Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Ubuntu: African Software Gains Global Popularity

Original author: Gary Wilson, Business in Africa Online

Ubuntu is an African word that is one of the founding principles of the new South Africa, and it also is the name of a new computer operating system developed by South African Mark Shuttleworth and his company Canonical…

Ubuntu Linux calls itself the "Linux for human beings". In less than six months from its introduction in October 2004, Ubuntu Linux became the most popular Linux desktop distribution in the United States.
In July, PC World magazine named Ubuntu Linux one of its "100 Best Products of 2005". And it has won numerous other awards. A special version was developed by Hewlett-Packard for its laptop computers that are sold in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
Linux is a computer operating system, the software that makes a computer work. The operating system most commonly found on desktop computers in an office, at school or at home is Microsoft's Windows. The second most common desktop operating system is Apple's MacOS, which at 4.5% of the market in the United States is a distant second. Linux is third at about 3.5% of the desktop computers.

That's not insignificant though - it means that about one of every 28 computers in the United States is using Linux, and outside the US the figure is much bigger. Government agencies and local governments in Germany, Spain, Sweden Brazil and China have already changed from Windows to Linux. New Linux usage is picking up and its use on the desktop in the US is expected to reach six percent in 2007.

Free software

…Linux, unlike Windows or the MacOS, is software that is distributed under a Free Software Foundation license. The core of the operating system, called the kernel, is really the only part that of the system that is Linux. A Linux distribution takes that kernel and adds a great many additional software programs and utilities to make the whole system.

One common misunderstanding about Linux is to think that free software means that the work of developing it is being done for free. All the developers of the Linux operating system are being paid full-time wages. Most are employed by the giants of the computer industry like Hewlett-Packard and IBM. IBM alone has over 600 programmers working full-time on Linux development.
These corporations have chosen to be a part of the Linux development because some experts in the field of computer technology think that free, open source software can be more stable and secure than closed, proprietary systems.

Linux has convinced many that this can be true…
If you look underneath Ubuntu Linux, you'll find another name in Linux systems: Debian. Debian calls itself the "free software community" and its collection of Linux software emphasizes stability and security. Ubuntu Linux is actively part of that free software community. This has made it attractive to users in school systems, where having access to completely free software can make a difference.


Finally, Ubuntu Linux is successful because it has strong financial backing. In July, Mark Shuttleworth and Canonical set up the Ubuntu Foundation with US$10 million in financing. The money comes from Shuttleworth's deep pockets.

Shuttleworth came by his fortune by founding Thawte, a highly successful Internet security company that was an early seller of the digital certificates needed for online commerce. He sold the company for a reported US$575 million in 1999. After the sale, Shuttleworth spent US$20 million to be a space tourist on a Russian Soyuz rocket, spending eight days at the International Space Station orbiting Earth.

Back on land, he has put some of his fortune into developing Linux systems. His funding of the Ubuntu Foundation guarantees that Ubuntu Linux will have a stable future.

"The Ubuntu Foundation is a non-profit fund setup to ensure that a few core Ubuntu developers can be employed full-time for a few years, making good on commitments for long-term support for existing Ubuntu releases and also co-coordinating new Ubuntu releases," Shuttleworth told IPS in an email interview.

"So it allows people to be confident that Ubuntu won't go away, no matter what happens to me or to Canonical, the company behind Ubuntu."

Original article by Gary Wilson, Business In Africa Online