What is Ubuntu?

Ubuntu is a desktop Linux distribution, based on Debian GNU/Linux. Ubuntu is sponsored by Canonical Ltd (owned by Mark Shuttleworth), and the name of the distribution comes from the South African concept of Ubuntu — roughly, "humanity towards others". It differs from Debian in that there is a release every 6 months, and support is provided for 18 months after release for each version; in this way, Ubuntu aims to provide an up-to-date yet reasonably stable operating system for the average user through the sole use of Free Software.

Where to get

You can get Ubuntu Linux for free, legally. Just download it under http://www.ubuntulinux.org/download/
Or you request an Ubuntu CD for free under http://shipit.ubuntulinux.org/. The Ubuntu team will send you Ubuntu CDs at no charge, for you to install and share. They will cover the cost of shipping the CDs to you as well. You can't start with Ubuntu any cheaper!

Screenshots

We have some screenshots of Ubuntu in action available under http://www.ubuntux.org/image. There are also some screenshots on the official Ubuntu site and on OSdir.

Distinctive features

* Ubuntu developers are based heavily around both the Debian and GNOME communities. Ubuntu releases are synchronized with GNOME releases. There are ongoing discussions, however, into improving the position of KDE within the project. These discussions have resulted in the creation of the Kubuntu project. (Ubuntu 4.10 did include KDE 3.2.2, but it was in the universe component rather than the main component, and was not installed by default.)

* Ubuntu also has a heavy focus on usability, including the widespread use of the sudo tool for administrative tasks (similar to Mac OS X) and attempting to offer a full feature set that works straight from the standard install.

* Another aim of the project is to emphasise accessibility and internationalization, so that the software is available to as many people as possible. As of 5.04, UTF8 is the default character encoding.

* Beyond just using the same deb package format, Ubuntu has very strong links with the Debian community, contributing any changes directly and immediately, rather than announcing them only at release time. Many Ubuntu developers are also responsible for key packages within Debian itself.

* All releases of Ubuntu will be provided at no cost. Ubuntu CDs are mailed free to anyone who requests them; or CD images are available for download. Unlike some major Linux vendors, Ubuntu does not charge upgrade subscription fees for so called "enterprise editions."

* Ubuntu provides an easy way to allow users to upgrade from one release to the next.

Components

Ubuntu divides all software into four sections, called "components", to reflect differences in licensing and level of support available. By default, a selection of packages from main will be installed that cover the basic needs of most computer users, along with any packages from restricted absolutely required for the system to be usable.

The main component contains only those packages that meet the Ubuntu license requirements, and for which support is available from the Ubuntu team. This is intended to include everything needed for most general-use Linux systems. Packages in this component are guaranteed technical support and timely security fixes.

The restricted component contains software that is supported by the Ubuntu developers because of its importance, but is not available under a suitably free license to include in main. This includes packages such as binary-only graphics card drivers. The level of support is more limited than for main, since the developers may not have access to the source code.

The universe component contains a wide range of software, which may or may not have an unrestricted license, but which is unsupported by the Ubuntu team. This allows users to install all sorts of programs within the Ubuntu package management system, but keeps it separate from the supported packages in main and restricted.

Finally, there is the multiverse component, which contains unsupported packages that do not conform to the Free Software requirements.

Ubuntu Linux packages are generally based on packages from Debian's unstable branch.

Releases

A new version of Ubuntu is released every six months, and each release has both a code name and a version number. The version number is based on the date of release, so that 4.10 represents October 2004. Below is a list of previous and planned releases.

Version Release date Codename
4.10 October 20, 2004 The Warty Warthog
5.04 April 8, 2005 The Hoary Hedgehog
5.10 expected October 13, 2005 The Breezy Badger
6.04 expected April 2006 To be announced


The Ubuntu Foundation has announced that Ubuntu version 6.04 will be supported for three years on the desktop and five years on the server, instead of the usual 18 months. In the future, there will be a branch codenamed Grumpy Groundhog. It will be a permanently unstable development and testing branch, pulling the source directly out of the revision control of the various programs and applications that are shipped as part of Ubuntu.

Bug reporting

If you have found a bug in Ubuntu, you can report it to:
http://bugzilla.ubuntu.com/