Ubuntu: The Distro That Has Become Synonymous with Linux

Ubuntu is a Linux-based operating system built on Debian’s architecture and infrastructure. For the last 10 years, it has become probably the most popular and widely used Linux distribution in the world.

Mark Shuttleworth

Ubuntu is developed by a UK-based company called Canonical Ltd. Canonical was founded (and funded) in 2004 by Mark Shuttleworth, South African entrepreneur, philanthropist, and space tourist who became the first South African in space.

Shuttleworth served as CEO of Canonical until 2009 when he stepped down. However, he returned to the post in 2017.

Canonical provides commercial support to companies using Ubuntu for a fee. The revenue from this support then goes towards the ongoing development of the distro.

The History of Ubuntu

A South African internet mogul (who made his fortune selling his company to VeriSign for around $500 million) decided it was time for a more user-friendly Linux. Shuttleworth, like many other technically inclined people, was a huge fan of the Debian project.

However, there were many things about Debian that did not fit with Shuttleworth’s vision of an ideal OS. He took the Debian distribution and worked to make it a more human-friendly distribution which he called Ubuntu.

The word “Ubuntu” is an ancient Zulu and Xhosa word that means “humanity to others”. It also means “I am what I am because of who we all are”. It was chosen because these sentiments precisely describe the spirit of the distro.

Shuttleworth (born in Welkom, South Africa) liked the term Ubuntu as a name for the new project for several reasons. First, it is a South African concept. While the majority of the people who work on the distro are not from South Africa, the roots of the project are, and Shuttleworth wanted to choose a name that represented this.

Ubuntu 20.04 Focal Fossa


The distro follows a strict development schedule. Canonical ships new versions of Ubuntu every six months, in April and October. The naming convention always leads with the year and trails whether it is an April or October release. For example, Ubuntu 20.04 LTS launches in April 2020. Each release receives free support for nine months.

So far, there is only one exception to the Ubuntu releases in April or October during the 17 years of development of this operating system, which is the case of Ubuntu 6.04. The release of this version has been delayed for 2 months (from April to June) and that’s why it was named 6.06 Drapper Drake, instead of XX.04 or XX.10 as usual.

In April, every two years, Ubuntu releases new Long-term support (LTS) releases where all of the developments from the previous two years accumulate into one up-to-date, feature-rich release. These releases focus on performance enhancement and stability.

The LTS is what Canonical recommends to large-scale enterprises, general users, and businesses. LTS releases are supported for five years and are released every two years.

An interesting fact is that the Ubuntu releases are always on a Thursday, scheduled to not 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.

Ubuntu Codenames

Every version of Ubuntu comes with a unique and interesting codename. For example, version 21.10 is codenamed “Impish Indri“. Here we are going to explain the logic behind every code name and naming convention that is followed.

Th first thing to notice in Ubuntu code names is that they have two-word names where starting letters of both the words are the same. For example, Ubuntu 21.10 is called “Impish Indri” where both first letters of the two words start with an “I”.

Ubuntu version’s codenames are made of two words, the first being an adjective and the second one being an animal name with the same first letter. Another interesting fact to notice is that these codenames are incremented alphabetically in each release. For example, the next release which will be available in April 2022, will be codenamed “Jammy Jellyfish“.

Perhaps now you have a good understanding of the numbering and code naming of Ubuntu versions.

Software Repositories

Each Ubuntu version has its own official set of four repositories:

  • Main – Canonical-supported free and open-source software.
  • Universe – Community-maintained free and open-source software.
  • Restricted – Proprietary drivers for devices.
  • Multiverse – Software restricted by copyright or legal issues.

PPA stands for Personal Package Archive – software repositories designed for Ubuntu users and are easier to install than other third-party repositories. PPAs are provided by the community and you should be aware of the possible risks before just adding a PPA.

In reality, it’s no different from any other Ubuntu repository. When you add a PPA to your Ubuntu system, you’re adding another software repository for your package manager to pull from.

Canonical, the people behind Ubuntu, also created a service to host PPAs and other software projects called Launchpad. You can find thousands of projects on Launchpad, and while they aren’t all PPAs, a good chunk of the PPAs that you do find will be hosted on Launchpad.

Ubuntu Flavors

Ubuntu flavors are no more than the same base with another desktop environment. In other words, a customized or modified version of the original Ubuntu is known as the Ubuntu Flavor. What makes one flavor different from the other is the desktop environment in which it runs.

There are two types of Ubuntu flavors – official and unofficial. Official flavors are customized by the same company which develops the original Ubuntu while unofficial flavors are customized by third parties or communities.

In addition, official flavors are customized based on the general requirements and are distributed under the GPL license. Unofficial flavors are customized based on particular requirements and may or may not be available under the GPL license.

Official flavors are built and tested with the same standards which are used in the development of the original Ubuntu. Updated versions of these flavors are usually released in a few days after the release of the main Ubuntu.

Below is the list of official Ubuntu flavors:

  • Kubuntu: Provide the latest stable KDE software, which includes the flagship project Plasma on top of a stable Ubuntu core.
  • Ubuntu MATE: Provide the MATE desktop environment as its default user interface, instead of the GNOME 3 desktop environment.
  • Xubuntu: Comes with Xfce, which is a stable, light, and configurable desktop environment.
  • Ubuntu Studio: Geared to general multimedia production. It is a multimedia editing/creation flavor of Ubuntu, built for the Linux audio, video, and graphic enthusiast or professional.
  • Lubuntu: Fast and lightweight operating system with a clean and easy-to-use user interface. Lubuntu uses the minimal desktop LXDE/LXQT, and a selection of light applications.
  • Ubuntu Kylin: The official Chinese version of Ubuntu, intended for desktop and laptop computers.
  • Ubuntu Budgie: Comes with Budgie desktop environment, developed by the Solus project.

Ubuntu-based Distros

  • Elementary OS
  • Feren OS
  • Linux Lite
  • Linux Mint
  • Peppermint OS
  • Pop!_OS
  • Zorin OS
Bobby Borisov
Bobby Borisov

Bobby, an editor-in-chief at Linuxiac, is a Linux professional with over 20 years of experience. With a strong focus on Linux and open-source software, he has worked as a Senior Linux System Administrator, Software Developer, and DevOps Engineer for small and large multinational companies.

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