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What is a Linux Distribution?

An operating system consists of a lot of files that perform a lot of different functions. And because there is no Linux corporation to package and distribute the files that make up Linux, the task of getting Linux onto your computer in working order, along with the applications that you are likely to want, has fallen to a varied group of entities - companies, universities, user groups, and even private individuals. These entities create Linux system and application collections called distributions, or distros. You could bypass such distros and try to collect everything you'd need to set up a system all on your own, but you would undoubtedly lose your mind in the process. Most people, even the geekiest, opt for the distros.

Most of these distros, whatever their ultimate target audience, basically consist of the same main elements: the core operating system (that's the Linux kernel I mentioned earlier); some sort of installer program to get all the system parts and applications properly installed on your machine; the X Window System to provide graphical interface support; one or more graphical desktop environments; and a series of applications, such as word processors, audio players, and games; as well as all the files needed to make these things work.

There are, or course, a large number of distros. Some are geared toward specific audiences, such as business, educators, gamers, students, programmers, system administrators, and specific language users. What makes each distro different is the software that is bundled with the Linux kernel, as well as other convenience features such as the package (or application) installation mechanism and the installer for the system itself. Some distros are especially appropriate for home users because of their ease of installation. Ubuntu, a relative newcomer to the Linux world, is one of these, joining other disros that have long been popular in the ease-of-use arena, such a openSUSE and Fedora.

What is Ubuntu?

Ubuntu is a completely free, easy-to-use, and extremely popular Linux distribution that is geared toward the desktop user. It is one of the hottest Linux distros in the marketplace today. It is also one of the few Linux distros with what could be described as a social agenda behind it.

Ubuntu was the brainchild of South African millionaire entrepreneur Mark Shuttleworth, who is probably better known for being one of the first space tourists - the first African in space, to be exact. Shuttleworth invested more than $10 million in starting the Ubuntu Foundation based on his belief in free software and in order to fix what he describes as "bug#1" - Microsoft's dominance of the desktop PC marketplace.

As Shuttleworth states in his blog (available at https://wiki.ubuntu.com/MarkShuttleworth):

I believe that free software brings us into a new era of technology, and holds the promise of universal access to the tolls of the digital era. I drive Ubuntu because I would like to see that promise delivered as reality.

As you can see, it's a vision thing.

Befitting the nationality and goals of the man who brought it into being, the word ubuntu comes from the Zulu and Xhosa languages. Ubuntu, according to Wikipedia, is a concept meaning something along the lines of "humanity towards others" or "I am because we are." If you're interested, the 2005 film In My Country, although not one of the greatest films ever produced, is on many levels a 100-minute examination of the concept of ubuntu.

The above is an excerpt from Ubuntu Made Easy: A Project-Based Introduction to Linux.

Reader R. Lauon says, "Clear and concise. The illustrations are good and very helpful to one who is just learning a new operating system. The book takes a project or task by task format to help you learn Ubuntu. As an aside, Ubuntu is a great operating system so have fun with it and this book is a great resource."

Reader Glaspellon says, "I found this book to be especially helpful. The focus is on getting Ubuntu up and running. There is significant attention on Linux equivalents to Windows programs."

Reader Josh L McCulloughon says, "A very down-to-earth, non-tech friendly text for starting out with Ubuntu. I purchased the Official Ubuntu Handbook a while ago, but found this much easier to follow and more practical; it truly lives up to the "project-based" title. I highly recommend this to anyone who's thinking about making the leap to Ubuntu as a home operating system or even just test it out, it takes the fear factor out of the equation. A copy of Ubuntu 12.04 is included with the text so you can get started right away, a win-win purchase all around. (Yes, I know Ubuntu is free to download online, but it's nice to have that barrier removed."

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