We will always write so that those who have no computer background can understand. The information below is organized in sections to allow advanced users to skip over material they already know.
Many people who have used computers for years or even decades may be familiar with common terminology without truly knowing what it means or how it all fits together. It is not absolutely necessary to know any of this; however, I find that understanding the big picture helps me to learn new subjects faster. Read on for hardware, software, operating systems, Linux, and Ubuntu.
- PC – short for Personal Computer – either desktop (larger and stationary) or laptop (portable).
- Computer hardware – the physical parts of your computer. See Basic Computer Hardware Components for more detail.
- Peripherals – Extra hardware devices you attach to your PC such as a printer, mouse, keyboard, scanner, joystick, or external storage devices.
- Software – the instructions that control what your hardware does – also called system software or software programs. Often also used when applications or application program is more accurate.
- Application or Software Programs – collections of programming instructions used by your computer to do specific tasks. System software programs control the actions of your computer while application programs perform actions directly for the end user (you) or another application. For example, they allow us to view Web sites (using a Web browser program), write a letter (using a Word Processing Program), create a spreadsheet, and so on.
- Open Source Software – software usually developed by placing the “source code” in a public venue where many can contribute to development and the end product is free software for anyone to use.
- Source Code – the program language used to create software or the completed (or in-process) program code that controls what a software program can do.
- Operating System – the management program that controls the other programs and hardware on a PC or personal computer.
- GUI – the “graphical user interface” that allows you to use a mouse to point and click at graphics to control what your computer does. The Windows “GUI” is what made it easier for new users to learn to use computers.(All computers have either DOS or a type of UNIX running under what the user sees.)
- Unix – a family of operating systems which includes Linux, AIX (IBM’s version), HP-UX, Solaris, etc.
- Linux – Linux is the variety of Unix that serves as the free base operating system on which complete systems such as Ubuntu are built.
- GNU aka GNU/Linux – the Linux operating system used by many Linux distributions.
- Linux distribution – an operating system based on Linux which include a customized GUI and preloaded and configured applications to make it easier to use. Ubuntu is one of the most common Linux distributions .
- Linux distro – short for Linux distribution
- Kernel – the core of an operating system. The kernel is what allows your software programs to direct what the hardware in your computer does. Ubuntu uses the Linux kernel.
- Linux Kernel – a core operating system based on Linux. All Linux distributions share the same Linux kernel.
(To understand Ubuntu see also the definitions under Linux immediately above.)
- Ubuntu – considered by many to be easiest to learn for new computer users and those already familiar with Windows or Macs, Ubuntu is an Open Source operating system based on Debian GNU/Linux
- Debian aka Debian GNU/Linux – the core Linux distribution upon which Ubuntu is built. Most Linux distros are based on either Debian or Fedora (formerly known as Red Hat).
- Gnome – the GUI desktop used by the developers of Ubuntu. It controls what you see when you turn on your computer. Gnome is an acronym for GNU Network Object Model Environment. (Ubuntu 8.04 Hardy Heron comes with Gnome as the default.)
- Shell aka Linux shell – hopefully Ubuntu users will not need to understand how to use a Linux shell.
Understanding how all these terms fit together can be confusing when you read the help files or online information about Ubuntu. Here is the synopsis:
Ubuntu is built on the Gnome GUI desktop which uses the Debian distribution of the Linux kernel.
The latest version of Ubuntu is 8.04 called Hardy Heron. The previous version was 7.10 called Gutsy Gibbon.
- What IS the Difference Between Ubuntu, Kbuntu, Xubuntu, Edubuntu?
- Gnome versus KDE
- GNU / Linux Distributions that include and only propose free software
- Free Software Directory
- NEW: Linux Tips and Tricks – understanding folder layouts, KDE or Gnome, shell usage, commands and other advanced skills