7 reasons why Ubuntu is so successful

Most people like it, many others don’t, the fact is that Ubuntu is the king of Linux distributions right now – and for some very good reasons. Below I will attempt to identify those reasons that made Ubuntu the most popular distribution and explain why its success was “inevitable”.

1) A good start: Ubuntu started with a strong background. It wasn’t “yet another” distribution, it was a distribution that had a vision and enough people and money behind it to support that vision.

2) Easy and straightforward installation: From the text-based installer of the first few versions, to the point&click installer of today, ubuntu always had a very straightforward and simple installation. Every step of the installer was explained in a short, yet clear manner that made it easy for everyone to follow the steps of the installation proccedure (almost) regardless of their experience with computers.

3) ShipIt: Sharing “official” CD’s with the Ubuntu logo increased the trust of users towards the distribution and made it much easier for users on slow connections to try it. People could now give away several CD’s to their friends and coworkers which made the general adoption of Linux much faster.

4) Synaptic: If you ask a first-time Ubuntu user to tell you what impressed them most, chances are that the answer will be “synaptic”. Indeed, this application brought APT much closer to the average user and made program installation in Linux a lot easier. Users didn’t have to search for RPMs or worry that they might needed to deal with dependancies, compile from source etc, synaptic solved everything using a very simple interface. When the first versions of Ubuntu came out, the only thing that could be compared to the flexibility and ease of use of APT and Synaptic was Fedora’s YUM, but unfortunately at that time Fedora didn’t have a good front-end for YUM (although Synaptic could be used with YUM, it was not nearly as easy to set up as synaptic and Ubuntu were).

5) Ubuntu forums/Community: The Ubuntu community was, and still is one of the most important factors that promote the growth of Ubuntu. The forums are very active and old users are very friendly and patient towards newcomers. Maybe it has to do with the philosophy of “Ubuntu”…

6) User promotion: Ubuntu is based heavily on the promotion it receives from it’s users. Nearly every person who uses Ubuntu today has beed advised to try it by someone else who had tried it before them and so on. This, combined with the strong influence of Ubuntu to the internet forums related to GNU/Linux, has led to a major increase in it’s adoption .

7) Fragmented competitors: When Ubuntu started it’s “march to glory” there were three “big” distributions, SuSE, Mandriva, and Fedora. Debian and Slackware were popular but were not very appealling to newbies (Debian still had a text based installer…). All of the “big three” were not at their best when Ubuntu came out and started gathering users. SuSE had recently been bought by Novell and was still undergoing internal reconstructions, Mandriva has in the middle of a severe financial crisis, and Fedora was just at FC2 which wasn’t nearly as easy as it now is. This “fragmentation” (or “decay of the distribution maket” if you like) helped many users make the decision to switch to Ubuntu.

There are definately many other reasons why Ubuntu managed to get to the top, and stay there, but making a complete analysis is not within the purposes of this post. Highlighting some of the points that made Ubuntu what it is today, is.

Till next time, keep drinking coffee ;-)

LINKS:
Ubuntu | ShipIt | Synaptic | Wikipedia Article – Synaptic | Wikipedia Article – APT | Wikipedia Article – RPM | Ubuntu Forums | Fedora | OpenSuSE | Mandriva | Debian | Slackware | Wikipedia Article – Linux Distribution |

The GNU Hurd

Most Linux users out there, think that their whole system is named just “Linux” (or perhaps the distribution name). For a large number of reasons, which I do not intend to analyze in this post, this is not, and should not be the case. The actual name is GNU/Linux since only the Linux Kernel is “Linux” and the rest of the system (including some vital parts such as glibc or GCC) are parts of the GNU Operating System. Linux was chosen as the kernel for the GNU system at a time when the GNU project had a nearly working operating system, which however lacked a working kernel (although an initial implementation of the Hurd existed).

The GNU Hurd, is a kernel designed and maintained by the GNU project. According to the GNU website, the kernel is “not ready for production use”, it is however a very interesting attempt to replace the Unix kernel and may soon provide an alternative to the Linux kernel for the GNU Operating System. The word HURD is an acronym that stands for “HIRD of Unix-Replacing Daemons”, and HIRD is also an acronym that stands for “HURD of Interfaces Representing Depth”, making it a co-recursive acronym. As Thomas Bushnell, BSG, comments at the official Hurd website “We have here, to my knowledge, the first software to be named by a pair of mutually recursive acronyms”.

A main difference between the Linux Kernel and the GNU Hurd, is that while Linux is a monolithic kernel, the Hurd is a microkernel (actually it uses the GNU Mach microkernel). This might seem like a little and unimportant detail to the average user but someone with enough knowledge and experience can understand the fundamental differences of these kernel implementations. Both architectures have advantages and disadvantages and for the time being the only truly well-tested implementation is the Linux kernel, but if the Hurd finally manages to reach a stable level, we might experience a growth similar to the one that made Linux the mature, stable kernel it is.

Not being stable and fast enough (yet), makes Hurd unsuitable for use in production systems. This is mainly the reason why there are very limited distributions that use Hurd as their kernel (actually there are only two, the Bee GNU/Hurd and the Debian GNU/Hurd). This lack of distributions has kept Hurd outside the “OS wars” and thus limited its target group to developers and very experienced *nix users.

This post was written for two reasons: one is to raise awareness about the existence of the GNU Hurd kernel and maybe bring it to the attention of people who want to help with its development. The second is to let anyone who reads this blog (if any :p) know that just because the blog’s name is “Linux4Coffee” it doesn’t mean that we won’t deal with any other computer-related subject.

Keep drinking coffee ;-)

LINKS:
GNU Hurd | Wikipedia Article – GNU Hurd | Wikipedia Article – GNU Mach | Wikipedia Article – Monolithic kernel | Wikipedia Article – Microkernel | GNU Hurd Information | Debian GNU/Hurd | Bee GNU/Hurd |

Restoring the GNU Grub

This is a post I had written in an old blog that I abandoned a long time ago. I re-publish it here to help everyone who might have a problem trying to restore grub.

Have you ever found yourself locked out of a Windows installation and had to reinstall them? If so, you have probably noticed that Windows restores the NTLDR (the NT bootloader) to the MBR and Grub disappears. In order to regain access to your GNU/Linux distribution you have to re-install grub and that can be confusing since nearly 1 out of 2 guides out there WILL NOT work (at least not the way they should)…

This happened to me just yesterday and the (manual) steps I describe below worked fine. Enough with the talking, let’s start.

There are two easy ways to reinstall/restore Grub: either automatically or manually.

The automatic way: Super Grub Disk is a LiveCD-based solution for restoring grub via a user-friendly interface. After a couple of minutes you will be asked to reboot and grub will be restored, simply and easily. This solution worked for many people I know but not for me, so I used the manual way which I describe just below.

The manual way:

  1. Get yourself a small LiveCD, I personally used Slax standard edition 5.1.8.1 but any LiveCD should do just fine.
  2. Boot using the LiveCD and mount the partition containing your distribution (if it hasn’t been already mounted by the LiveCD distro)
  3. Open a terminal window, gain root access, and type: “chroot /mnt/hd??” OR “chroot /media/hd??” where the first “?” stands for the hard disk letter and the second “?” stands for the partition number. Note that some distributions use “/media” for mounting drives, so check both “/mnt” and “/media” before attempting to manually mount the partition. If you don’t know which is the distribution partition (e.g. If you have multiple distros installed) then just navigate to the directories you mounted on the previous step until you determine which is the right one.
  4. Type “grub“, a message saying “Probing devices to guess BIOS drives” should appear, just wait for a couple of minutes and soon you will see the grub prompt (it looks like “grub> _”)
  5. Type “find /boot/grub/stage1“. The result will be like “(hd0,5)” or perhaps “(hd0)”. Keep this in mind because it is a key-text for the next steps.
  6. Type “root (hd?,?)“, replace the question marks with what the output of the command above was.
  7. Now we are ready to install grub, select one of the following options depending on the place you want to install grub:
    • If you want to install grub on the MBR (recommended for most installations) type “setup (hd?)” where “?” is the result BEFORE the comma that command in step 5 returned
    • If you know what you are doing and want to install it on a separate partition, type “setup (hd?,?)” where the first “?” stands for the pre-comma output of the command of step 5 and the second “?” stands for the partition number.
  8. Type “quit” to exit the grub prompt
  9. Reboot the computer and remove the LiveCD, grub should now appear

LINKS:
GNU GRUB | Wikipedia Article – GNU GRUB | Wikipedia Article – NTLDR | Wikipedia Article – Master Boot Record (MBR) | Super Grub Disk | Slax |

Linux4Coffee

This blog is a GNU/Linux blog, it deals with pretty much everything in the free software world.

And Remember, drink lots of coffee ;-)

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