Your journey into Ubuntu begins here. Dive into its history, features, and benefits – a comprehensive guide for newcomers.
- What is Ubuntu?
- The History of Ubuntu
- The Role of Canonical Ltd.
- Ubuntu Editions
- Release’s Cycle & Types
- Ubuntu Release Naming Convention
- Package Management
- Ubuntu Software Repositories
- Why Choose Ubuntu?
- Ubuntu Flavors
Ubuntu is a phenomenon that has played a significant role in the widespread adoption of Linux, both as a desktop system for the home user and as a reliable server operating system for businesses.
The distro has become synonymous with ease of use, robustness, and a supportive community, making it a premier choice for newcomers and seasoned users.
In this comprehensive guide, we will embark on a journey through Ubuntu’s history, explore its features, and discuss the benefits it brings to the table. So, let’s dive in.
What is Ubuntu?
Ubuntu is a free and open-source Linux operating system based on Debian and developed by Canonical Ltd. It is one of the most popular distributions widely recognized for its ease of use and accessibility to newcomers to Linux.
It is applicable on both fronts – as a desktop and server operating platform, offering separate editions for each.
For desktop Linux users, Ubuntu offers a clean, intuitive, and stable environment that makes computing a pleasure for both beginners and advanced users. Because of this, for many Linux newcomers, Ubuntu is their natural first step into the Linux ecosystem.
At the same time, in the realm of business servers, Ubuntu is a powerhouse that combines performance, reliability, and the best of open-source innovation, making it one of the most preferred choices for a server operating system for the enterprise sector.
The History of Ubuntu
The story of Ubuntu begins in 2004, but its roots stretch back to the rich soil of Debian – one of the most robust and respected Linux distributions. But more on that in a moment.
In 2004, a South African internet mogul, entrepreneur, and philanthropist, Mark Shuttleworth, founded Canonical Ltd., envisioning that it was time for a more user-friendly Linux. At that time, he, like many other technically inclined people, was a huge fan of the Debian project.
As you guessed, choosing which distribution to base and build on was not difficult. At the same time, however, many things about Debian did not fit with Shuttleworth’s vision of an ideal OS.
So, he took Debian and worked to make it a more human-friendly distribution, which he called Ubuntu – the term representing the project’s roots. But why that word? Let us explain.
The name “Ubuntu” comes from an ancient word in the Nguni Bantu language spoken in southern Africa, meaning “humanity towards others” or “I am because we are,” reflecting the philosophy that the distribution brings the spirit of community to the world of computers and software.
The chosen logo, known as the “Circle of Friends,” so recognizable today, has undergone several changes, but its core concept remains unchanged.
It consists of three stylized human figures with their arms raised, embracing each other in a circle, symbolizing the core values of Ubuntu: collaboration, community, and humanity.
In October 2004, Shuttleworth, with his company Canonical Ltd., released the first version of Ubuntu (4.10 “Warty Warthog”), igniting a revolution in the Linux world. Moreover, its launch was accompanied by a promise of shipping free CDs to anyone interested in trying out the OS, significantly boosting its adoption.
The Role of Canonical Ltd.
These days, Ubuntu stands out as one of the most popular and user-friendly options available. However, this success is primarily due to the vision and support of Canonical Ltd., the UK-based company founded by Mark Shuttleworth.
It was established in 2004, the same year Ubuntu was launched. Shuttleworth served as CEO of Canonical until 2009, when he stepped down but returned to the post in 2017.
The company is the primary developer and sponsor of Ubuntu, investing resources to maintain, secure, and update the operating system. This means that Canonical employs a team of developers who contribute to the core of Ubuntu and work on various aspects of the system, from the kernel to the user interface.
But since Ubuntu is an entirely free operating system, where does the revenue come from for the company to continue to support and develop the distribution? Here’s the answer.
While Ubuntu is free to download, use, and share, Canonical generates revenue by providing commercial and technical support and other services to businesses and professional users through its Ubuntu Pro and Ubuntu Advantage programs. Then, the revenue is plowed back into the ongoing distribution development.
In other words, the distribution itself is free, but for business needs, the company offers additional paid services and products based on the operating system. This model has proven effective over the years, with the most prominent representative being Red Hat with their RHEL.
Ubuntu offers different editions, each with its own features, improvements, and support periods (explained later in the article). Let’s take a closer look at them now.
Ubuntu Desktop is the flagship offering, designed for the average computer user. It is perfect for those who need a stable, user-friendly operating system for their home or office PC.
It comes with a rich set of applications, including a web browser, a suite of office software, media apps, and more.
At the heart of Ubuntu Desktop is the GNOME desktop environment, known for its simplicity and elegance. It offers a clean and intuitive user interface that is easy to navigate for users of all levels of expertise.
Another significant advantage of Ubuntu Desktop is its extensive hardware driver support. In other words, whether you are installing Ubuntu on an old laptop or the latest desktop, chances are that all your underlying hardware will be supported and work out of the box.
Finally, we’ll mention the Software Center – a central hub for software management. It provides a user-friendly interface that allows users to browse, install, and manage applications from the Ubuntu repositories and third-party sources.
While the desktop version of Ubuntu is the most widely recognized, Ubuntu Server is a powerful variant optimized for server environments, which inherits the reliability of its parent Debian system while providing a more frequent release cycle.
Designed to serve the needs of both small-scale and large-scale enterprise environments, Ubuntu Server lacks a graphical user interface by default. Instead, it includes extensive server-oriented capabilities engineered to handle the demanding needs of server environments, providing a stable and reliable platform for deploying applications and services.
On top of that, Ubuntu Server is optimized for the cloud, and it is the most popular operating system on public clouds like Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform (GCP), making it the preferred server platform in the enterprise sector.
Ubuntu Core is a minimalistic version designed for IoT (Internet of Things) devices and embedded systems. It uses a transactional update mechanism that ensures system integrity and reliability, which is crucial for devices that require high stability. Snap packages are used exclusively to create a confined and transaction-based system.
Release’s Cycle & Types
Ubuntu is well-known for its regular release cycle and different types of releases. Each of them caters to a diverse audience, from those who need the latest features and software to those who require stability and long-term support.
Understanding the different Ubuntu release types is crucial for users to decide which version to install and use.
LTS (Long Term Support) Releases
LTS releases are the cornerstone of the Ubuntu release cycle, coming out every two years in April. They are denoted by the year and month of their release (e.g., Ubuntu 22.04 LTS, released in April 2022).
These versions are supported for five years for both desktop and server editions. They are where all of the developments from the previous two years accumulate into one up-to-date, feature-rich release focusing on stability.
Ubuntu’s LTS releases are the most popular and widely used by end users and businesses. They are what Canonical recommends for those who prioritize stability and support over having the latest features.
Key features of LTS releases:
- Extended support period
- Emphasis on stability and reliability
- Fewer changes to the core system, minimizing the risk of breaking existing setups
Ubuntu’s interim releases are versions between LTS releases and are supported for only nine months. These versions often include newer software and features, serving as a foundation and testing ground for what will be included in the next LTS release.
They are ideal for users who want to experience the latest Ubuntu and are okay with the shorter support cycle.
Key features of interim releases:
- Cutting-edge software and features
- Shorter support period, requiring more frequent upgrades
- Opportunity to contribute to testing and improving upcoming LTS releases
Ubuntu Release Naming Convention
Ubuntu strictly follows a well-established and predictable semi-annual release cycle. This means new versions are rolled out every six months, in April and October, as a version number and a code name identify each release.
The naming convention always leads with the year and trails, whether an April or October release. For example, Ubuntu 22.04 launches in April 2022, Ubuntu 22.10 launches in October 2022, etc.
An interesting fact is that there is only one exception to the Ubuntu releases in April or October during the almost twenty years of development of this operating system, namely Ubuntu 6.04, released in 2006. It has been delayed for two months (from April to June), so it was named 6.06 instead of XX.04 or XX.10 as usual.
Another interesting fact is that the Ubuntu releases are always on a Thursday, scheduled not to be the last Thursday of the month (3rd usually), as it provides a week to push the schedule back if necessary and keep it in the month. Now to the codenames.
Unlike many other software naming conventions that rely on numbers and letters, Ubuntu uses a two-word codename system that combines an adjective with an animal name, both starting with the same letter of the alphabet.
For example, Ubuntu 22.04 is called “Jammy Jellyfish,” 22.10 “Kinetic Kudu,” 23.04 “Lunar Lobster,” 23.10 “Mantic Minotaur,” etc., as these codenames are incremented alphabetically in each release.
But what happens when they reach the last letter of the alphabet? Well, they just start over, as with Ubuntu 17.04 “Zesty Zapus” released in April 2017, followed by the 17.10 “Artful Aardvark” in October 2017.
Central to Ubuntu’s user-friendly approach is its package management system, which allows users to install, update, and remove software with ease. There are two primary package formats used in Ubuntu: DEB and SNAP.
DEB: The Traditional Pillar of Ubuntu Software
DEB packages are the traditional packaging format in Debian-based distributions, including Ubuntu. They are archives that contain the compiled binaries, configuration files, and information about dependencies required for the software to run correctly.
Users can manage DEB packages through graphical user interfaces like the Ubuntu Software Center or command-line tools. APT is the primary one for managing DEB packages, allowing users to install, update, and remove software with simple commands. Here is our detailed guide on the topic.
SNAP: The New Age of Ubuntu Software Distribution
SNAP packages are a relatively newer format, in-house backed and designed by Canonical, aiming to provide a more secure and easier-to-manage system for software distribution.
Similar to Flatpaks, SNAP packages are self-contained, which means they include the application and all its dependencies. This design eliminates the “dependency hell” and ensures that SNAPs work consistently across different Linux distributions.
They can be managed via the Snap Store or the command line using the
snap command. Canonical focuses heavily on SNAP integration into Ubuntu, with every new distribution release coming with more of the provided software installed as SNAP packages.
Ubuntu Software Repositories
A software repository, or “repo,” in Linux, is a storage location (typically remote) from which software packages can be retrieved and installed on a computer.
They enable users to install software easily, manage updates, and ensure that it is as secure and stable as possible via a tool (a package manager) that interacts with repositories to handle the installation, update, and removal of software packages.
Ubuntu’s software sources are divided into four main repositories, each serving a distinct purpose.
Canonical, the company behind Ubuntu, officially supports this repository. It contains free and open-source software that is essential for the functioning of Ubuntu.
When you install software from the main component, you are assured that the software will come with security updates and that commercial, technical support is available from Canonical.
The Universe is a community-maintained repository that houses a vast collection of free and open-source software. While not officially supported by Canonical, these packages meet Ubuntu’s standards and are generally considered safe.
This repository includes proprietary drivers and software that are not open source but are available without cost. Canonical provides support for these packages, which are often necessary for hardware components that do not have suitable free software drivers.
The Multiverse repository contains software that is not free and may have legal or copyright restrictions associated with it. These packages are not supported by Canonical and are used at the user’s own risk.
PPA (Personal Package Archive)
However, there are times when users need access to newer versions of software that are not available in the official channels. This is where Personal Package Archives (PPAs) come into play.
PPAs are repositories especially designed for Ubuntu. They serve as additional software sources that can significantly expand Ubuntu capabilities, allowing software developers to distribute newer versions of their software or software not included in the official Ubuntu repositories.
In reality, it is no different from any other Ubuntu repository. When you add a PPA to your system, you’re adding another software repository for your package manager to pull from.
However, always keep in mind that PPAs are provided by the community (an idea similar to AUR repositories on Arch Linux), and you should be aware of the possible risks before just adding a new PPA repo to your system, as the primary considerations you need to have are:
- Security: Since PPAs are not as rigorously vetted as official Ubuntu repositories, they can potentially contain malicious software.
- Stability: Software from PPAs may not be as stable as the versions in the official repositories, which could lead to system instability.
- Compatibility: There is a risk of library conflicts or dependency issues when installing from PPAs, as they may not always align with the system’s existing software.
Why Choose Ubuntu?
By now, you have a solid foundation of what Ubuntu is. But what makes it stand out among the myriad of Linux distributions? Below, we explore the main features that make Ubuntu a top choice for newcomers and experienced Linux users.
Easy of Use and Versatility
Ubuntu is renowned for its user-friendly interface. The default desktop environment is intuitive and easy to navigate for users migrating from other operating systems. This ease of use does not compromise on power or flexibility, making Ubuntu suitable for both novice and professional users.
Moreover, Ubuntu is incredibly versatile. It can serve as a desktop or server OS, be used for cloud computing, and even run on smartphones and IoT devices. This versatility makes it an all-in-one solution for various computing needs.
One of the most compelling reasons to opt for Ubuntu is its top-notch support, matched only by the best names in the industry, which is a cornerstone of its widespread adoption and user satisfaction.
So, whether you’re a business deploying Ubuntu on thousands of servers or an individual using it on your laptop, you can always rely on timely and tested updates to ensure your system runs smoothly and securely.
Ubuntu Pro is Canonical’s service package for Ubuntu aimed at business users, which offers tiered levels of support for desktop, server, and cloud deployments. With it, you receive ten years of support for the LTS releases, kernel live patching, critical patches in less than 24 hours, etc.
The good news is that you can get it for free. All users with a valid Ubuntu One account have access to the Ubuntu Pro subscription and can register up to 5 machines for free.
Choosing Ubuntu as your operating system is synonymous with opting for reliability. Built on the foundation of Debian, Ubuntu inherits its reliability, making it an ideal choice for both personal and professional environments where uptime and dependability are paramount.
From powering the servers of Fortune 500 companies to running on millions of personal computers worldwide, Ubuntu’s reliability is proven in the most demanding environments.
Robust Software Repositories
Ubuntu comes with a vast repository of software applications that can be easily installed through the Ubuntu Software Center or via the command line using APT. From desktop applications for everyday computing needs to robust server services, the distribution’s repositories offer nearly every piece of software to meet your needs.
Regular Release Cycle
Ubuntu has a predictable release cycle, with new long-term support (LTS) versions every two years and interim releases every six months, giving home users and businesses the much-needed peace of mind and confidence to plan their IT infrastructure for the long term.
One of the most compelling reasons to choose Ubuntu as your operating system is its smooth upgrade path between versions. Designed with the end-user in mind, Ubuntu ensures that transitions from one release to the next are as seamless and hassle-free as possible.
This is a significant advantage for both personal and business users who require a stable and continuous workflow.
Strong Community Support
One of Ubuntu’s greatest assets is its enormous community. Being a popular Linux distro, it has a vast, active user base that contributes to its development and provides free support through forums, mailing lists, and live chat services. This community is a valuable resource for troubleshooting and learning.
The versatility of Ubuntu extends beyond its core version through the availability of multiple ‘flavors’ that cater to the different needs and preferences of its vast user base.
They are officially recognized variants of the Ubuntu operating system that cater to different needs and preferences by offering alternative desktop environments and software packages while leveraging the core Ubuntu base.
In other words, Ubuntu flavors are, at most, the same base but shipped with another desktop environment. It is essential to make it clear that these flavors are built and tested with the same standards that are used in the development of the original Ubuntu.
Here’s their full list:
- Kubuntu: Combines Ubuntu with the KDE Plasma desktop environment, known for its modern look and feel, as well as its customization options.
- Ubuntu MATE: Brings the MATE desktop environment, a continuation of the classic GNOME 2 interface, offering a traditional desktop layout that is functional and easy to use.
- Xubuntu: Utilizes the Xfce desktop environment, striking a balance between performance and good looks, suitable for those who want a stable and light system without sacrificing visual appeal.
- Ubuntu Studio: Aimed at multimedia content creators, it comes with a suite of applications for audio, video, graphics, and publishing production.
- Lubuntu: Features the LXQt desktop environment, which is designed to be lightweight and resource-efficient, making it ideal for older hardware or systems with limited resources.
- Edubuntu: A stable, secure, and privacy-conscious option crafted for use in the education world, providing a vast ecosystem of learning software and educational tools.
- Ubuntu Budgie: Offers the Budgie desktop environment, which focuses on simplicity and elegance, providing a modern and stylish user interface.
- Ubuntu Cinnamon: Combines Ubuntu with the famous Linux Mint’s Cinnamon desktop. Give users a traditionally modern experience crafted for professionals and home users alike.
- Ubuntu Unity: Bringing the best of Ubuntu and the once popular and company-backed Unity desktop environment, Ubuntu Unity is a beautiful, slick, and lightweight Ubuntu flavor.
- Ubuntu Kylin: Specifically designed for Chinese users, it provides a desktop experience with features and applications tailored for the Chinese market.
Each flavor is developed and maintained by its community. Still, all of them are released concurrently with the main version of Ubuntu and receive the same core updates and security patches.
This ensures that no matter which flavor you choose, you’ll have a secure and up-to-date system with access to the vast repositories of Ubuntu software.
From its inception in 2004, Ubuntu has become synonymous with ease of use, security, and versatility, making it an ideal starting point for anyone looking to delve into Linux.
At the same time, its commitment to these has not only made it a favorite among individual users but also a trusted platform for enterprises of all sizes.
For businesses, Ubuntu has proven to be a versatile ally. Its reliability and stability are the cornerstones upon which many companies build their IT infrastructure. From servers to desktops, Ubuntu’s scalability makes it ideal for deploying enterprise applications, web services, and cloud solutions.
Its plethora of features, from the robustness of its LTS releases to the diversity of its flavors, ensures an Ubuntu experience tailored for every type of user. So, welcome to the Ubuntu family – let the adventure begin!