Ubuntu 101


I recently volunteered for an LUG installfest. It was a deeply satisfying, almost spiritual experience, watching some hundred-odd people switching over to the Linux way of doing things. One of my friends overheard me explaining its merits and advantages to a junior, and he said I'd make a great Linux salesperson. (I'm not sure how one sells something that's free of cost, but that's another issue) But this provided an impetus that this blog required, so you'll find loads of linux tips, tutorials throughout. Most of them will be specific to Ubuntu-based distros, since it's the most widely used. So here goes my first ever blogpost, an introduction into the world of Linux. Happy Reading !
What is GNU/Linux ?
Linux is an open-source operating system kernel, originally created by a Finnish programmer, Linus Torvalds. The term 'Open Source' refers to the source code of the operating system being freely available for anyone to use, modify and redistribute. (The source code is the set of instructions that dictate how a program functions) GNU, a recursive acronymfor GNU's Not Unix, is a an open source project by Richard Stallman, that has been instrumental in providing numerous software libraries and applications that, together with the Linux kernel, form a complete operating system. (GNU/Linux is commonly shortened to just Linux, much to the displeasure of many open source purists.) Any use of the term 'Linux' should be understood to refer to 'GNU/Linux' as a whole.
Then what is Ubuntu ?
Since the linux kernel is baiscally a bunch of text files, most people wouldn't know what to do with it, let alone use it as a computing platform. In order to overcome this, many organizations and individuals came forward and compiled the source code along with some application software and a few other embellishments, into a ready-to-use package called a "distribution" (or a distro). Ubuntu is one such distro, amongst hundreds of others. The main reason behind Ubuntu's popularity has been accredited to it's ease of use - and rightly so since it attempts to take linux to the masses. So in a nutshell, Ubuntu is an operating system aimed at the masses, which makes use of the linux kernel.
How is it different from Windows ?
Ubuntu is VERY different from Windows in almost every perceivable way. Built around the twin philosophies of free software and ease of use, Ubuntu provides a highly flexible and highly customizable user experience, vastly different from the average Windows install. Every thing from installing / removing software, to configuring and customizing the system to suite your taste can be acheived with relative ease. Besides, the concept of software piracy is largely absent since (and I quote) "Ubuntu is, and always will be, absolutely free". I could go on and on comparing the two, but the fact remains that both remain starkly different from one another, with different objectives. I'll try and highlight the difference between the two whenever it crops up, so more on this later.

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