Ubuntu (pronounced /ʊˈbʊntuː/) is a computer operating system based on the Debian GNU/Linux distribution and distributed as free and open source software. It is named after the Southern African philosophy of Ubuntu ("humanity towards others").

With an estimated global usage of more than 12 million users, Ubuntu is designed primarily for desktop use, although netbook and server editions exist as well. Web statistics suggest that Ubuntu's share of Linux desktop usage is about 50%, and indicate upward trending usage as a web server.
Ubuntu is sponsored by the UK-based company Canonical Ltd., owned by South African entrepreneur Mark Shuttleworth. Canonical generates revenue by selling technical support and services tied to Ubuntu, while the OS itself is entirely free of charge.

History and development process
Ubuntu is a fork of the Debian project's codebase. The original aim of the Ubuntu team was to create an easy-to-use Linux desktop with new releases scheduled on a predictable six-month basis, resulting in a more frequently updated system.
Ubuntu's first release was on October 20, 2004. Since then, Canonical has released new versions of Ubuntu every six months with commitment to support each release for eighteen months by providing security fixes, patches to critical bugs and minor updates to programs. It was decided that every fourth release, issued on a two-year basis, would receive long-term support (LTS). LTS releases are supported for three years on the desktop and five years on the server.
The latest LTS release is Ubuntu 10.04 (Lucid Lynx), released on April 29, 2010, while the latest normal release is Ubuntu 10.10 (Maverick Meerkat), released on October 10, 2010.
Ubuntu packages are based on packages from Debian's unstable branch: both distributions use Debian's deb package format and package management tools (APT and Synaptic). Debian and Ubuntu packages are not necessarily binary compatible with each other, however, and sometimes .deb packages may need to be rebuilt from source to be used in Ubuntu. Many Ubuntu developers are also maintainers of key packages within Debian.

Ubuntu cooperates with Debian by pushing changes back to Debian, although there has been criticism that this does not happen often enough. In the past, Ian Murdock, the founder of Debian, has expressed concern about Ubuntu packages potentially diverging too far from Debian to remain compatible. Before release, packages are imported from Debian Unstable continuously and merged with Ubuntu-specific modifications. A month before release, imports are frozen, and packagers then work to ensure that the frozen features interoperate well together.
Ubuntu is currently funded by Canonical Ltd. On July 8, 2005, Mark Shuttleworth and Canonical Ltd. 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. Mark Shuttleworth describes the foundation as an "emergency fund" [in case Canonical's involvement ends].
On March 12, 2009, Ubuntu announced developer support for 3rd party cloud management platforms, such as for those used at Amazon EC2.


Ubuntu is composed of many software packages, of which the vast majority are distributed under a free software license, making an exception only for some proprietary hardware drivers. The main license used is the GNU General Public License (GNU GPL) which, along with the GNU Lesser General Public License (GNU LGPL), explicitly declares that users are free to run, copy, distribute, study, change, develop and improve the software. On the other hand, there is also proprietary software available that can run on Ubuntu. Ubuntu focuses on usability, security and stability. The Ubiquity installer allows Ubuntu to be installed to the hard disk from within the Live CD environment, without the need for restarting the computer prior to installation.

Ubuntu also emphasizes accessibility and internationalization to reach as many people as possible. Beginning with 5.04, UTF-8 became the default character encoding, which allows for support of a variety of non-Roman scripts. As a security feature, the sudo tool is used to assign temporary privileges for performing administrative tasks, allowing the root account to remain locked, and preventing inexperienced users from inadvertently making catastrophic system changes or opening security holes. PolicyKit is also being widely implemented into the desktop to further harden the system through the principle of least privilege.
Ubuntu comes installed with a wide range of software that includes OpenOffice, Firefox, Empathy (Pidgin in versions before 9.10), Transmission, GIMP (in versions prior to 10.04), and several lightweight games (such as Sudoku and chess). Additional software that is not installed by default can be downloaded and installed using the Ubuntu Software Center or the package manager Synaptic, which come pre-installed. Ubuntu allows networking ports to be closed using its firewall, with customized port selection available.

End-users can install Gufw (GUI for Uncomplicated Firewall) and keep it enabled. GNOME (the current default desktop) offers support for more than 46 languages. Ubuntu can also run many programs designed for Microsoft Windows (such as Microsoft Office), through Wine or using a Virtual Machine (such as VMware Workstation or VirtualBox). For the upcoming 11.04 release, Canonical intends to drop the GNOME Shell as the default window manager in favor of Unity, a graphical interface it first developed for the netbook edition of Ubuntu.

(source : wikipedia.org)


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