In the old days, you could just use the “help” menu item to figure this out (drilling down to “about”) but now there is so much “helpful” crap in the dialog that opens when you do so, that it has become much less helpful.

So just open a command line and cause the contents of the files that contain your release information to be fed to standard output.

i.e., type:

cat /etc/*-release


  1. #1 Nemo
    November 14, 2009

    Hey, cool. I think it’s more for a program to learn about the system it’s installed on, though. I don’t really find myself in front of random Linux systems too often. But this definitely goes in the toolbox alongside “uname -a”.

  2. #2 Alex Besogonov
    November 14, 2009

    There’s a better way, command lsb_release which should be in any LSB-compatible (LSB stands for Linux Standards Base) distribution.

    Particularly useful is “lsb_release -a” command:

    cyberax@lw1:~/work/app$ lsb_release -a
    LSB Version: core-2.0-amd64:core-2.0-noarch:core-3.0-amd64:core-3.0-noarch:core-3.1-amd64:core-3.1-noarch:core-3.2-amd64:core-3.2-noarch:core-4.0-amd64:core-4.0-noarch:cxx-3.0-amd64:cxx-3.0-noarch:cxx-3.1-amd64:cxx-3.1-noarch:cxx-3.2-amd64:cxx-3.2-noarch:cxx-4.0-amd64:cxx-4.0-noarch:desktop-3.1-amd64:desktop-3.1-noarch:desktop-3.2-amd64:desktop-3.2-noarch:desktop-4.0-amd64:desktop-4.0-noarch:graphics-2.0-amd64:graphics-2.0-noarch:graphics-3.0-amd64:graphics-3.0-noarch:graphics-3.1-amd64:graphics-3.1-noarch:graphics-3.2-amd64:graphics-3.2-noarch:graphics-4.0-amd64:graphics-4.0-noarch:qt4-3.1-amd64:qt4-3.1-noarch
    Distributor ID: Ubuntu
    Description: Ubuntu 9.10
    Release: 9.10
    Codename: karmic

  3. #3 alex
    November 14, 2009

    cat /etc/*-release

    does not work with Debian lenny

    the file is /etc/debian_version

  4. #4 BruceH
    November 14, 2009

    In Ubuntu, you can also go to System->About Ubuntu. This will bring up a help page with the current version of your operating system, its release date, how long the current version will be supported, a description of the Ubuntu project, and some helpful links.

  5. #5 mikey.duhhh
    November 14, 2009

    Try installing acpi.

    sudo apt-get install acpi

    When you run it, you’ll get

    # acpi -V

    Battery 0: Full, 100%
    Battery 0: design capacity 4752 mAh, last full capacity 4752 mAh = 100%
    AC Adapter 0: on-line
    Thermal 0: ok, 55.0 degrees C
    Cooling 0: LCD 0 of 10
    Cooling 1: Processor 0 of 10
    Cooling 2: Processor 0 of 10

    This is very useful if your machine runs hot on occasion.

  6. #6 Brian X
    November 15, 2009

    There is a feature that Apple used to have on the Classic MacOS (I don’t know if it exists on OS X, though there seems to be something of the sort still in there) called the Gestalt Manager that would allow you to inquire about the computer environment. It was extremely useful for certain purposes, so much so that Apple actually included it in the standard libraries for Mac development so it would be available on System 6. It would be nice if Linux had something like that, but I don’t think the development model is conducive to it, and in any case I don’t know how Gestalt handled shared libraries after Apple started using them all over the place.