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What else can I do with Ubuntu?

By now, you should be able to use your Ubuntu desktop for all your daily activities suc as browsing the web and editing documents. But you may be interested in learning about other versions of Ubuntu that you can integrate into your digital lifestyle. In this chapter, we'll provide you with more detail about versions of Ubuntu that are specialized for certain tasks. To do this, we'll first discuss the technologies that make Ubuntu a powerful collection of software.

Open Source software

Ubuntu is open source software. Simply put, open source software is software whose source code isn't owned exclusively by any one person, group, or organization, but is instead made freely available for download. ^is makes Ubuntu different from proprietary software which requires users to purchase licenses before they are able to use the software on their computers. Microsoft Windows and Adobe Photoshop are examples of proprietary software.

Computer users can share and distribute open source software without fear of breaking intellectual property laws. ^ey can also modify open source software to suit their individual needs, improve it, or translate it into other languages. Because open source software is developed by large communities of programmers distributed throughout the globe, it benefits from rapid development cycles and speedy security releases (in the event that someone discovers bugs in the software). In other words, open source software is updated, enhanced, and made more secure every day as programmers all over the world continue to improve it.

Aside from these technical advantages, open source software also has economic benefits. Most open source programs cost nothing to obtain or run. Users needn't purchase a license to run Ubuntu, for example.

To learn more about open source software, see the Open Source Initiative's open source definition, available at http://www.opensource.org/docs/ definition.php.

Distribution families

Ubuntu is one of several popular operating systems based on Linux (an open source operating system). While other versions of Linux, or "distributions,"

The source code of a program is the files that have been written to make the program.

Proprietary software is software that cannot be copied, modified, or distributed freely.

142 GETTING STARTED WITH UBUNTU 10.04

may look different from Ubuntu at first glance, they share similar characteristics because of their common roots.

Linux distributions can be divided into two broad families: the Debian family and the Red Hat family. Each family is named for a distribution on which subsequent distributions are based. For example, "Debian" refers to both the name of a distribution as well as the family of distributions derived from Debian. Ubuntu is part of the Debian family of distributions, as are Linux Mint, Xandros, and Crunchbang Linux. Distributions in the Red Hat family include Fedora, OpenSUSE, and Mandriva.

^e most significant difference between Debian-based and Red Hat-based distributions is the system eac uses for installing and updating software. ^ese systems are called "package management systems." Debian software packages are deb files, while Red Hat software packages are rpm files. For more information about package management, see Chapter 5: Software Management.

You will also find distributions that have been specialized for certain tasks Next, we'll describe these versions of Ubuntu and explain the uses for which eac has been developed.

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