I'm digging Ubuntu, the new Linux distribution. It's amazing. It just works, and I could really see installing in on a few older machines I've got an not having to worry too much about the users. I'm always looking for older laptops to send to Zimbabwe, but I always struggle with the software licensing. To get WindowsXP+Office isn't possible, so it often ends up being Windows 98+OpenOffice. Even XP+OpenOffice would be nice, but $99 for XP is a little steep for a free computer. I think this Linux distro is perfect for the average Joe.
That said, I'm not sure what I think about their marketing schtick around the use of the word Ubuntu. Here's what they say:
"Ubuntu" is an ancient African word, meaning "humanity to others". Ubuntu also means "I am what I am because of who we all are". The Ubuntu Linux distribution brings the spirit of Ubuntu to the software world.
So I have a few problems with this.
There are 54 African countries. Ubuntu is a Zulu and Xhosa word, from the Bantu language family. At least say "Southern Africa." While a half-dozen African countries would understand the word, don't include the whole continent. I am continually shocked - especially on American news - that Africa is refered to as if it were a country and not a continent with 1/5 of the planet's total land mass. Ubuntu's benefactor is South African and should know better.
Ancient? I suppose it depends on what ancient means. It was popularized in the last 20 years by Desmond Tutu, but the roots are as old as the Bantu language family. I suppose that qualifies as ancient. However, I'm not sure about using "ancient" in this context as a way to increase the awe-factor. Mind you, I dig the distro, I'm just critiquing (not yet criticizing) the usage.
"People" is an ancient European word, meaning "more than one person"
You get the idea. Others have said Ubuntu means "the art of being human." With my very limited knowledge of such things, I'd say a simplier definition for Ubuntu is "humanity." I'm not sure why folks feel the need to read so deeply into such things.
There's a Zulu phrase that old people use: Umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu.
Now, someone actually translated this as "To be human is to affirm one's humanity by recognising the humanity of others in its infinite variety of content and form" (Van der Merwe, 1996:1)
However, literally (I prefer literal translations over flowery ones.) it means
Umuntu - A person
ngumuntu - is a person
nga - through/by
bantu - people (actually abantu)
Ubuntu (the Linux distro) has the tag line of "Linux for Humans." It's the African "PeoplePC" I say.
P.S. I have a question for the non-native English speakers who read this blog. When you all learned English, were the teachers digging into the details of English words, giving you paragraphs worth of explanations to define a single word? Or did they keep it simple?