Linux is basically an open-source, usually free, operating system that can be installed on almost any computer system. Macs, Win-tels, AMD, Motorola, Symbian, and even your spanking new Playstation 3 can all run with Linux. Many of us take for granted that our OS comes with a wide variety of additional applications. If you understand that these apps are not a part of the actual operating system, you’re on the right track. Also, the OS is separated into the kernel, the libraries, the windowing environment, and the desktop.
To help you understand, I’ll use an automobile as an analogy. The kernel is like the unibody, it supplies the structure that everything sets upon. The libraries are the electrical system, providing a unified power source to nearly every system within the modern vehicle. The windowing environment is like the seating, it keeps you focused and pointing in the right direction. The desktop embodies the ergonomics of the interior’s design, it gives you access to all the tools you need to operate effectively and efficiently. Not a complete analogy, but it should point you in the right direction.
Ubuntu is a distribution of Linux. Basically, a group publishes a package of the kernel, libraries, other software tools, a windowing system, and a desktop environment. Then they throw in all the extra apps you’ll probably want. What’s real cool is that they make is close to a “double-click install” as possible. Someone finally figured out that main stream western culture was not going to embrace an alternative operating system that took them more than 10 hours to get working correctly with all of their hardware. Most already settle for 9 hours, with a MS Windows system, I guess they have a limit. Of course Mac users weren’t even considering it because they feared the text-based terminal.
The Ubuntu distro is quickly becoming a leader within the small community of viable alternatives to Windows and OSX.
In future posts, I’ll review some of the apps I select to replace apps from my current setup.