Installing Virtual Machine Images run under a Hypervisor
We can provide pre-built virtual machine images that work with VMware hypervisors, Oracle Virtual Box, or KVM. The host machine can be running any operating system with an available hypervisor, including all flavors of Windows, Linux and Mac.
Once you have the hypervisor installed, the actual installation time for a virtual machine is basically zero since all you have to do is attach our image file to it. These pre-built images already contain all the needed software and for the kernel-level classes, also conveniently contain a copy of the Linux kernel source git repository. The virtual machine images are updated with each new kernel release, which occurs every three months or so.
An advantage of using the virtual machine images is that you can't fundamentally destroy your system while running them, and they run as an unprivileged application and will get you into less trouble with IT staff if that is an issue. A further advantage, especially with on-line classes, is that a system failure does not take you off-line from the virtual class.
The disadvantages have mostly to do with performance and requiring somewhat more memory and CPU power. However, in most (but not all) classes this is not a disqualifying aspect.
Upon enrollment in a class we can make these virtual machine images available to you. (We don't make them available to the general public as they are quite large – 2+ GB even in compressed form – and we don't have the dedicated bandwidth to support widespread downloading.)
Performing a Native Linux Installation
Virtually all popular Linux distributions have straightforward installation instructions these days, and most provide a "live" CD or USB stick which can also be used to do an install. One first boots off the Live media; a successful boot verifies that the Linux distribution is out-of-the-box compatible with your hardware, and you can then click on install to place the Linux distribution on your hard disk. (Using "Wubi" to install Ubuntu from within Windows does not count as a native installation. Performance is worse than using a virtual machine as discussed above and we do not support this option.
In order to proceed with installation, you generally need enough available space on the hard disk. Furthermore, free disk space may not be sufficient, as it has to be in either unallocated free space outside of any existing partition, or partitions must be available for reformatting.
This is non-trivial for most systems that have not already had multi-boot configurations setup before, and this step, which must be taken care of first, can easily be more time-consuming than the actual installation. We have seen systems which can take hours to prepare as far as the partitioning goes, but once done, installation can be performed in 20 minutes or so.
Most LiveCD/USB media contain system software to resize, move, create and delete disk partitions; most use a program called gparted. One can also download the excellent CD/USB partitioning and repair/recovery disk/USB stick called Parted Magic (http://partedmagic.com), which is particularly well suited for this task. If you are lucky you can simply use Parted Magic or gparted to "shrink" an already existing partition and free up 20-30 GB or so, then do your normal installation. Be careful during the procedure to properly answer any questions about your hard disk layout so you do not destroy previously existing in-use partitions.
However, many OEM-installed systems have already used four "primary" disk partitions; if this is the case you cannot create any new partitions. (You can have no more than four primary partitions, or up to three primary partitions plus an "extended" partition in which you can create a number of "logical" partitions.) On these brain-dead systems one usually finds two partitions reserved for Windows (a boot partition and the C: drive), one partition reserved for the recovery disk and one partition for manufacturer diagnostics. If you are stuck with this situation, you have to delete a partition to get your primaries down to three or do more complicated things such as converting one of the primary partitions to a logical one, and you will still have to do some steps of shrinking and moving partitions.
It is impossible for us at the Linux Foundation to give detailed instructions on how to do this. Each system varies as to its pre-existing layout, and the potential for turning your system into a doorstop is quite high. We do not have the technical support bandwidth to take care of things like this. Therefore, we will simply refer you to your favored distribution and its install pages for technical assistance.
Once you have performed a successful installation, we can provide scripts (on request) for most major distributions that will install any software packages you may need for our classes. These scripts will generally bring in more software than you actually need for a given class, but the surplus of riches is not a problem.
Please note that very recent hardware may contain "UEFI Secure Boot" mechanisms on the motherboard. If this is enabled in the BIOS, the situation is more complicated and there is not a universally accepted method of making Linux co-exist with it for now. It is beyond our current ability to give technical support in this situation.
The bottom line is that unless you feel comfortable messing with your partitioning setup, have the time to deal with any potential problems, and have an available lifeline if disaster strikes, you will probably be better off doing a virtual machine installation.
As mentioned under "Installing Virtual Machine Images," once you have the hypervisor installed, the actual installation time for a virtual machine is basically zero since all you have to do is attach our image file to it.