Wednesday, July 2, 2008

What is Ubuntu Linux

Ubuntu is a Linux distribution. Linux distributions take the Linux kernel (the kernel is the software that orchestrates the interaction of programs and applications with computer hardware) and add an installation system, administration software, productivity applications, and other parts to make it possible for people to use their computers. Putting the parts together creates a sum that is greater than the pieces themselves.

I often use the word Linux as shorthand for Linux distribution. Depending on the context, Linux can mean just the software system that allocates resources on a computer; the Linux kernel is a computer operating system that humans use to interface with the bits and bytes that computers understand. But more frequently, Linux means the sum total of parts that we interact with. I also use the term Ubuntu to refer to Ubuntu Linux, which is the Linux distribution created by the Ubuntu organization.

Beyond the bits and pieces that make up your average Linux distribution, Ubuntu Linux is dedicated to the following principles and capabilities:

Free and open source: Every application, utility, and program in Ubuntu is open source, which means it's designed and written to be freely used — and even modified if you want to modify it. Ubuntu collects the applications and adds additional value by combining them into a lean but usable package.

Extensive language and assistive technology support: It's almost impossible to find a language or keyboard that Ubuntu doesn't support (work with). Ubuntu also specializes in providing software aids to assist all people to use Linux, regardless of physical ability.

Based on Debian Linux: Debian is a very stable Linux distribution that is completely community based. (Debian developers design and test the changes and upgrades they make to the distribution so that it works well and doesn't cause unintended problems; this philosophy makes Debian stable and reliable.) Because no commercial entity owns any part of the distribution, the community can control and improve it as it desires.

Clean, usable interface: Ubuntu uses the GNOME (pronounced guh-NOME or nome, whichever you prefer) desktop. They tweak the desktop so that it balances ever so well between providing all the applications and tools you like to use, but not so many that it becomes cluttered. Ubuntu is a lean, mean, fighting machine!

Live media: By live, I mean that you can use Ubuntu directly from the disc. You can experiment with it without affecting or changing your computer — or someone else's — at all. No installation required.

Predictable, regular releases: Ubuntu releases an updated version every six months. This makes it easy to plan when, if at all, to upgrade your computer.

Commercial and community support: You can purchase support anywhere in the world. You can also get community-based support from user groups, online documents, and so on.

This dedication to all the things that make Linux and the greater open source system of creating and distributing software makes Ubuntu an outstanding Linux distribution.

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