What if installing a Linux distribution was as easy as installing Firefox? So far, the setup process for most Linux distributions has involved booting from a CD and partitioning one's hard drive—steps that can and do put off some of the less technically minded users out there. However, as Ars Technica reports, that will all change with the next version of Canonical's popular Ubuntu Linux thanks to a tool called Wubi.
Wubi has made its appearance in the new Alpha 5 version of Ubuntu Linux 8.04, and it will follow in the final 8.04 release this April. In essence, the tool presents the Ubuntu installation process to the user through a standard Windows installer, and it dumps the Linux file system into a directory on the user's hard drive. The user can still dual-boot Ubuntu and Windows just as if they both had their own partitions, but there's no actual partitioning involved, and Ubuntu can be uninstalled from Windows just like any regular program.
Ars has posted some screenshots and impressions of Wubi, which it says is "trivially easy to use." Wubi will obviously be of no real use for folks who want to forgo Windows entirely, but it definitely seems like it could help neophytes to take that first step. If you want to try out the new version of Ubuntu with Wubi for yourself before the complete 8.04 release is out in April, you can download the Alpha 5 version from this page.