Friday, March 23, 2012

Wubi disabled on live CD?

I wasn't going to blog about this... but since it made OMG! Ubuntu as a sensational article, I'd be remiss not to mention it.

Yes, it was floated on the ubuntu-devel mailing list to disable the ability to install using Wubi on the Ubuntu desktop CD. This didn't receive much discussion and so it's unclear what decision was made (if any), but I guess we'll find out soon enough with just a handful of weeks to go before 12.04 Precise Pangolin is released.

Wubi.exe is released as part of the desktop CD ISO. This is fixed at release. So whenever you download the ISO you are getting the exact same one that others got on the release date... e.g. 11.04 - it's been out for a year, lots of updates, but the ISO is the same. Once you install Ubuntu 11.04, you'll be downloading 300+MB of patches. But since Wubi.exe is on the ISO it's also fixed for the duration of each cycle.

Why is this a problem? Wubi.exe typically gets limited testing during the development cycle. It doesn't get much development either - as the basic function doesn't usually change that much (11.10 was an exception to this). Most of this development tends to be after everything else is frozen, so the testing that was done early in development isn't always relevant. I could come up with other reasons, but you get the point. You're saddled with whatever bugs there are (some pretty irritating ones) - and even though many people download wubi.exe standalone, it's still fixed in stone.

So, in theory this is a great idea. We wouldn't have to live with irritating bugs, and instead of all the volunteers who support Wubi on having to repeat the same response 500 times, they could spend less effort making sure that the bugs are reported clearly so that a speedy fix can result.

It's still kind've nice to hand over a CD to someone and let them try out Ubuntu using Wubi, without having to download anything. I don't know how often this happens, but I guess there will be some who miss it. The question is, do you have to completely disable the CD install method to allow a stable release update to the standalone wubi.exe? Why not support both options?

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Wubi call for testing

We're about 7 weeks away from the next LTS release, 12.04 Precise Pangolin, and this is a critical phase to get all the Wubi bugs ironed out. The reason is simple: after the release Wubi.exe is not modified so we'll have to live with any bugs for at least 6 months.

Wubi development testing is typically under-represented by the Ubuntu community because it's mostly used by newcomers to Ubuntu (and many hardcore users don't have Windows). Wubi is the first impression of Ubuntu for many, and so it's important that this is a good experience. Since 11.04 was released, Wubi has been very stable, but there's always room for improvement and to get rid of any irritating bugs.

With that in mind there has been a call to testing on If you have the ability then please help out, and provide feedback in that thread and/or file bugs on

There are a number of ways to run Wubi tests:
1. Download wubi.exe and run it standalone (during dev you can get it from here)
2. Download the Desktop CD ISO, burn it to CD if it fits (or DVD), and run it from there.

Note: each time you install Wubi it uninstalls any existing Wubi install (so if you use Wubi normally you can't easily test it unless you are comfortable backing up your current install).

There are a few tricks you can use. E.g. running wubi.exe standalone will download the preinstalled images i386.tar.xz or amd64.tar.xz from here. That's a 500MB download each time you run it, so instead you can download it once, save it, and then point it at your local copy with a command line option. This saves a lot of time if you are repeatedly testing. e.g. for a 32 bit pc:
wubi.exe --dimagepath=C:\xxx\i386.tar.xz

You can also test the ISO install without burning a CD or DVD each time, by saving it in the same directory as wubi.exe (which you can get off the ISO or use the standalone download).

If you run wubi.exe standalone, but install something other than 'plain' Ubuntu it will always download the ISO instead of the disk image. You can also override this download by copying the ISO into the same directory as Wubi.exe, but note that since the ISO changes frequently in development, chances are it will try to download a new one anyway. To get around this (if you know the MD5SUM of your ISO is good,) you can disconnect from the Internet for the first part of the install.

Remember you can use Wubi to install:
  • Ubuntu
  • Kubuntu
  • Xubuntu
  • Mythbuntu
  • Lubuntu
  • Edubuntu
All of these need to be tested. For Edubuntu, you download the DVD ISO (there is no CD ISO), but for the others you need the Desktop CD ISO.

Pay attention to the latest wubi.exe revision .e.g as of the time of writing, the latest is wubi-r256.exe. This version won't install Edubuntu, but forthcoming ones will. And whenever a new revision is published it's important to retest to make sure the bug fixes work and make sure there are no regressions.

Good luck.