Ubuntu is a free operating system based on Debian GNU/Linux. Its name comes from the Zulu word "ubuntu", loosely translated as "humanity", describing the ubuntu philosophy: "A person is a person only through other people". Ubuntu's goals include providing an up-to-date, stable operating system for the average user, with a strong focus on usability and ease of installation. Ubuntu has been rated as the most popular Linux distribution for the desktop,claiming approximately 30% of desktop Linux installations in a survey.

Ubuntu is free and open source, meaning that not only is it distributed without charge, it may also be freely improved upon. Ubuntu is sponsored by UK based company Canonical Ltd, which is owned by South African entrepreneur Mark Shuttleworth. Instead of selling Ubuntu itself, Canonical makes money by selling paid support for Ubuntu. By keeping Ubuntu free and open, Canonical is able to leverage the talents of outside developers willing to contribute rather than having to do all development within the company itself.

Canonical endorses and provides support for four Linux distributions closely tied to Ubuntu:

Ubuntu releases new versions every six months, and supports those releases for 18 months with daily security fixes and patches to critical bugs. LTS (Long Term Support) releases, which occur every two years, are supported for three years for desktops and five years for servers.The current version of Ubuntu, Intrepid Ibex, was released on October 30, 2008.

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