Within and Beside Windows
I used my second test machine, an Athlon 64-based desktop running Windows
Vista, to try out Ubuntu 8.04's newest installation option, in which Ubuntu
installs itself in a couple of large files on a preexisting Windows installation.
The last few Ubuntu releases have shipped in a LiveCD format that enables users
to boot into a temporary Ubuntu desktop suitable for trying out the system
before either devoting an entire system to Ubuntu or resizing existing Windows
partitions to make way for Ubuntu in a dual-boot configuration.
LiveCD setups are handy, but they often perform too poorly to give a clear idea of how a system would run on your hardware. On the other hand, I've seen enough fouled dual-boot installations to regard repartitioning with suspicion, so the new installation option is a good choice for Windows users looking for a low-risk way to try out a Linux desktop.
I popped the Ubuntu CD into my running Vista box, opened the installer application, and directed the installer where to store Ubuntu and how much space to assign it. Shortly thereafter, the application prompted me to reboot, after which it completed the installation process. According to documentation on the Ubuntu Web site, there's a performance hit associated with this sort of install, but I didn't detect an appreciable slowdown.
The Ubuntu desktop I'd installed within Windows seemed no different from the one I'd installed on its own hardware, and I was pleased to find that the files from my Windows instance were accessible from Ubuntu.
I turned next to join my Linux-within-Windows installation to a Windows Server 2003-hosted domain, using the Likewise Open utility that's now available through the Ubuntu software repositories. As I learned during my tests of Likewise Open and Likewise Enterprise earlier this year, joining an Ubuntu machine to my domain was no different than joining a Windows system.
I could log in to my Ubuntu box using credentials from Active Directory, but the functionality in Likewise Open does not extend much beyond that basic authentication. I could not, for instance, configure the Ubuntu box to grant members of my administrators group in Active Directory rights to administer my Ubuntu instance, as is possible with Mac OS X's AD integration.
What's more, I had to re-enter my AD credentials to access Windows shares, and there wasn't an easy way to automatically mount networked home directories for my AD users. In order to enable this sort of functionality, companies can purchase Likewise Enterprise licenses and exercise fuller control over their Ubuntu desktops via Group Policy.