Ubuntu Subprojects, Derivatives, and Spin-offs
Finally, no introduction to Ubuntu is complete without an introduction to a growing list of Ubuntu subprojects and derivatives. While Ubuntu was derived from Debian, the project has, over the last four years, already developed a number of derivatives of its own.
First and foremost among these is Kubuntu—a version of Ubuntu that uses KDE instead of GNOME as the default desktop environment. Kubuntu is described in depth in its own chapter (Chapter 8) and so is not explored in any serious depth here. However, it is important to realize that the relationship between Kubuntu and Ubuntu is different from the relationship between Ubuntu and Debian. From a technical perspective, Kubuntu is fully within the Ubuntu distribution. Organizationally, the Kubuntu team works fully within Ubuntu as well.
A similar organization exists with the Edubuntu project, which aims to help develop Ubuntu so that a configuration of the distribution can be easily and effectively put into use in schools. That project has a dual focus on both educational and school-related software and on a Linux Terminal Server Project (LTSP) setup that allows schools to run many students’ computers using one or more powerful servers and many “dumb” terminals that connect to the server and run software off it. This relatively simple technical trick translates into huge cost savings in educational settings. The Edubuntu project has grown quickly over the last two years and is treated in depth in its own chapter new to this edition of the book (Chapter 9).
The Xubuntu project is based on the lightweight window manager Xfce. Xubuntu is designed to be appropriate on older or less powerful computers with less memory or slower processors—or just for people who prefer a more responsive environment and a slimmer set of features. While started as an unofficial project, Xubuntu has enjoyed great popularity and has become integrated as an official part of the core distribution.
Gobuntu is a Ubuntu derivative that endeavors to adhere strictly to the free software philosophy as laid out in the first point of the Ubuntu philosophy and inspired by the Free Software Foundation and Richard Stallman. While Ubuntu has struggled with the decision to include or ship certain proprietary software like drivers or firmware that are important for hardware support and considered essential by many users, Gobuntu draws a clear line in the sand and always chooses software freedom. However, while Kubuntu, Edubuntu, Xubuntu, and Gobuntu work closely together within the larger Ubuntu project and are each partially funded by Canonical, many other derivatives have begun to appear that do not fit this model. The first such outside derivative was Guadalinex, a distribution created and maintained by the government of Andalusia in Spain. There is work on a host of other systems both inside and outside of the project.
In a way, it is through these derivatives that the work and goals of the Ubuntu project come together and are crystallized. It is only through the free and open source software movements’ commitment to freely accessible source code that Ubuntu could be built at all. Similarly, it is only through Ubuntu’s continued commitment to these ideals that derivatives can spring from Ubuntu. As a derivative with a view of distributions within an ecosystem, Ubuntu does not see the process of derivation as an insult or criticism. Far from it—Ubuntu thinks derivation is the highest form of compliment.
Outside of Ubuntu, Canonical Ltd.’s work is largely based around software projects such as Launchpad and Bazaar that are designed to facilitate precisely this sort of derivative process. This process, when practiced right, is one that describes an ecosystem of development in which everyone benefits—the derivative, Ubuntu, and Ubuntu’s upstreams. Only through this derivative process does everyone get what they want.
Derivation, done correctly, allows groups to diverge where necessary while working together where possible. Ultimately, it leads to more work done, more happy users, and more overall collaboration. Through this enhanced collaboration, Ubuntu’s philosophical and technical goals will be achieved. Through this profound community involvement, Bug #1 will be closed. Through this type of meaningful cooperation, internal and external to the project itself, the incredible growth of Ubuntu in its first four years will be sustained into the next four and the next forty.