Ubuntu Linux is one of a number of different flavors of the Linux operating system. The various different brands of Linux are generally known as Linux Distributions (usually shortened to Linux Distros by Linux experts). In terms of the history of Linux, Ubuntu is something of a newcomer. In the relatively short period of time that it has been available, however, Ubuntu has rapidly gained the respect of both experienced and novice Linux users throughout the world.
What Exactly is Linux?
Linux is an operating system in much the same way that Windows is an operating system (and there any similarities between Linux and Windows end). The term operating system is used to describe the software which acts as a layer between the hardware in a computer and the applications that we all run on a daily basis. When programmers write applications, they interface with the operating system to perform such tasks as writing files to the hard disk drive and displaying information on the screen.
Without an operating system, every programmer would have to write code to directly access the hardware of the system. In addition, the programmer would have to be able to support every single piece of hardware ever created to be sure the application would work on every possible hardware configuration. Because the operating system handles all of this hardware complexity, application development becomes a much easier task. Linux is just one of a number of different operating systems available today.
Who Created Linux?
The origins of Linux can be traced back to the work of two people. At the heart of the Linux operating system is something called the kernel. This is the core set of functions necessary for the operating system to function. The kernel manages the system’s resources and handles communication between the hardware and the applications. The Linux kernel was developed by Linus Torvalds who needed an operating system but didn’t want to have to buy one. When he had finished the first version of the kernel he released under an open source license that enabled anyone to download the source code and freely use and modify it without having to pay Linus any money.
Around the same time Richard Stallman at the Free Software Foundation, a strong advocate of free and open source software, was working on an open source operating system of his own. Rather than focusing initially on the kernel, Stallman decided to begin by developing all the tools, utilities and compilers necessary to use and maintain an operating system. By the time he had finished developing this infrastructure it seemed like the obvious solution was to combine his work with the kernel Linus had written to create a full operating system. This combination became known as GNU/Linux. Purists insist that Linux always be referred to as GNU/Linux (in fact Richard Stallman refuses to give press interviews to any publication which fails to refer to Linux as GNU/Linux). This is not unreasonable given that the GNU tools developed by the Free Software Foundation make up a significant and vital part of GNU/Linux. Unfortunately, most people and publications simply refer to Linux as Linux and this will probably always continue to be the case.
The History of Ubuntu
As mentioned previously, Ubuntu is one of a number of Linux distributions. The source code that makes up the Ubuntu Linux distribution originates from another, much older Linux distribution known as Debian (so called because it was started by two people named Debra and Ian). Debian is still a widely respected operating system but came under criticism for infrequent updates and less than user friendly installation and maintenance (though these areas have shown improvement recently).
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. He took the Debian distribution and worked to make it a more human friendly distribution which he called Ubuntu. He subsequently formed a company called Canonical Ltd to promote and provide support for Ubuntu Linux. In addition Shuttleworth has formed and funded (to the tune of $10 million) a foundation to guarantee the future of Ubuntu.
The rest, as they say, is history. Ubuntu has since gone from strength to strength. Dell and other hardware vendors now ship computers pre-loaded with Ubuntu Linux and Ubuntu usually tops the chart at DistroWatch.com (a web site which tracks the popularity of the various Linux distributions).
If you are new to Linux, or already use Linux and want to try a different Linux distro it is unlikely you will find a better option than Ubuntu Linux.
What does the word “Ubuntu” Mean?
The word “Ubuntu” is an ancient Zulu and Xhosa word which means “humanity to others”. Ubuntu 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 Ubuntu Linux distribution.
Ubuntu releases are also given code names, using an adjective and an animal with the same first letter (e.g. Dapper Drake). With the exception of the first two releases, code names are in alphabetical order, allowing a quick determination of which release is newer. Commonly, Ubuntu releases are often referred to using only the adjective portion of the code name (e.g. Dapper).
Ubuntu 4.10 (Warty Warthog)
Ubuntu 4.10 (Warty Warthog), released on 20 October 2004, was Canonical’s first release of Ubuntu, building upon Debian GNU/Linux with plans for a new release every six months and eighteen months of support thereafter. Ubuntu 4.10’s support ended on 30 April 2006. Ubuntu 4.10 was the first version of Ubuntu to offer ShipIt services, allowing users to order free install CDs.
Ubuntu 5.04 (Hoary Hedgehog)
Ubuntu 5.04 (Hoary Hedgehog), released on 8 April 2005, was Canonical’s second release of Ubuntu. Ubuntu 5.04’s support ended on 31 October 2006. Ubuntu 5.04 added many new features including an update manager, upgrade notifier, readahead and grepmap, suspend, hibernate and standby support, dynamic frequency scaling for processors, ubuntu hardware database, Kickstart installation, and APT authentication. Ubuntu 5.04 allowed installation from USB devices. Ubuntu 5.04 used UTF-8 by default.
Ubuntu 5.10 (Breezy Badger)
Ubuntu 5.10 (Breezy Badger), released on 12 October 2005, was Canonical’s third release of Ubuntu. Ubuntu 5.10’s support ended on 13 April 2007. Ubuntu 5.10 added several new features including a graphical bootloader (Usplash), an Add/Remove Applications tool, a menu editor (alacarte), an easy language selector, logical volume management support, full Hewlett-Packard printer support, OEM installer support, a new Ubuntu logo in the top-left, and Launchpad integration for bug reporting and software development.
Ubuntu 6.06 LTS (Dapper Drake)
Ubuntu 6.06 (Dapper Drake), released on 1 June 2006, was Canonical’s fourth release, and the first Long Term Support (LTS) release. Ubuntu 6.06 was released behind schedule, having been intended as 6.04. Development was not complete in April 2006 and Mark Shuttleworth approved slipping the release date to June, making it 6.06 instead.
Ubuntu 6.06’s support ended on 14 July 2009 for desktops and will end in June 2011 for servers. Ubuntu 6.06 included several new features, including having the Live CD and Install CD merged onto one disc, a graphical installer on Live CD (Ubiquity), Usplash on shutdown as well as startup, a network manager for easy switching of multiple wired and wireless connections, Humanlooks theme implemented using Tango guidelines, based on Clearlooks and featuring orange colors instead of brown, and GDebi graphical installer for package files. Ubuntu 6.06 did not include a means to install from a USB device, but did for the first time allow installation directly onto removable USB devices.
Ubuntu 6.10 (Edgy Eft)
Ubuntu 6.10 (Edgy Eft), released on 26 October 2006, was Canonical’s fifth release of Ubuntu. Ubuntu 6.10’s support ended on 25 April 2008. Ubuntu 6.10 added several new features including a heavily modified Human theme, Upstart init daemon, automated crash reports (Apport), Tomboy note taking application, and F-Spot photo manager. EasyUbuntu, a third party program designed to make Ubuntu easier to use, was included in Ubuntu 6.10 as a meta-package.
Ubuntu 7.04 (Feisty Fawn)
Ubuntu 7.04 (Feisty Fawn), released on 19 April 2007, was Canonical’s sixth release of Ubuntu. Ubuntu 7.04’s support ended on 19 October 2008. Ubuntu 7.04 included several new features, among them a migration assistant to help former Microsoft Windows users transition to Ubuntu, support for Kernel-based Virtual Machine, assisted codec and restricted drivers installation including Adobe Flash, Java, MP3 support, easier installation ofNvidia and ATI drivers, Compiz desktop effects, support for Wi-Fi Protected Access, the addition of Sudoku andchess, a disk usage analyzer (baobab), GNOME Control Center, and Zeroconf support for many devices. Ubuntu 7.04 dropped support for PowerPCarchitecture.
Ubuntu 7.10 (Gutsy Gibbon)
Ubuntu 7.10 (Gutsy Gibbon), released on 18 October 2007, was Canonical’s seventh release of Ubuntu. Ubuntu 7.10’s support ended on 18 April 2009. Ubuntu 7.10 included several new features, among themAppArmor security framework, fast desktop search, a Firefox plug-in manager (Ubufox), a graphical configuration tool for X.Org, full NTFS support (read/write) via NTFS-3G, and a revamped printing system with PDF printing by default. Compiz Fusion was enabled as default in Ubuntu 7.10 and Fast user switching was added.
Ubuntu 8.04 LTS (Hardy Heron)
Ubuntu 8.04 (Hardy Heron), released on 24 April 2008, was Canonical’s eighth release of Ubuntu and the second Long Term Support (LTS) release. Ubuntu 8.04’s support will end in April 2011 for desktops and in April 2013 for servers. Ubuntu 8.04 included several new features, among them Tracker desktop search integration, Brasero disk burner, Transmission BitTorrent client, Vinagre VNC client, system sound throughPulseAudio, and Active Directory authentication and login using Likewise Open. In addition Ubuntu 8.04 included updates for better Tango compliance, various Compiz usability improvements, automatic grabbing and releasing of the mouse cursor when running on a VMware virtual machine, and an easier method to remove Ubuntu. Ubuntu 8.04 was the first version of Ubuntu to include the Wubi installer on the Live CD that allows Ubuntu to be installed as a single file on a Windows hard drive without the need to repartition the disk.
Ubuntu 8.10 (Intrepid Ibex)
Ubuntu 8.10 (Intrepid Ibex), released on 30 October 2008, was Canonical’s ninth release of Ubuntu. Support ended on 30 April 2010.Ubuntu 8.10 introduced several new features including improvements to mobile computing and desktop scalability, increased flexibility for Internet connectivity, an Ubuntu Live USB creator and a guest account, which allowed others to use a computer allowing very limited user rights (e.g. accessing the Internet, using software and checking e-mail). The guest account had its own home folder and nothing done on it was stored permanently on the computer’s hard disk. Intrepid Ibex also included an encrypted private directory for users, the inclusion of Dynamic Kernel Module Support, a tool that allows kernel drivers to be automatically rebuilt when new kernels are released and support for creating USB flash drive images.
Ubuntu 9.04 (Jaunty Jackalope)
Ubuntu 9.04 (Jaunty Jackalope), released on 23 April 2009, was Canonical’s tenth release of Ubuntu and was supported until 23 October 2010. New features included faster boot time, integration of web services and applications into the desktop interface. It had a new usplash screen, a new login screen and also support for bothWacom (hotplugging) and netbooks. It also included a new notification system, Notify OSD, and themes. It marked the first time that all of Ubuntu’s core development moved to the Bazaar distributed revision controlsystem.
Ubuntu 9.10 (Karmic Koala)
Ubuntu 9.10 (Karmic Koala), released on 29 October 2009, was Canonical’s 11th release of Ubuntu. It will be supported until April 2011.
In an announcement to the community on 20 February 2009, Mark Shuttleworth explained that 9.10 would focus on improvements in cloud computing on the server using Eucalyptus, further improvements in boot speed as well as development on the Netbook Remix.
The initial announcement of version 9.10 indicated that this release might include a new theme, however the project was moved forward to 10.04, and only minor revisions were made to the default theme. Other graphical improvements included a new set of boot up and shutdown splash screens, a new login screen that transitions seamlessly into the desktop and greatly improved performance on Intel graphics chipsets.
In June 2009 Canonical created the One Hundred Paper Cuts project, focusing developers to fix minor usability issues. A paper cut is defined as: “a trivially fixable usability bug that the average user would encounter on his/her first day of using a brand new installation of the latest version of Ubuntu Desktop Edition.”
The desktop installation of Ubuntu 9.10 replaced Pidgin with Empathy Instant Messenger as its default instant messaging client. The default filesystem is ext4, and the Ubuntu One client, which interfaces with Canonical’s new online storage system, is installed by default. It also debuted a new application called the Ubuntu Software Center that unifies package management. Canonical intends for this application to replace Add/Remove Programs (gnome-app-install) in 9.10 and possibly Synaptic, Software Sources, Gdebi and Update Manager in Ubuntu 10.04. Karmic Koala also includes a slideshow during the installation process (through ubiquity-slideshow) that highlights applications and features in Ubuntu.
Ubuntu 10.04 LTS (Lucid Lynx)
Ubuntu 10.04 (Lucid Lynx) was first announced at the Atlanta Linux Fest by Shuttleworth on 19 September 2009, and was released on 29 April 2010. It is Canonical’s 12th release of Ubuntu. Support for Ubuntu 10.04 will be provided by Canonical until April 2013 for the desktop version and April 2015 for the server version. The same dates apply to Kubuntu 10.04, which is built on KDE.
The new release includes, among other things, improved support for Nvidia proprietary graphics drivers, while switching to the open source Nvidia graphics driver, nouveau, by default. Plymouth was also introduced allowing boot animations.
GIMP was removed from the Lucid installation CD due to its professional-grade complexity and its file size. F-Spot provides normal user level graphics editing capabilities and GIMP remains available for download in the repositories.
The distribution emphasizes the new importance of web services and social networking with integrated interfaces for posting to sites like Facebook and Twitter, complementing the IM and email integration already in Ubuntu.
On 4 March 2010 it was announced that Lucid Lynx would feature a new theme, including new logos, taking Ubuntu’s new paradigm into account:
The new style in Ubuntu is inspired by the idea of “Light”.We’re drawn to Light because it denotes both warmth and clarity, and intrigued by the idea that “light” is a good value in software. Good software is “light” in the sense that it uses your resources efficiently, runs quickly, and can easily be reshaped as needed. Ubuntu represents a break with the bloatware of proprietary operating systems and an opportunity to delight to those who use computers for work and play. More and more of our communications are powered by light, and in future, our processing power will depend on our ability to work with light, too.
Visually, light is beautiful, light is ethereal, light brings clarity and comfort.
Historical perspective: From 2004–2010, the theme in Ubuntu was “Human”. Our tagline was “Linux for Human Beings” and we used a palette reflective of the full range of humanity. Our focus as a project was bringing Linux from the data center into the lives of our friends and global family.
Critical responses to the new theme have been mixed. Ars Technica’s Ryan Paul said “The new themes and updated color palette are nice improvement for Ubuntu… After testing the new theme for several hours, I feel like it’s a step forward, but it still falls a bit short of my expectations.” Paul also noted that the most controversial aspect of the new design amongst users has been the placement of the window control buttons on the left instead of the right side of the windows. TechSource’s Jun Auza expressed concern that the new theme is too close to that used by Apple’s Mac OS X: “I think Ubuntu is having an identity crisis right now and should seriously consider changing several things in terms of look and feel to avoid being branded as a Mac OS X rip-off, or worse, get sued by Apple.” Auza also summarized Ubuntu user feedback: “I believe the fans are divided right now. Some have learned to love the brown color scheme since it uniquely represents Ubuntu, while others wanted change.”
The first point release, 10.04.1, was released on 17 August 2010 and the second one, 10.04.2 is scheduled for 27 January 2011.
Ubuntu 10.10 (Maverick Meerkat)
The naming of Ubuntu 10.10 was announced by Mark Shuttleworth on 2 April 2010, along with the release’s goals of improving the netbook experience and a server focus on hybrid cloud computing. Ubuntu 10.10 was released on 10 October 2010 (10.10.10) at around 10:10 UTC. It is Canonical’s 13th release of Ubuntu. New features included the new Unity interface for the Netbook Edition, a new default photo manager, Shotwell, replacing F-Spot and an official Ubuntu font used by default. Maverick Meerkat 10.10 will be supported until April 2012.
Ubuntu 11.04 (Natty Narwhal)
The naming of Ubuntu 11.04 was announced on 17 August 2010 by Mark Shuttleworth. Its release is planned for 28 April 2011. Ubuntu Desktop will use theUnity user interface instead of GNOME Shell as default. The move to Unity is controversial as GNOME developers fear it will fracture the community and marginalize GNOME Shell.
Ubuntu 11.04 will use Banshee as the default music player, replacing Rhythmbox. Other new applications will include Mozilla Firefox 4 and LibreOffice, which will likely replace OpenOffice.org.
Starting with Ubuntu 11.04 the Ubuntu Netbook Edition has been merged into the desktop edition.
Version end of life
After each version of Ubuntu has reached its end-of-life time, its repositories are removed from the main Ubuntu servers and consequently the mirrors. Older versions of Ubuntu repositories can be found at old-releases.ubuntu.com.