Wubi was born as an independent project, as such 7.04 and 7.10 are unoffical releases. But since 8.04 the code has been merged within Ubuntu and since 8.04-alpha5, Wubi can also be found in the Ubuntu Live CD. Wubi has been included on the new Ubuntu 7.10 Gutsy Gibbon distribution.
The goal of the project is to assist a Windows user unacquainted with Linux in trying Ubuntu without risking any loss of information due to disk formatting or partitioning. Wubi can also uninstall Ubuntu from within Windows.
The project is currently in beta.
It is not a virtual machine, but rather, it creates a stand-alone installation within a loopmounted partition, also known as a disk image, like Topologilinux does. It is not a Linux distribution of its own, but rather an installer for Ubuntu.
Wubi does not install Ubuntu directly to its own partition (which the developers consider a feature), and it cannot use free hard disk space to install the OS. However, this can also be accomplished by using LVPM, the Loopmounted Virtual Partition Manager, to transfer the Wubi-generated Ubuntu installation to a dedicated partition.
Users interested in directly installing to a dedicated partition, like a standard Ubuntu install does, without needing a CD should use UNetbootin instead.
Wubi adds an entry to the Windows boot menu which allows you to run Linux. Ubuntu is installed within a file in the windows file system (c:\wubi\disks\system.virtual.disk), this file is seen by Linux as a real hard disk.
You can select the desktop environment within Wubi. But since each desktop environment is also available as an application package, it is recommended to install Ubuntu (default option) and from there install the other desktop environments. When you login you can choose the desktop environment to use.
The lead developers are Agostino Russo, Geza Kovacs, Oliver Mattos and Ecology2007. The main development occurs at Launchpad, and is lead by the Lupin Team through the original Ubuntu blueprint page and the new Wubi, Lubi, Lupin, and LVPM project pages.
The functionality of Wubi was expected to be incorporated into the 7.10 (aka “Gutsy Gibbon”) release of Ubuntu, but was not finished on time. The Gutsy Live CD contains a file “wubi-cdboot.exe” but this is only to facilitate booting from the CD to then do a normal Ubuntu install (which usually requires partitioning). An alpha version of the 7.10 Wubi installer is available for separate download however. It is said that the reason a version for 7.10 was never officially released is due to a bug during installation in one of the alpha build revisions but users have said that the newest revision (rev386) doesn’t have the bug. Since the bug set development of 7.10 back they are not releasing a beta of 7.10 and the work on 8.04 has already started. Wubi 8.04 is available for testing and has been incorporated into Ubuntu 8.04 Alpha 5.
Currently, only the i386 (32-bit x86) release of Ubuntu is officially supported by Wubi and Lubi, though the installer can be run on both 32-bit i386 and 64-bit amd64 host operating systems. The ability to install 64-bit Ubuntu has been added to the latest Alpha releases.
The original idea was drafted by Agostino Russo taking inspiration from Topologilinux, which provided a loopmounted installation, and Instlux, that provided a simple Windows frontend. The idea was to merge the two concepts having a windows installer that would loopmount an image of Ubuntu. Geza Kovacs later refined the spec and provided the first prototypes to show that the concept was sound. Oliver Mattos wrote the original user interface in NSIS.
Agostino Russo then refined the loop-installation concept, moving from a simple loopmounted pre-made image file, to an image created on the fly using a dynamically patched version of the Debian installer, thus providing an experience which was closer to a real installation while addressing several other issues of the early prototypes. Lupin project was thus born and Agostino Russo wrote and implemented most of its code with some contributions from Geza Kovacs.
Later on Agostino Russo and Ecology2007 have redesigned and rewritten the Windows front-end, which is what people see today. Hampus Wessman contributed the new downloader and the translation scripts. Bean123 and Tinybit also helped to debug and fix bootloader issues. Lubi and LVPM were subsequently created by Geza Kovacs.
The project has inspired the creation of other Windows-based Linux installers, such as Debian-Installer Loader.