Ubuntu Unleashed 2017 Edition (2017)
Part I: Getting Started
Chapter 2. Background Information and Resources
In This Chapter
What is Linux?
Why Use Linux?
What is Ubuntu?
Ubuntu for Business
Ubuntu in Your Home
Getting the Most from Ubuntu and Linux Documentation
Ubuntu Developers and Documentation
Websites and Search Engines
Internet Relay Chat
As with any new thing, it’s worthwhile finding out a bit about its history. Ubuntu is no different, and in this chapter you learn a little more about where Linux (and Ubuntu) came from. Additionally, this chapter gives you resources to help you learn more on your own.
What Is Linux?
Linux is the core, or kernel, of a free operating system first developed and released to the world by Linus Benedict Torvalds in 1991. Torvalds, then a graduate student at the University of Helsinki, Finland, is now a Fellow at the Linux Foundation (www.linuxfoundation.org/). He is an engineer and previously worked for the CPU design and fabrication company Transmeta, Inc. before leaving in 2003 to work for Open Source Development Labs (ODSL), a consortium created by many high-tech companies to support Linux development and which has enabled him to focus on the Linux kernel full time. Fortunately for all Linux users, Torvalds chose to distribute Linux under a free software license named the GNU General Public License (GPL).
The free online resource Wikipedia has a great biography of Linus Torvalds that examines his life and notable achievements. You can find it at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linus_Torvalds.
The GNU GPL is the brainchild of Richard M. Stallman, the founder of the Free Software Foundation. Stallman, the famous author of the Emacs editing environment and GCC compiler system, crafted the GPL to ensure that software that used the GPL for licensing would always be free and available in source-code form. The GPL is the guiding document for Linux and its ownership, distribution, and copyright. Torvalds holds the rights to the Linux trademark, but thanks to a combination of his generosity, the Internet, thousands of programmers around the world, GNU software, and the GNU GPL, Linux will remain forever free and unencumbered by licensing or royalty issues.
Distribution Version and Kernel Numbering Schema
There is a numbering system for Linux kernels, kernel development, and Ubuntu’s kernel versions. Note that these numbers bear no relation to the version number of your Ubuntu Linux distribution. Ubuntu distribution version numbers are assigned by the Ubuntu developers, whereas most of the Linux kernel version numbers are assigned by Linus Torvalds and his legion of kernel developers.
To see the date your Linux kernel was compiled, use the uname command with its -v command-line option. To see the version of your Linux kernel, use the -r option. The numbers, such as 4.4.0-2s-generic, represent the major version (4), minor version (4), and patch level (0). The final number (22-generic) is the developer patch level and in our context is what is assigned by the Ubuntu developers.
Even minor numbers are considered “stable” and fit for use in production environments. You will find only stable versions of the Linux kernel included with this book. You can choose to download and install a beta (test) version of the kernel, but this is not recommended for a system destined for everyday use. When used, beta kernels are installed by developers to test support of new hardware or operating system features.
Linux, pronounced “lih-nucks,” is free software. Combining the Linux kernel with GNU software tools—drivers, utilities, user interfaces, and other software such as the X.Org Foundation’s X Window System—creates a Linux distribution. There are many different Linux distributions from different vendors, but many derive from or closely mimic the Debian Linux distribution, on which Ubuntu is founded.
Debian lists several dozen other Linux distributions are based on Debian Linux, see: www.debian.org/misc/children-distros
While it is really the kernel itself that is most appropriately referred to as “Linux,” colloquial language uses the term to refer to more than just the kernel. Most people who say they “use Linux” are referring to, at a minimum, a suite of software that includes several things. I have listed some of the more necessary ones here in the order in which they are loaded into your computer’s memory during the boot cycle, after your computer’s BIOS or UEFI firmware, which was included by the manufacturer of the motherboard and which runs from where it is stored on the motherboard, has run to get things started:
A bootloader, like GRUB2, which is described in Chapter 1, “Installing Ubuntu and Post-Installation Configuration”
The Linux kernel, which is described in Chapter 22, “Kernel and Module Management”
Daemons, which are background processes that the system itself runs to perform tasks like logging or listening for attempted network connections and so on; daemons may be more easily understood as programs that are not run or invoked directly by a user, but which lie dormant until any of a specific set of conditions occurs
The Shell, which is a command processor that most people know best because it is what they see when they login to the terminal; the shell is described in Chapter 14, “Automating Tasks and Shell Scripting”
Shell utilities, such as most of the commands in Chapter 10, “Command-Line Beginner’s Class,” Chapter 11, “Command-Line Master Class Part 1,” and Chapter 12, “Command-Line Master Class Part 2”
A graphical server, such as the X Server, which is described in Chapter 3, “Working with Unity”
A desktop environment, such as Unity, which is also described in Chapter 3, “Working with Unity,” and others such as those discussed in Chapter 7, “Other Ubuntu Interfaces”
Desktop software, such as web browsers, office suites, media players, games, and so on
A Linux distribution, like Ubuntu, collects all of these together, packages them, and makes them available to end users as a convenient set.
Why Use Linux?
Millions of clever computer users have been putting Linux to work for more than 20 years. Over the past year, many individuals, small office/home office (SOHO) users, businesses and corporations, colleges, nonprofits, and government agencies (local, state, and federal) in a number of countries have incorporated Linux with great success. And, today, Linux is being incorporated into many information service/information technology (IS/IT)environments as part of improvements in efficiency, security, and cost savings. Using Linux is a good idea for a number of reasons, including the following:
Linux provides an excellent return on investment (ROI)—There is little or no cost on a per-seat basis. Unlike commercial operating systems, Linux has no royalty or licensing fees, and a single Linux distribution on CD-ROM or network shared folder can form the basis of an enterprise-wide software distribution, replete with applications and productivity software. Custom corporate CD-ROMs can be easily crafted or network shares can be created to provide specific installs on enterprise-wide hardware. This feature alone can save hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars in IS/IT costs—all without the threat of a software audit from the commercial software monopoly or the need for licensing accounting and controls of base operating system installations.
Linux can be put to work on the desktop—Linux, in conjunction with its supporting graphical networking protocol and interface (the X Window System), has worked well as a consumer UNIX-like desktop operating system since the mid-1990s. The fact that UNIX is ready for the consumer desktop is now confirmed with the introduction, adoption, and rapid maturation of Apple Computer BSD UNIX—based on Mac OS X—supported, according to Apple, by more than 3,000 Mac OS X-specific programs that are known as native applications. This book’s disc contains more than 800 software packages, including Internet connection utilities, games, a full office suite, many fonts, and hundreds of graphics applications.
Linux can be put to work as a server platform—Linux is fast, secure, stable, scalable, and robust. The latest versions of the Linux kernel easily support multiple-processor computers, large amounts of system memory, individual file sizes in excess of hundreds of gigabytes, a choice of modern journaling file systems, hundreds of process monitoring and control utilities, and the (theoretical) capability to simultaneously support more than four billion users. IBM, Oracle, and other major database vendors all have versions of their enterprise software available for Linux.
Linux has a low entry-and-deployment cost barrier—Maintenance costs can also be reduced because Linux works well on a variety of PCs. Although the best program performance will be realized with newer hardware, base installs can even be performed on lower-end computers or embedded devices. This feature provides for a much wider user base; extends the life of older working hardware; and can help save money for home, small business, and corporate users.
Linux appeals to a wide audience in the hardware and software industry—Versions of Linux exist for nearly every CPU. Embedded-systems developers now turn to Linux when crafting custom solutions using ARM, MIPS, and other low-power processors on platforms like Raspberry Pi. Linux is also available for Intel’s Itanium CPU, as well as the AMD64 group of CPUs.
Linux provides a royalty-free development platform for cross-platform development—Because of the open-source development model and availability of free, high-quality development tools, Linux provides a low-cost entry point to budding developers and tech industry start-ups.
Big-player support in the computer hardware industry from such titans as IBM now lends credibility to Linux as a viable platform—IBM has enabled Linux on the company’s entire line of computers, from low-end laptops through “Big Iron” mainframes. New corporate customers are lining up and using Linux as part of enterprise-level computing solutions. It has been used on some of the world’s fastest computers. Companies like HP and Dell also certify Linux across a large portion of their hardware offerings.
Look forward to even more support as usage spreads worldwide throughout all levels of business in search of lower costs, better performance, and stable and secure implementations.
What Is Ubuntu?
Ubuntu is an operating system based on the Linux kernel; created, improved, refined, and distributed by the Ubuntu Community at www.ubuntu.com/. Ubuntu, sponsored by Canonical Ltd. (www.canonical.com), is an open-source project supported by a worldwide community of software developers.
Ubuntu is one of the newer Linux distributions currently available today, having released its first version in October 2004. It quickly gained a reputation for ease of installation and use, combined with the slightly wacky code names given to each release. However, Ubuntu itself is based on Debian, which is a much older distribution steeped in respect from the wider Linux community. Ubuntu describes Debian as being the rock on which it is founded, and this is a good way to describe the relationship between the two.
Sponsored by Canonical Software and with the formidable resources of Mark Shuttleworth, Ubuntu got off to a great start with version 4.10, the Warty Warthog. From the start, Ubuntu specified clear goals: to provide a distribution that was easy to install and use, that did not overly confuse the user, and that came on a single CD (now one DVD image). Releasing every 6 months, Ubuntu made rapid progress into the Linux community and is now one of the most popular Linux distros across the world.
Ubuntu Version Numbers
As mentioned earlier, Ubuntu has chosen a unique numbering scheme and some peculiar code names for their releases since the first launch in October 2004. Doing away with the typical version numbering found elsewhere, Ubuntu decided to take the month and year of release and reverse them. Hence, the first release in October 2004 became 4.10, followed quickly by 5.04 (April 2005), 5.10, 6.06LTS, and so on up to the current 16.04.
The version covered in this book was released in April 2016, and therefore bears the version number 16.04. What’s even more special about some releases is that they also carry the LTS (long term support) label, meaning that Canonical will support LTS versions for 3 years on the desktop and a total of 5 years for the server version after its release. LTS releases come out every 2 years, and the most recent LTS version is 16.04.
The code names during development are even better: 4.10 was christened the Warty Warthog in recognition that it was a first release, warts and all. The second release, 5.04, was dubbed the Hoary Hedgehog. Things got slightly better with 5.10, code-named the Breezy Badger. 6.06 was announced as the Dapper Drake and was the first Ubuntu distribution to carry the LTS badge. Beyond Dapper, there was the Edgy Eft (6.10) followed by the Feisty Fawn (7.04), and more. For a full list of development code names, see http://wiki.ubuntu.com/DevelopmentCodeNames
Ubuntu for Business
Linux has matured over the years. It includes all the essential features for use in enterprise-level environments, such as CPU architecture support, file systems, and memory handling.
Ubuntu includes a Linux kernel that can use multiple processors, which allows you to use Ubuntu in more advanced computing environments with greater demands on CPU power. This kernel can support at least 16 CPUs; in reality, however, small business servers typically use only dual- or quad-CPU workstations or servers. However, Ubuntu can run Linux on more powerful hardware.
Ubuntu automatically supports your multiple-CPU Intel-based motherboard, and you can take advantage of the benefits of symmetric multiprocessors (SMPs) for software development and other operations. The Linux kernels included with Ubuntu can use system RAM sizes up to 64GB, allow individual file sizes in excess of 2GB, and host the demands of—theoretically—billions of users.
Businesses that depend on high-availability, large-scale systems can also be served by Ubuntu, along with the specialist commercial support on offer from hundreds of support partners across the world.
However, Ubuntu can be used in many of these environments by customers with widely disparate computing needs. Some of the applications for Ubuntu include desktop support; small file, print, or mail servers; intranet web servers; and security firewalls deployed at strategic points inside and outside company LANs.
Debian itself is also available for multiple architectures, and is developed for and complied on about a dozen different architectures, from x86 to ARM and MIPS.
Small business owners can earn great rewards by stepping off the software licensing and upgrade treadmill and adopting a Linux-based solution. Using Ubuntu not only avoids the need for licensing accounting and the threat of software audits, but also provides viable alternatives to many types of commercial productivity software, often for free.
Using Ubuntu in a small business setting makes a lot of sense for other reasons, too, such as not having to invest in cutting-edge hardware to set up a productive shop. Ubuntu easily supports older, or legacy, hardware, and savings are compounded over time by avoiding unnecessary hardware upgrades. Additional savings will be realized because OS software and upgrades are free. New versions of applications can be downloaded and installed at little or no cost, and office suite software is free.
Ubuntu is easy to install on a network and plays well with others, meaning it works well in a mixed-computing situation with other operating systems such as Windows, Mac OS X, and of course, UNIX. A simple Ubuntu server can be put to work as an initial partial solution or made to mimic file, mail, or print servers of other operating systems. Clerical staff should quickly adapt to using familiar Internet and productivity tools, while your business gets the additional benefits of stability, security, and a virus-free computing platform.
By carefully allocating monies spent on server hardware, a productive and efficient multiuser system can be built for much less than the cost of comparable commercial software. Combine these benefits with support for laptops, PDAs, and remote access, and you will find that Ubuntu supports the creation and use of an inexpensive yet efficient work environment.
Ubuntu in Your Home
Ubuntu installs a special set of preselected software packages onto your hard drive; these are suitable for small office/home office (SOHO) users. This option provides a wealth of productivity tools for document management, printing, communication, and personal productivity.
The standard installation only requires about 2GB of hard drive space. Even with such a small footprint, the install also contains administrative tools, additional authoring and publishing clients, a variety of editors, a GNOME-based X11 desktop, support for sound, graphics editing programs, and graphical and text-based Internet tools.
Getting the Most from Ubuntu and Linux Documentation
Nearly all commercial Linux distributions include shrink-wrapped manuals and documentation covering installation and configuration. You will not find official documentation included on the DVD provided with this book. However, at www.ubuntu.com/ you find the links to various Ubuntu documentation projects.
Documentation for Ubuntu (and many Linux software packages) is distributed and available in a variety of formats. Some guides are available in PDF and can be read using Adobe’s Acrobat Reader for Linux or the evince client. Guides are also available as bundled HTML files for reading with a web browser such as links, KDE’s Konqueror, GNOME’s Epiphany, or Firefox. Along with these guides, Ubuntu provides various tips, FAQs, and HOWTO documents.
You will find traditional Linux software package documentation, such as manual pages, under the /usr/share/man directory, with documentation for each installed software package under /usr/share/doc.
Linux manual pages are compressed text files containing succinct information about how to use a program. Each manual page generally provides a short summary of a command’s use, a synopsis of command-line options, an explanation of the command’s purpose, potential caveats or bugs, the name of the author, and a list of related configuration files and programs.
For example, you can learn how to read manual pages by using the man command to display its own manual page, as follows:
matthew@seymour:~$ man man
After you press Enter, a page of text appears on the screen or in your window on the desktop. You can then scroll through the information using your keyboard’s cursor keys, read, and then press the Q key to quit reading.
Many of the software packages also include separate documents known as HOWTOs that contain information regarding specific subjects or software.
If the HOWTO documents are simple text files in compressed form (with filenames ending in .gz), you can easily read the document by using the zless command, which is a text pager that enables you to scroll back and forth through documents. (Use the less command to read plain-text files.) You can start the command by using less, followed by the complete directory specification and name of the file, or pathname, like this:
Click here to view code image
matthew@seymour:~$ less /usr/share/doc/httpd-2.0.50/README
To read a compressed version of this file, use the zless command in the same way:
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matthew@seymour:~$ zless /usr/share/doc/attr-2.4.1/CHANGES.gz
After you press Enter, you can scroll through the document using your cursor keys. Press the Q key to quit.
If the HOWTO document is in HTML format, you can simply read the information using a web browser, such as Firefox. Or if you are reading from a console, you can use the links or lynx text-only web browsers, like this:
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matthew@seymour:~$ links /usr/share/doc/stunnel-4.0.5/stunnel.html
The links browser offers drop-down menus, accessed by clicking at the top of the screen. You can also press the Q key to quit.
If the documentation is in PostScript format (with filenames ending in .ps), you can use the gv client to read or view the document like this:
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matthew@seymour:~$ gv /usr/share/doc/iproute-2.4.7/ip-crefs.ps
Finally, if you want to read a document in Portable Document Format (with a filename ending in .pdf), use the evince client, as follows:
Click here to view code image
matthew@seymour:~$ evince /usr/share/doc/xfig/xfig-howto.pdf
This book was developed and written using software from Ubuntu. You can use the disc included with this book for your install or download your own copy, available as ISO9660 images (with filenames ending in .iso), and burn it onto a DVD or create a bootable USB stick.
Along with the full distribution, you get access to the complete source code to the Linux kernel and source for all software in the distribution—more than 55 million lines of C and nearly 5 million lines of C++ code. Browse to www.ubuntu.com/download/ to get started.
Ubuntu Developers and Documentation
If you are interested in helping with Ubuntu, you can assist in the effort by testing beta releases (known as preview releases, and usually named after the animal chosen for the release name), writing documentation, and contributing software for the core or contributed software repositories. You should have some experience in installing Linux distributions, a desire to help with translation of documentation into different languages, or be able to use various software project management systems, such as Bazaar or Git. If you are interested in contributing, see Chapter 40, “Helping with Ubuntu Development.”
Websites and Search Engines
Literally thousands of websites exist with information about Linux and Ubuntu. The key to getting the answers you need right away involves using the best search engines and techniques. Knowing how to search can mean the difference between frustration and success when troubleshooting problems. This section provides some Internet search tips and lists Ubuntu- and Linux-related sites sorted by various topics. The lists are not comprehensive, but they have been checked and were available at the time of this writing.
Web Search Tips
Troubleshooting problems with Linux by searching the Web can be an efficient and productive way to get answers to vexing problems. One of the most basic rules for conducting productive searches is to use specific search terms to find specific answers. For example, if you simply search for “Ubuntu,” you end up with too many links and too much information. If you search for “Ubuntu sound,” however, you are more likely to find the information you need. If you’ve received an error message, use it; otherwise, use the Linux kernel diagnostic message as your search criterion.
Other effective techniques include the following:
Using symbols in the search string, such as the plus sign (+) to force matches of web pages containing both strings (if such features are supported by the search engine used by web search site)
Searching within returned results
Sorting results (usually by date to get the latest information)
Searching for related information
Stemming searches; for example, specifying returns for not only “link” but also “linking” and “linked”
Invest some time and experiment with your favorite search engine’s features—the result will be more productive searches. In addition to sharpening your search skills, also take the time to choose the best search engine for your needs.
Google Is Your Friend
Some of the fastest and most comprehensive search engines on the Web are powered by Linux, so it makes sense to use the best available resources. Out of the myriad websites with search engines, http://google.com stands out from the crowd, with millions of users per month. The site uses advanced hardware and software to bring speed and efficiency to your searches.
Why is Google (named after a math number) so powerful? You can get a quick overview from the Google folks at www.google.com/corporate/tech. Part of its success is because of great algorithms, good programming, and simple interface design as well as lots of computing power and sophisticated networking of all that power; but most users really seem to appreciate Google’s uncanny capability to provide links to what you are looking for in the first page of a search return. Google’s early success was also assured because the site ran its search engine on clusters of thousands of PCs running a version of Red Hat Linux. It is also rumored that an Ubuntu-based distribution was seen in use on desktops at Google, with the informal moniker of Goobuntu.
Google has the largest database size of any search engine on the Web, with many billions of web pages searched and indexed. The database size is important because empty search results are useless to online users, and the capability to return hits on esoteric subjects can make the difference between success and failure or satisfaction and frustration.
To get a better idea of what Google can offer you, browse to www.google.com/options/. You will find links to many services and tools covering specialized searches, databases, information links, translators, and other helpful browsing tools.
Ubuntu Package Listings
You can quickly and easily view a list of the installed packages on your Ubuntu system, along with a short description of each package, by using the Ubuntu Software Center or Synaptic. Each also shows you descriptions of each package so you can decide whether you want it installed. For more information, see Chapter 9, “Managing Software.”
Commercial support for Ubuntu is an essential ingredient to the success of Linux in the corporate and business community. Although hundreds, if not thousands, of consultants well versed in Linux and UNIX are available on call for a fee, here is a short list of the best-known Linux support providers:
www.ubuntu.com/support—Go straight to the source for a range of support options. You can get help on Ubuntu direct from Canonical software, or from a local support provider.
www.hp.com/linux—HP offers a comprehensive package of Linux services and hardware that covers almost everything that you would want to do, including consultancy, business solutions, and hardware specification and implementation.
www.dell.com/linux—Linux services are offered by Dell on a wide range of their hardware.
www.ibm.com/linux/—Linux services offered by IBM include e-business solutions, open-source consulting, database migration, clustering, servers, and support.
In addition to service-oriented support companies, nearly every commercial distributor of Linux has some form of easily purchased commercial support. There are various ways in which to take advantage of support services (such as remote management, onsite consulting, device driver development, and so on), but needs vary according to customer circumstances and installations.
The Benefits of Joining a Linux User Group
Join a local Linux Users Group (LUG). Joining and participating in a local LUG has many benefits. You will be able to get help, trade information, and learn many new and wonderful things about Linux. Most LUGs do not have membership dues, and many often sponsor regular lectures and discussions from leading Linux, GNU, and open-source experts. For one great place to start, browse to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linux_user_group. For Ubuntu-specific groups, check out Ubuntu Local Community, or LoCo Teams at http://loco.ubuntu.com/.
Nearly all Linux distributions include thousands of pages of documentation in the form of manual pages, HOWTO documents (in various formats, such as text and HTML), mini-HOWTO documents, or software package documentation (usually found under the /usr/share/doc/ directory). However, the definitive site for reading the latest versions of these documents is the Linux Documentation Project, found at www.tldp.org.
If you are looking for more extensive and detailed information concerning a Linux subject, try reading one of the many Linux guides. These guides, available for a number of subjects, dwell on technical topics in more detail and at a more leisurely pace than a HOWTO. You can find copies of the following:
“Advanced Bash-Scripting Guide,” by Mendel Cooper; a guide to shell scripting using bash, available from http://tldp.org/LDP/abs/html/
“LDP Author Guide,” by Mark F. Komarinski; how to write Linux Documentation Project (LDP) documentation, available from www.tldp.org/LDP/LDP-Author-Guide/html/index.html
“Linux Administration Made Easy,” by Steve Frampton, available from www.tldp.org/LDP/lame/LAME/linux-admin-made-easy/index.html
“Linux from Scratch,” by Gerard Beekmans; creating a Linux distribution from software, available from www.linuxfromscratch.org/
“Linux Kernel Module Programming Guide,” by Peter J Salzman, Michael Burian, and Ori Pomerantz; is aging, but still a good guide to building modules, available from www.tldp.org/LDP/lkmpg/2.6/html/
“Securing and Optimizing Linux,” by Gerhard Mourani, available from www.tldp.org/LDP/solrhe/Securing-Optimizing-Linux-RH-Edition-v1.3/index.html
A Practical Guide to Linux Commands, Editors, and Shell Programming, Third Edition by Mark G. Sobell, ISBN: 9780133085044
UNIX and Linux System Administration Handbook, Fourth Edition by Evi Nemeth, Garth Snyder, Trent R. Hein, and Ben Whaley, ISBN: 9780131480056
The Practice of System and Network Administration, Second Edition by Thomas A. Limoncelli, Christina J. Hogan, and Strata R. Chalup, ISBN: 9780321492661
The best place to start for Ubuntu-specific information is at Ubuntu-focused websites. Where better to start than the main website for the distribution and the official web forums? Although these are not the only official Ubuntu resources, they are the most likely to be immediately useful. You can easily find others under the Support tab on the Ubuntu.com website:
www.ubuntu.com—Home page for Ubuntu, Canonical’s community-based free Linux distribution. Ubuntu is the main release of this Linux distribution and includes thousands of software packages that form the core of an up-to-date, cutting-edge Linux-based desktop. You can also find links to the other *buntus, such as Kubuntu, Xubuntu, and EdUbuntu.
https://help.ubuntu.com/—The place to start for official Ubuntu documentation.
www.ubuntuforums.org—A good place to go if you need specific community-provided Ubuntu support.
http://askubuntu.com/—Another good place to go if you need specific community-provided Ubuntu support.
https://answers.launchpad.net/ubuntu—The official bug reporting system and tracker for Ubuntu.
Mailing lists are interactive or digest-form electronic discussions about nearly any topic. To use a mailing list, you must generally send an email request to be subscribed to the list, and then verify the subscription with a return message from the master list mailer. After you subscribe to an interactive form of list, each message sent to the list will appear in your email inbox. However, many lists provide a digest form of subscription in which a single- or half-day’s traffic is condensed in a single message. The digest form is generally preferred unless you have set up email filtering.
The main Ubuntu mailing lists are detailed here, but there are quite a few Linux-related lists. You can search for nearly all online mailing lists by using a typical mailing list search web page, such as the one at www.lsoft.com/lists/list_q.html.
GNOME and KDE Mailing Lists
GNOME users and developers should know that more than two dozen mailing lists are available through http://mail.gnome.org/. KDE users will also benefit by perusing the KDE-related mailing lists at www.kde.org/mailinglists.html. Many open source projects run mailing lists. If there is a project that really interests you, search online to see if they have a mailing list available, especially if you are interested in contributing time or helping develop the software.
Ubuntu Project Mailing Lists
Email mailing lists are also available as an outlet or forum for discussions about Ubuntu. The lists are categorized. For example, general users of Ubuntu discuss issues on the ubuntu-users mailing list—beta testers and developers via the ubuntu-devel mailing list, and documentation contributors via the ubuntu-doc mailing list. You can subscribe to mailing lists by selecting the ones you are interested in at http://lists.ubuntu.com/mailman/listinfo/. Be warned, some of the mailing lists have in excess of 200 to 300 emails per day, so you may want to subscribe in batch format when available.
Keeping up to date with bug fixes and security updates is critical to the success and health of an Ubuntu system. You can simply install updates when you read your Ubuntu-provided notifications in your system (see Chapter 9, “Managing Software”). To keep abreast of the most important developments when using Ubuntu, you can register with the Ubuntu Announcements mailing list. From there, you will learn which updates have been issued and what has been fixed as a result. Go to https://lists.ubuntu.com/mailman/listinfo/ubuntu-security-announce to register for this mailing list. To keep up with bug fixes, new software packages, and security updates, also keep an eye out for Update Manager notifications.
You will find many other knowledgeable users with answers to your questions by participating in one of Ubuntu’s mailing lists. The best etiquette is to read a list consistently for a while, until you get the feel for how people already using the list interact, before you post the first time. The lists are focused on using, testing, and developing and participating in Ubuntu’s development:
http://lists.ubuntu.com/mailman/listinfo/ubuntu-security-announce—Security announcements from the Ubuntu developers
http://lists.ubuntu.com/mailman/listinfo/ubuntu-announce—Announcements concerning Ubuntu
http://lists.ubuntu.com/mailman/listinfo/ubuntu-users—Discussions among users of Ubuntu releases
http://lists.ubuntu.com/mailman/listinfo/ubuntu-devel—Queries and reports from developers and testers of Ubuntu test releases
Internet Relay Chat
Internet Relay Chat (IRC) is a popular form and forum of communication for many Linux developers and users because it allows an interactive, real-time exchange of information and ideas. To use IRC, you must have an IRC client and the address of a network and server hosting the desired chat channel for your discussions.
You can use the irc.freenode.net IRC server, or one listed at www.freenode.net/ to chat with other Ubuntu users. Some current channels are as follows:
#Ubuntu—General chat about Ubuntu
#edubuntu—General chat about Edubuntu
#xubuntu—General chat about Xubuntu
#kubuntu—General chat about Kubuntu
For more channels to look at, head over to https://help.ubuntu.com/community/InternetRelayChat for an exhaustive list of “official” channels.
However, Google can help you find other channels to explore. Enter the distro name and IRC into the search options to retrieve information on any IRC channels relevant to your requirements. To get help with getting started with IRC, browse to www.irchelp.org/. Among channels you might find interesting are the following:
#linux—General discussions about Linux.
#linuxhelp—A help chat discussion for new users.
Most IRC networks provide one or more Linux channels, although some providers require signup and registration before you can access any chat channel.