Ubuntu is a community-developed, free, open-source, Linux-based operating system. The name, which comes from an African philosophy, means 'Humanity to others', or 'I am what I am because of who we all are'. It is supported by the company, Canonical, is released for free, every 6 months, with a long-term support (LTS) version being released every 2 years. The distribution is largely based on Debian, but is increasingly deviating from it every new release.
Ubuntu has traditionally been used on PCs, but is also running on servers. More than 20 million people today prefer Ubuntu to commercial alternatives.
Ubuntu comes by default with many useful programs, including LibreOffice, Mozilla Firefox, and (new in version 9.10) Ubuntu One, a free online data backup service. Ubuntu also offers users the Ubuntu Software Center, which allows them to easily download many free programs, ranging from solitaire games to Integrated Development Environments. It has an increasing number of device drivers which allow it to run on most computers. While installing Ubuntu has traditionally required burning the program image to a CD-ROM, a program called Wubi allows people to install it from inside their current operating system, just like a normal program.
Since the release of version 11.04 (April 2011), Ubuntu has been using Canonical's unique Unity desktop environment, which was designed to be usable on different devices. It was met with criticism among power users for being non-customizable and prone to bugs, but great improvements have been made since then.
Ubuntu is written by Canonical Ltd., a company owned by Mark Shuttleworth, a South African entrepreneur. The first version, called Warty Warthog, was released in October 2004. Since then, Canonical has released a new version of Ubuntu every six months. The current version, Precise Pangolin, can be downloaded for free from the Ubuntu website.
It is difficult to measure how many people use Ubuntu, because anyone can freely redistribute copies. However, it has become very popular for low-cost netbook computers.
Ubuntu Specialized Edition
Ubuntu also offers many other variants of its primary operating system, the most popular being Edubuntu, a version specifically designed for educational use, Lubuntu, a lightweight version for low power computers, such as notebooks, and the other GUI versions, like Kubuntu (KDE), and Xubuntu (Xfce). A phone version of the OS, based on Android's version of the Linux kernel, is in works currently.