Ubuntu (Linux distribution)

2007 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: Software


Ubuntu 7.04 "Feisty Fawn" running GNOME.
Website: http://www.ubuntu.com/
Canonical Ltd./ Ubuntu Foundation
OS family: Linux
Source model: Free and Open Source Software
Latest stable release: 7.04 (Feisty Fawn) / April 19, 2007
Latest unstable release: 7.10 (Gutsy Gibbon) / October 18, 2007
Available language(s): multilingual
Update method: APT, Synaptic
Package manager: dpkg
Supported platforms: i386, AMD64, PowerPC, PlayStation 3, UltraSPARC
Kernel type: Monolithic kernel (Linux)
Default user interface: GNOME
Working state: Current

Ubuntu ( IPA pronunciation: /u'buntu/) is a widely used Linux distribution predominantly targeted at personal computers. Based on Debian GNU/Linux, Ubuntu concentrates on usability, regular releases, ease of installation, and freedom from legal restrictions. Ubuntu is sponsored by Canonical Ltd., a private company founded by South African entrepreneur Mark Shuttleworth.

The name of the distribution comes from the Zulu and Xhosa concept of ubuntu, and can be roughly defined as, "the belief in a universal bond of sharing that connects all humanity". Ubuntu’s slogan – “Linux for Human Beings”, encapsulates one of its main goals – making Linux more available and easy to use.

The most recent version, Ubuntu 7.04 (Feisty Fawn), was released on April 19, 2007. Version 7.10 (Gutsy Gibbon) is scheduled for release on October 18, 2007.

History and development

Originally referred to as no-name-yet.com, Ubuntu's first release on October 20, 2004 (version 4.10, following the "Y.MM" standard) began as a temporary fork of Debian GNU/Linux, with the aim of drawing from Debian's code regularly in order to allow for a new version of Ubuntu to be released every six months, in step with the six month GNOME release cycle. In contrast to other general-purpose forks of Debian such as Xandros, Linspire and Libranet, Canonical remains close to Debian's philosophy with Ubuntu and uses predominantly free software rather than making the inclusion of proprietary applications part of their business model.

Ubuntu uses Debian's Advanced Packaging Tool to manage installed packages. Ubuntu packages are generally based on packages from Debian's unstable repository; however, they are not always compatible with each other. Several Ubuntu developers are also maintainers of packages within Debian's repositories, and Ubuntu changes are contributed back to Debian as they are made, rather than being announced only at release time. Ian Murdock, the founder of Debian, criticised Ubuntu in April 2005 for incompatibilities between its packages and those of Debian sarge, saying that Ubuntu had diverged too far to remain compatible.

Bugs in Ubuntu are tracked through the Launchpad web interface, which integrates with the Bazaar version control system in a similar way to SourceForge's integration with CVS.

Ubuntu is currently funded by Mark Shuttleworth through Canonical Ltd. On July 8, 2005, Canonical announced the creation of the Ubuntu Foundation and provided an initial funding of US$10 million. The purpose of the foundation is to ensure the support and development for all future versions of Ubuntu, but as of 2006, the foundation remains dormant. Shuttleworth describes the foundation as an emergency fund should Canonical's involvement end.

On May 1, 2007 Dell announced it would sell desktops and laptops with Ubuntu pre-installed. It also stated that customers would be able to buy support for Ubuntu through Dell, the support coming from Canonical.



Ubuntu uses GNOME as its default desktop environment, intended to provide a free, simple and intuitive interface. Whilst offering a full range of desktop applications including OpenOffice.org, Mozilla Firefox and GIMP, it aims to avoid overlap in its default feature set rather than providing many different variants of similar packages.

After the initial Ubuntu installation, the user is greeted by a default desktop with no desktop icons and an orange-brown user interface, unusual in an operating system as nearly all others use blue as their default colour. Applications are located under the 'Applications menu', a desktop launcher menu in the top-left corner. Open windows can be viewed on the taskbar along the bottom of the screen. Ubuntu is available in over 40 languages, and also allows users to submit additional translations using the Rosetta Translation tool.

Ubuntu's focus on usability includes the widespread use of the sudo tool, which allows users to carry out administrative tasks without initiating a potentially unsafe superuser session.


Ubuntu ships as an ISO image that fits on a single CD or alternatively, in the case of the older version, Dapper Drake 6.06 LTS, and just released Feisty Fawn 7.04, mailed free to anyone requesting them via Canonical's ShipIt service. This is intended to reduce the amount of time it takes to download Ubuntu and the possibility of losing part of the installation software and/or to aid those users who are not comfortable/able to burn an ISO image to CD. Many Linux distributions necessitate the downloading of multiple ISO images and hours of installation process, while Ubuntu is one of the few distributions that can be installed quickly, and from a single CD. Additionally, all Ubuntu versions since 4.10 can be downloaded for free.

Since version 6.06 LTS, Ubuntu's disc has served both as a live CD and an install disc. This disc boots into a fully featured desktop, allowing the user to see whether his hardware is compatible and experiment with the applications available. The CD also allows the user to install Ubuntu to the hard disk using the Ubiquity application, and preserves documents created on the live desktop. An alternate install disc using the text-mode debian-installer is also available, aimed towards those with lower system specifications, towards administrators installing Ubuntu on many systems, and for complex disk partitioning.

The live CD also contains a collection of free and open source applications including Mozilla Firefox, Mozilla Thunderbird, AbiWord, Blender and ClamAV, prepared in collaboration with the OpenCD project, which can be installed if Windows is running while the CD is in the drive.

There are two types of releases: one for desktop and laptop computers and one for servers. The desktop and laptop version is available for x86 and x86-64 computers. The server edition is available for both platforms in addition to SPARC and does not ship as a Live CD (using the text-mode installer exclusively).


Ubuntu emphasizes accessibility and internationalisation, to reach as many people as possible. Since version 5.04, UTF-8 has been the default character encoding. High-visibility themes, screen-reading software, and an on-screen keyboard all come with Ubuntu.

Canonical's Rosetta tool is a part of the Launchpad web-based application which allows Ubuntu users to contribute translations of Ubuntu software in a straightforward way.

Ease of installation

Ubuntu is installed using a live CD (or LiveDistro). Users may boot their computer from the CD instead of the hard disk. When they are ready to install, they launch an installer which guides them through the process.

Details of the installation process can be found on the main Ubuntu site and at Easy Ubuntu Linux.

After installation, Ubuntu also offers an automatic updating feature. With user permission, the system will find, retrieve, install, and configure software updates.


Ubuntu places particular emphasis on community involvement with the development process.

Ubuntu has a number of official web forums where discussion of the operating system is encouraged. Canonical host a number of mailing lists for the project and the developer mailing lists and Ubuntu's developer conferences remain open to users. Ubuntu's regular development conferences are open to the general public.

Users are encouraged to make use of The Fridge, a community weblog intended to keep users informed with Ubuntu-related news.

The Human user interface theme in Ubuntu is characterised by shades of brown and orange, with art intended to mimic African tribal imagery. Illustrations of human beings in global communities feature prominently in Ubuntu promotional artwork.

Package classification and support

Browsing Ubuntu core packages in Synaptic.
Browsing Ubuntu core packages in Synaptic.

Ubuntu divides all software into four sections, called components, to reflect differences in licensing and level of support available. The components are Main, Restricted, Universe and Multiverse.

Main and Universe contain software which meets the Ubuntu license requirements, which correspond roughly to the Debian Free Software Guidelines. Main may also contain binary firmware and selected fonts used in supported software that cannot be modified without permission. In all cases, redistribution is unencumbered.

Non-free device drivers remain in the Restricted component, where support is present because of their importance, but limited due to lack of, or limited, access to the source code.

It is intended that Main and Restricted contain all software needed for a general-use desktop operating system. Other, unsupported programs are placed in Universe (free) and Multiverse (Non-free). Multiverse contains software packages which may infringe on U.S. and international patent or copyright law. Examples of these include software that enables the playback of patented media formats. Due to the questionable legal status of unofficial DVD-decoding in some parts of the world, Libdvdcss was removed from Ubuntu's official repository, but can still be downloaded at the VideoLAN Project's website. Encoding and decoding libraries for many proprietary media formats such as Windows Media are also unavailable by default.

Ubuntu Backports is an officially recognized project to backport newer versions of certain software that are available only in unstable versions of Ubuntu. The repository is not comprehensive; it mostly consists of user-requested packages, which are approved if they meet quality guidelines.

Unofficial utilities such as EasyUbuntu and Automatix aim to automate the installation and configuration of software which is not officially packaged for Ubuntu for legal or philosophical reasons. They are not recommended by the Ubuntu development team and have been accused of breaking updates.

Ubuntu has a certification system for third-party proprietary software, and Canonical manage a special repository for certified proprietary packages named Commercial, which includes software that Canonical have obtained special permission to distribute. As of this writing, the repository includes the Opera web browser and the RealPlayer media player.


Restricted drivers manager in Feisty Fawn.
Restricted drivers manager in Feisty Fawn.

Each Ubuntu release has an alliterative code name and a version number based on the year and month of release (Example: April, 2007 saw the release of 7.04 Feisty Fawn). Canonical provide support and security updates for most Ubuntu versions for 18 months after release. There are three current versions of Ubuntu: 6.06 Dapper LTS (Long term support), 6.10 Edgy Eft and 7.04 Feisty Fawn.

List of releases

Version Release date Code name Sub Version Supported until Notes
4.10 20 October 2004 Warty Warthog Sounder April 30, 2006 Initial release, support for x86, x86-64, PowerPC. ShipIt.
5.04 8 April 2005 Hoary Hedgehog Array October 31, 2006 Inclusion of update-manager/upgrade-notifier, Kickstart compatibility, improved laptop support.
5.10 13 October 2005 Breezy Badger Colony April 13, 2007 Graphical boot process with progress bar (USplash), OEM Installer Support, Launchpad tracking, GCC 4.0
6.06 LTS 1 June 2006 Dapper Drake Flight June, 2009 (desktops) LiveCD and Installer on one disc, Ubiquity installer. First Long-Term Support release.
June, 2011 (servers)
6.10 26 October 2006 Edgy Eft Knot April, 2008 Automated problem reports, Upstart
7.04 19 April 2007 Feisty Fawn Herd October, 2008 Migration assistant, KVM, Easy codec/restricted drivers installation, Desktop effects, WPA support, PowerPC no longer officially supported
7.10 Planned for 18 October 2007 Gutsy Gibbon Tribe April, 2009 planning in progress
no longer supported still supported current pre-release version planned

Changes in releases

The first release, 4.10, introduced an update manager and improved laptop capabilities. 5.04 was the first release to allow bugs to be reported via Launchpad. It also intoduced a graphical progress bar during boot-up. Third release, 6.06 LTS, was the first to include the Live CD and installer on the same disc. Four months later, 6.10 introduced automatic problem reports and a new startup manager called Upstart. The latest release, 7.04, includes wireless WPA support, easier installation of restricted codecs and optional desktop effects such as a wobble on moving a window. During the installation, wizard can detect Windows XP accounts and transfer data from them. There is also a KVM virtualisation support. The planned 7.10 release will include more graphical desktop effects, an unattended installation and more Click'N'Run options.

Long Term Support

Ubuntu support periods.
Ubuntu support periods.

Release 6.06 LTS, codenamed "Dapper Drake", is the first Long Term Support release of Ubuntu. Canonical intends to support LTS releases with updates longer than other Ubuntu releases. Package updates are planned and paid technical support is available for three years on the desktop and five years on the server.

Ubuntu 6.06 LTS initially included GNOME 2.14, Mozilla Firefox, OpenOffice.org 2.0.2, Xorg 7.0, GCC 4.0.3, and version 2.6.15 of the Linux kernel. The first maintenance release, version 6.06.1, appeared on 10 August 2006, and is still distributed alongside more recent releases.

Version 6.06 was the first to be distributed as a single compact disc that served both as a Live CD and an install disc. This disc boots into a full-featured desktop, allowing users to see whether their hardware is compatible and experiment with the applications available and then install Ubuntu to the hard disk using the Ubiquity graphical installer. The installation process preserves documents created on the live desktop. An alternate install disc using the text-mode debian-installer is available for download, and is aimed at people with lower system specifications, administrators installing on many systems, and for complex disk partitioning including the use of LVM or RAID.

Because of the longer support cycle, ShipIt program continued to ship Dapper, rather than switching to newer Edgy Eft. However, since 11 April 2007, Feisty Fawn is available for ordering on the ShipIt website.

The next LTS release is expected to be released in 2008 - either Gutsy+1 (8.04) or Gutsy+2 (8.10).

Edgy Eft

The following Ubuntu release, version 6.10, known as "Edgy Eft", debuted new features such as a new System V init daemon replacement called Upstart, as well as improvements to the memory usage of applications like Evolution and Nautilus which led to an increase in the speed of system boot up and application launch compared to version 6.06. Major applications in this release include GNOME 2.16.1, Mozilla Firefox 2.0, OpenOffice.org 2.0.4, X.Org Server 7.1.1, GCC 4.1.1, and version 2.6.17 of the Linux kernel.

Like previous releases, Edgy allows for direct upgrades from the previous version. Upgrading from version 6.06 is not performed automatically like normal package upgrades, requiring a special switch to Update Manager. Other methods, such as the dist-upgrade feature of apt-get, are not recommended. Some users reported serious trouble in the process.


The next stable release will be Ubuntu 7.10, codenamed "Gutsy Gibbon". Currently, this release is scheduled for 18 October 2007. Gutsy is planned to also include a version containing only software that can be modified and redistributed, that is free software, in conjunction with gNewSense.

System requirements

The current Ubuntu release, 7.04, requires 256 megabytes of RAM, and, when installed to the hard disk, requires at least three gigabytes of hard-disk space if installed as the usual Desktop installation. The Server installation requires 64MB of RAM and 500MB of hard disk space.

Known problems

Upgrading to Ubuntu 7.04 from previous versions has been known to cause the boot process to fail. The main symptom is a partial boot followed by a command prompt showing several processes failing due to "unknown stanza". A critical file necessary for booting Ubuntu contains a typo, which has caused this problem. Currently the best way to solve this problem is to reformat the hard drive or partition containing Ubuntu and do a complete re-install from the Ubuntu Live CD. Support for solving this problem may be found at the Ubuntu Team Wiki.


Kubuntu 7.04
Kubuntu 7.04
Xubuntu 6.06
Xubuntu 6.06

Variants of Ubuntu are divided into two broad categories:

  1. Subsets of the distribution created by and within Ubuntu with a custom installer or live CD that highlight certain aspects or software within the distribution. These are variously referred to as subproject, or flavours. They are analogous to "custom distributions" in the Debian community.
  2. Derivatives of Ubuntu created by individuals, groups or organization working outside of the Ubuntu project but using or tracking Ubuntu software. These projects are technically forks of Ubuntu.

Official/internal variants

There are several official variants of Ubuntu available, with releases simultaneous with Ubuntu's, as their packages are drawn from the same repositories. They are:

  • Kubuntu, which uses KDE instead of GNOME as the default desktop environment.
  • Edubuntu, "designed for school environments, and should be equally suitable for kids to use at home."
  • Xubuntu, which uses the Xfce as the default desktop environment and is designed for less powerful computers.
  • Ubuntu Server Edition, which provides server applications.

Kubuntu, Ubuntu and Edubuntu can be ordered as CDs from the ShipIt service.

Unofficial derivatives

Other derivates include unofficial variants that usually use alternate windowing systems.

  • Elbuntu uses the Enlightenment window manager.
  • Fluxbuntu uses the Fluxbox window manager. It is intended for use on machines too slow to run a full desktop environment well.
  • Linux For Clinics aims to create a medical friendly Ubuntu distribution.
  • Uberyl A Ubuntu based distribution that has Beryl and Automatix by default.
  • Ubuntu Lite shares a similar goal (intended for use on machines too slow to run a full desktop environment ), but uses IceWM instead.
  • Ubuntu Studio is a release geared towards multimedia production and uses the GNOME desktop environment.
  • nUbuntu uses Fluxbox to be more lightweight, but aims to appeal to experienced Linux users, particularly in the area of network security.

Specific derivatives

Mark Shuttleworth has also endorsed the creation of an Ubuntu distribution using only Free Software Foundation-approved free software. Its release is now planned to coincide with Gutsy Gibbon. A project with similar goals, gNewSense, was released on November 2, 2006; gNewSense is not an official version of Ubuntu.

  • LinuxMCE (Linux Media Centre Edition) is an alternative to Microsoft's Windows Media Centre based on Ubuntu.
  • Scibuntu aims to make scientific programs more accessible.

It was widely rumoured that Google would be distributing an Ubuntu derivative called Goobuntu. Google confirmed that it has created a modified version of Ubuntu but insisted there are no plans to distribute it outside the company.

xUbuntu (not to be confused with Xubuntu) is an PC-/Xbox-enabled version of Ubuntu GNU/Linux distribution. xUbuntu is not a stand-alone, independent distribution. The install process, the bootloader, the kernel and the kernel modules - are all customized for PC and Xbox (i386).


The Ubuntu website offers both commercial and community support. Community support is free while commercial requires payments.

Community support is available in the forms of forums, IRC channels, blogs and documentation.

Ubuntu's Documentation lists extensive guides on all branches of Ubuntu, such as Ubuntu server version, Kubuntu and Xubuntu. There are also extensive documentation to help with installation for i386, amd64, powerpc, sparc, hppa and ia64 machines. Extracts from the official Ubuntu book are also included. Documentations are available in HTML and PDF form.

The community documentation is an alternative to the official documentation. The community documentation is available in many languages such as, but not limited to: Hebrew, German, French, Russian, Italian, Korean and Chinese. Community Documentations are available on topics such as installation, maintenance, hardware, applications, switching from other operating systems and drivers.

Versions are supported for 18 months after release. Long term support (LTS) editions are supported for four to six years.


Ubuntu-Women is a women-oriented project under Ubuntu and sponsored by Canonical to provide a platform and encouragement for women to contribute to free and open source software.

Started in January 2006, the goal of Ubuntu-Women is to supplement and inspire women to be more aware of the technical aspects of the Ubuntu world. Here, women can communicate openly and ask questions to volunteers and mentors. By getting involved in this project, one gets the opportunity to create new FLOSS software.

Participation in Ubuntu-Women is open to both men and women using Ubuntu.

Each-One-Teach-One is a mentoring program where women can interact with experts who volunteer in specific technical, documentation, translation fields which provides them the necessary information and support to grow in the Ubuntu world.


Statistics from Google Trends suggest that since late 2005, Google has been receiving increasingly more searches for Ubuntu than for other popular Linux distributions. The Ubuntu page on DistroWatch has been the most frequently accessed of a comprehensive list of Linux distributions for more than a year. Ubuntu was awarded the Reader Award for best Linux distribution at the 2005 LinuxWorld Conference and Expo in London. It has been favourably reviewed in online and print publications. At Debconf 6 in May 2006, Mark Shuttleworth stated that "about 6 million Breezy CDs" had been distributed through Ubuntu's ShipIt program. Many reviewers of Ubuntu point out a main part of Ubuntu's success is its community. Ubuntu was voted distribution of 2006 on LinuxQuestions.org.

The French Parliament has decided to switch to Ubuntu in June 2007.

Ubuntu and Canonical have received some criticism from the free software community for the decision to include a larger number of proprietary drivers in the default installation for version 7.04, and as a result have decided to make these drivers optional. Ubuntu has also received criticism from the Debian community, citing that Ubuntu developers have forked the OS significantly enough to cause a break between Debian and Ubuntu developers.

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