Operating System Questions -

Hi all! I’m a bit confused about operating systems and wanted to get some clarification…here it goes :slight_smile:

So as I understand it there are a couple of main OS out there: Unix, Linux, MacOS, Windows.

With that being said I’m not sure if I understand what Ubuntu is? I’ve seen it’s a Linux distribution? What exactly does that mean? Or is Ubuntu and OS itself?

Any help would be greatly appreciated! Thanks!


Linux is not a single operating system but rather a family of operating systems all build on the same core code, or kernel. Ubuntu is one of the most popular Linux operating systems, but there are many more out there.

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Oh so while Unix, MacOS and Windows are there own operating systems, Linux is just the kernel that multiple O’s are built around?

You got it. To some purists, Linux is just the kernel and everything else is strictly another body of work, but thankfully the purists don’t dictate things. The rest of us usually mean “A Linux Distribution”, of which Ubuntu is the most popular on desktops. Popular distros on servers would include Debian (Ubuntu’s parent distro), Amazon Linux (used on AWS, mostly CentOS based) and Alpine (an original distro mostly used in Docker containers).

Different distros aren’t even perfectly compatible with each other unless the app is completely static (fairly difficult nowadays), but the kernels are compatible, so as long as you have all the right support libraries installed for the distro, any linux app will work on the other – though it wasn’t until Docker came on the scene that this portability became practical and useful.


Unix is also a family of operating systems, the most widely used of which (I believe) is BSD.

Thank you both for clearing that up!

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