What is Ubuntu?

What is Ubuntu?

In online discussions, you may have heard the term “Ubuntu” thrown around, often in the context of the discussion of alternatives to Windows. So what exactly is it and why do people choose to use it?

What is Ubuntu?

Ubuntu Desktop is a Linux distribution developed by Canonical and is one of the most popular distributions, due to its ease of use. It is also one of the best choices for people who are starting out with Linux. The server edition, which we will not focus on here, also works on most Internet servers.

So what is a Linux distribution? It is an operating system developed from the Linux kernel, a UNIX-like system created by Linus Torvalds in 1991. Linux distributions are generally free and open source, and many are great alternatives to popular operating systems such as Windows and macOS.

The Ubuntu Foundation was formed in 2004 by South African-British developer and entrepreneur Mark Shuttleworth. He wanted to create a more user-friendly Linux distribution than Debian, which was very popular with Linux users at the time. It was notoriously difficult to install, however, and the Ubuntu Foundation worked to remedy it.

Ubuntu GNOME desktop

Since Debian was (and still is) open source, Shuttleworth took it as the basis for its operating system and named it Ubuntu. The word Ubuntu means “humanity for others” and “I am what I am because of who we all are”.

Why do people use Ubuntu?

Let’s take a look at all the possible reasons why Ubuntu is worth trying.

Ease of use

As an operating system built to get beginners on the Linux train, Ubuntu does a great job of achieving the same result. While it looks significantly different to Windows and macOS, it has a shallow learning curve.

Ubuntu uses GNOME, one of the most popular desktop environments (DE) in the Linux world. Think of the DE as a painting on a canvas, the Linux kernel. GNOME is the place where you and your computer interact in an intuitive and visually appealing way.

Show applications in Ubuntu

However, GNOME isn’t the only desktop environment you can get with Ubuntu. Ubuntu is available in many variations called “flavors” which come with other desktop environments such as KDE, LXQt, MATE and Xfce. This gives newbies a lot of flexibility to try experimenting with different DEs and settle for the one they prefer, which makes Ubuntu a more flexible operating system.

Logos for all Ubuntu versions

In general, Ubuntu vanilla with GNOME would be enough for a beginner. If you have an older PC that struggles to run modern apps, however, you might want to try Ubuntu MATE, Lubuntu, or Xubuntu. If you are unable to decide which DE to choose, we have a guide for choosing between the different versions of Ubuntu.

You may have heard people claim that Linux is more secure than other operating systems and they generally refer to its open source nature and lack of Linux targeted viruses. When we say that an operating system or software is open source, the source code is open to anyone who can add code or make changes. Thousands of people and developers work together to fix problems and security holes.

However, there have been instances where Ubuntu has received a lot of backlash from the community. In Ubuntu 18.04, Canonical pushed Amazon apps and search tools into the operating system. Now, Amazon isn’t the most respected company when it comes to privacy, and the pre-installed Amazon store often suggests affiliate links to users to earn commissions. Although it has been removed in later versions of Ubuntu, some people still use older versions of Ubuntu and still have the apps installed.

Ubuntu can also collect hardware information (RAM, CPU, GPU), location data, and usage data. However, you can unsubscribe during the installation process or in settings once the installation is complete.

Ubuntu disables Location Services

Software and apps

The most popular apps available on Windows and macOS, such as Chrome, Slack, VSCode, Spotify, etc., are also available on Ubuntu. The operating system comes with its own store called “Ubuntu Software”, which allows you to search and install apps in just a few clicks. Even if you don’t find your favorite apps, you may come across their alternatives, which you may like the most.

Ubuntu Software Center home page

One of the drawbacks of using Ubuntu software is that it only allows you to install apps in Snap format. Snap installs have their advantages, but they tend to be slow and require large storage space compared to regular app installs. For this reason, some Linux users refuse to run Ubuntu.

But don’t worry, you’re not limited to using Snap only. Most of the popular apps available on Linux offer a DEB installation file. Think of DEB as equivalent to an EXE file on Windows or an AppImage file on macOS. All you need to do is download, double click to open it and click “Install”.

Some Ubuntu flavors are light

Ubuntu flavors like Ubuntu MATE, Xubuntu and Lubuntu are very light operating systems. If you have an old computer lying around collecting dust that can’t handle the latest version of Windows, you can install Ubuntu MATE and give it new life.

Ubuntu MATE desktop

GNOME is a modern DE heavy compared to the rest; so it needs more RAM to run smoothly. It needs at least 2GB of RAM to run smoothly, while the tastes discussed above require around 1GB.

Ubuntu is free to use

Ubuntu is a free and ad-free operating system, unlike Windows. If you’ve recently purchased a new PC that you intend to use for basic tasks, instead of purchasing a Windows license, you can try Ubuntu.

A great distribution to get familiar with Linux

While Ubuntu has some drawbacks when it comes to privacy and Snap, it’s an excellent operating system for people who are starting out with Linux. It is easy to install and can run most of the popular apps easily. That said, there are drawbacks to switching to Linux.

If you don’t like it, just like Ubuntu is Debian based, there are other Ubuntu based distros. One of the popular Ubuntu-based distributions is Pop! _OS. You can also try Linux Mint, which many people in the Linux community prefer over Ubuntu. Part of the reason Linux Mint is popular is that: it doesn’t come with Snap, and you can get Mint with the Cinnamon desktop environment that many people prefer over GNOME.

If you have decided to give Ubuntu a try, you can do a full installation or dual-boot it. Dual-booting allows you to run both Windows and Ubuntu on the same computer. Also, don’t forget to back up your data.

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