Ubuntu is a fork of the Debian project's code base.The original aim was to release a new version of Ubuntu every six months, resulting in a more frequently updated system. Ubuntu's first release was on October 20, 2004.
Ubuntu releases are timed about one month after GNOME releases.In contrast to other forks of Debian, which extensively use proprietary and closed source add-ons, Ubuntu uses primarily free (libre) software, making an exception only for some proprietary hardware drivers.
Ubuntu packages are based on packages from Debian's unstable branch: both distributions use Debian's deb package format and package management tools (APT and Synaptic). Debian and Ubuntu packages are not necessarily binary compatible with each other, however, and sometimes .deb packages may need to be rebuilt from source to be used in Ubuntu.Many Ubuntu developers are also maintainers of key packages within Debian. Ubuntu cooperates with Debian by pushing changes back to Debian,although there has been criticism that this doesn't happen often enough. In the past, Ian Murdock, the founder of Debian, has expressed concern about Ubuntu packages potentially diverging too far from Debian Sarge to remain compatible.Before release, packages are imported from Debian Unstable continuously and merged with Ubuntu-specific modifications. A month before release, imports are frozen, and packagers then work to ensure that the frozen features interoperate well together.
Ubuntu is currently funded by Canonical Ltd.. On July 8, 2005, Mark Shuttleworth and Canonical Ltd. announced the creation of the Ubuntu Foundation and provided an initial funding of US$10 million. The purpose of the foundation is to ensure the support and development for all future versions of Ubuntu. Mark Shuttleworth describes the foundation as an "emergency fund" (in case Canonical's involvement ends).
Ubuntu 8.04, released on April 24, 2008, is the current Long Term Support (LTS) release. Canonical releases LTS versions every two years, with Ubuntu 10.04 Lucid Lynx (release number subject to change) scheduled as the next LTS version in 2010.The current regular release, Ubuntu 9.10 (Karmic Koala), was released on October 29, 2009.
On March 12, 2009, Ubuntu announced developer support for 3rd party cloud management platforms, such as for those used at Amazon EC2.