Ubuntu

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About

Ubuntu is a distribution (or "distro") of Linux.

The project was founded by South African entrepreneur Mark Shuttleworth via his company, Canonical Ltd. According to Wikipedia, the name "Ubuntu" comes from the South African concept of Ubuntu — roughly, "humanity towards others".

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Reviews

  • 2007-09-13 Linux’s Free System Is Now Easier to Use, But Not for Everyone by Walter S. Mossberg, The Wall Street Journal: includes video
    • It should be noted that two of the problems Mossberg notes (the need to install a codec in order to play MP3s, and the inability to play commercial DVDs out of the box) are due to licensing restrictions on the proprietary technologies involved. Microsoft Windows is able to include these technologies because the sale price covers the cost of the licenses. Since Ubuntu is given away free, however, they cannot afford to pay the per-copy licensing fee required by the owners of these technologies. See intellectual property (on Issuepedia) for issue discussion.
    • It's also a bit misleading when he says nobody is ultimately responsible for the end product; the owners of each distro (which range from informal coalitions of developers with no physical headquarters to larger companies like Canonical) are ultimately responsible for ensuring the proper functionality and integration of all the components they choose for their distro; they all lack, however, the vast resources of Microsoft -- not to mention clout in the hardware industry, which now makes it de rigeur for every piece of PC hardware to ship with Windows drivers, while you are lucky to find hardware that comes with Linux drivers at all, and often Linux developers working for free are unable to obtain even the hardware specifications from which to work (many Linux hardware drivers are written entirely from reverse-engineering the hardware). Also, it is possible in many cases to buy on-site Linux support, which can still work out to be significantly cheaper than buying Windows (for which one often needs tech support as well, something Mossberg does not mention).

Notes

  • The standard install does not include many available packages; to access the additional packages, you need to enable (or add) the appropriate repositories. This can be done either through one of the package managers (apt, Synaptic, Adept) or by directly editing sources.list. sample sources.list
  • When running the LiveCD, the user is apparently "ubuntu" with an empty password (this works for logging in). Unfortunately, this doesn't work for unlocking a locked session. What you can do, however, is start a new session, then change your password within that session, log out, and use the new password to log back in to your original session. (On an IBM Thinkpad, however, the screen became munged after ending the 2nd session, and we haven't been able to figure out how to fix that.)
  • Despite what some Linux purist-enthusiasts may say, Ubuntu is trying to become as user-friendly as Windows. "Microsoft has a majority market share in the new desktop PC marketplace" is listed as Bug #1 on the Bugs in Ubuntu database.