried that yesterday with dismal results: VirtualPC didn't take to Ubuntu 8.10 very well. Couldn't even get past the installation bootup screen.

I was all resigned to using VirtualBox, when I stumbled on Wubi again.

Tried it at the labs this morning and -- hot dang! -- the thing worked like a charm. It took all 15 seconds to install the image, after which the subsequent installation took care of itself. The installation process was practically automated. I won't even bother writing the steps...there's hardly any.

Just a couple of notes:

  • Wubi will normally attempt to grab the install image from the Internet. To get around this, I put in the ISO file in the same directory as the Wubi installer (their versions have to match)

  • The Wubi installer and the ISO image have to be on the root directory of the drive you're installing from. Otherwise, Wubi will attempt to get the image from the Internet.

  • As far as my test installations tell me, you do have to have an Internet connection during installation. I'll revisit this at a later time.

  • During the Ubuntu installation process, you may want to unplug your computer from the network. Ubuntu checks for the repository mirror, and this can take a while.

  • What else can I say? Wubi wocks.