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Ubuntu is a GNU/Linux distribution that is based on the Debian GNU/Linux distribution. The current version of Ubuntu is 9.10 with the next version (10.04) expected on 4/29/2010. Ubuntu is maintained by a South African company named Canonical. There are several variants of Ubuntu that are available: the desktop version, the server version, and a more recent netbook edition. So the question right away becomes which of these do you need? The answer should be fairly simple and for most people it would probably be the desktop variant. In any case, it is recommended that you first try out the desktop variant before you go to the server version, especially for a Linux newbie.
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Which variant/version should I use?
Canonical also supports a number of Ubuntu derivatives (GNU/Linux versions based on Ubuntu with specific features) such as: Xubuntu – a lightweight distribution (this is something to consider for the first-time user); Kubuntu – an Ubuntu distribution using KDE instead of GNOME (basically what this means is that the GUI and look-and-feel will be different); Edubuntu – educational use; etc. Again, the recommendation is to stick with the base version for now.
Choosing between the netbook and desktop version is easy- you just pick the version according to the computer upon which you are installing Ubuntu. For laptops, the desktop version should be chosen. The server edition is a boosted-up version of the desktop version and has a number of server functionalities pre-installed. For the most part, as a beginner, you will not need this functionality. And remember that as and when you need such functionality you can either upgrade to the server edition or selectively upgrade specific features of the Ubuntu OS through a package manager. The same is true for additional functionality of any other (non-server) kind.
This is actually one of the many benefits of using a Linux system in that the package manager is a convenient way of adding features to the OS. In most cases, packages that are available through the package manager are also ones that have been verified and so installing those is relatively risk-free. Ubuntu system requirements will vary somewhat with the variant you use.
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Following are the Ubuntu system requirements.
Ubuntu runs on:
- x86 and compatible processors
- 64-bit AMD and 64-bit Intel processors
- Sun UltraSPARC
- G3 or higher PowerPC
Requirements are for a 300 MHz or higher processor, with 700 MHz or higher being preferred.
Minimum requirement is for 64MB, but 384MB or higher is recommended.
Hard Disk Space
For a full installation at least 4GB hard disk or SSD space is recommended. It is possible to install a reduced version at 1.5GB, but this is not recommended for beginners, since the out-of-the-box installation should be the preferred mode. Obviously you want additional space so that you can install additional packages, as well as save files. How much you will need is up to you, but Ubuntu recommends that you have at least an additional 4GB at the time of installation.
There is a little bit of leeway here, because this does depend on what you need specifically, generally a VGA card capable of 640x480 resolution is enough, anything better is preferable. These days 1024x768 should be pretty standard.
A CD-ROM or DVD-drive is pretty much a given, because that is probably how you are going to install the system. An Ethernet card is always good to have. As for Wireless, here is where you’ll have to do a little bit of research to get your existing wireless card to work with Ubuntu. The Ubuntu Wiki lists all supported Wireless cards. You can very easily buy cheap used wireless cards that are known to work with Ubuntu on EBay. I have first hand bought such cards for under $10 including shipping. Most current sound cards should work automatically. For specific issues, getting certain hardware to work, you can always look up forums online.