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

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.

Why Ubuntu?

With so many distributions out there, you may wonder why you should opt for Ubuntu. Well, as they say, numbers don't lie, and Ubuntu's popularity is not without good cause. Like most Linux distributions these days, Ubuntu is easy to install and quite robust and dependable in terms of everyday use. Unlike other distributions, however, Ubuntu is based on the Debian distribution, which means that it utilizes Debian's very convenient DEB package system for application handling and installation. The graphical package installer that comes with Ubuntu, Ubuntu Software Center, makes installing those applications even easier, and with so many applications available there, you are likely to find more software than you'll ever know what to do with.

More importantly, Ubuntu is designed to be user friendly - it tries to enable average people to do what they do most often as easily as possible. It is designed with the needs of real people in mind, not just compu-nerds and geeks. As such, it is designed primarily as a desktop system, and perhaps for that reason, Ubuntu's desktop environment, called Unity, is a very comfy place for the average desktop user.

Finally, while some distributions are updated at a snail's pace and others strive to be so cutting edge that they are often plagued with bugs, Ubuntu has a reasonable six-month release cycle. In this time frame, it tries to stay as up-to-date as possible, while at the same time making sure that things are not released before they are ready for prime time. In this way, you are ensured of having an up-to-date yet less buggy distribution at your disposal.

If you have any problem installing Ubuntu, you can post a question at the Ubuntu User Forums

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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