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90. Ubuntu

By Andrew D. Wright

Ubuntu Linux is what you get when you combine an age-old African philosophy for humanity caring for each other in harmony with creation with the Open Source software movement.

Based on the long-running Debian Linux distribution, Ubuntu Linux seeks to make an easy to use, stable, secure and totally free Operating system that will run on Intel/AMD PCs, Mac PowerPCs, and Sun UltraSPARC T1 computers.

Like Knoppix Linux, featured in this column back in March, Ubuntu Linux has a live CD that enables a user to boot up directly into the Ubuntu operating system. Ubuntu can be operated from the CD, installed permanently, or used to set up a new computer with an unformatted hard drive.

Ubuntu comes in 32 bit and 64 bit varieties and uses the GNOME desktop environment. A variation called Kubuntu is available using the KDE desktop.

More than 16,000 different programs are available for Ubuntu including web browsers, email programs and Open Source office applications.

The Ubuntu user interface has been designed to be simple to use with drop down menus that have been kept uncluttered to minimize new user confusion.

As a result of this lean design approach and extended array of free available options, Ubuntu Linux is a very good solution for every tech support person's ongoing travail: providing free after-hours tech support to family and friends, especially older family and friends.

Viruses, malware and exploits targetting vulnerabilities in Microsoft Windows are harmless to Linux. Viruses written for Linux are very few and far between and it is much more difficult for a Linux computer to get infected because of restricted user privileges which protect system files. In general there is also much less of a tendency to run untrusted programs than in the Windows environment.

Ubuntu is updated on a regular schedule with the next release, Edgy Eft, scheduled to come out in October. Individual programs are updated all the time and updates can be applied using an easy to find menu item.

Ubuntu Linux is fast becoming the most popular of the many Linux distributions, this past year winning top ranking in several polls of Linux users.

Setup on most computers is problem free though some command line configuration may be necessary on a few systems to recognize some hardware not found in the automatic setup. Hard drives formatted by other operating systems like Windows need to be mounted manually to be accessible.

After this initial setup, operating an Ubuntu equipped computer is virtually trouble free with system halts and crashes being extremely rare.

Ubuntu Linux is the brainchild of noted South African Mark Shuttleworth, a former Debian Linux developer who became very wealthy anticipating the need for internet security services. Thawte, the company he founded in 1995 to provide digital certificates to secure internet commerce, had about 50% of the market when it was sold to competitor VeriSign in 1999 for $575 million US.

Shuttleworth is also noted for paying $20 million to become the first African citizen in space.

Ubuntu Linux CD images are free to download from the Ubuntu website and can be burned to disk with any CD burning program.

The Mousepad runs every two weeks. It's a service of Chebucto Community Net, a community-owned Internet provider. If you have a question about computing, email or click here. If we use your question in a column, we'll send you a free mousepad.


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Originally published 13 August 2006


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