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This chapter is from the book

Derived Distributions

Derived distributions usually work outside of the Ubuntu community and usually have their own package repositories. They may not release at the same time as Ubuntu. In the past, several derived distributions have been built upon other distributions such as Debian. The list of derivative distributions has grown rapidly, and as distributions come and go, the list is constantly in flux. While in the first edition of this book, our list was nearly comprehensive, the size of the derivative distribution community is such that this list is no longer possible. Instead, this list merely attempts to give a bit of the flavor for many of the oldest and most visible derived distributions and an idea of the scope of the community.


Guadalinex is the GNU/Linux distribution promoted by the regional government of Andalusia, the most populated autonomous community in Spain with almost 8 million inhabitants. It is currently one of the biggest free software implementations worldwide, with more than 200,000 desktops—and increasing. The project is a consequence of the unanimous support of the Andalusian Parliament on the Information Society and Innovation policies approved in 2002 and 2003, urging all the regional institutions to promote and use free software and open licenses. This makes the Guadalinex initiative unique in the world.

Guadalinex was initially released in 2003, and the first two versions were based on Debian. In 2005 the Guadalinex project decided to develop the third version deriving from Ubuntu. Guadalinex version 3 was released in January 2006 based on Ubuntu 5.10 (Breezy Badger), making it the first major Ubuntu derivative. The project is part of a government plan to implement free software as the default option in the public schools. At the beginning of 2006, this project involved 500 schools and approximately 200,000 desktops equipped with Guadalinex and free software only. These numbers increase every year as new courses start every September and new computers are purchased (about 40,000 in 2006). This initiative alone puts Guadalinex in the top position as the biggest free software implementation worldwide. Additionally, the software is used in public Internet access centers, senior centers, libraries, and women’s associations, as well as citizens’ homes. Guadalinex is merely one example of many Ubuntu derivatives created by or in cooperation with governments for use in schools and bureaucracies. It is now only one among many massive deployments of Ubuntu in these settings.


While Ubuntu has a strong commitment to free and open source software and software freedom, it makes several compromises for binary-only firmware and drivers whose exclusion renders hardware inoperable. These drivers and firmware are placed in the restricted repository. The multiverse and commercial repositories, while not official, reside on the Ubuntu archive and contain software that does not live up to Ubuntu’s standards of software freedom. While Canonical Ltd. considered the creation of what eventually became the Gobuntu project, the gNewSense project, spearheaded by Irish Ubuntu community members, was launched. The project has continued in parallel to work on Gobuntu because the Gobuntu name references and indirectly advertises for Ubuntu—which in turn includes proprietary software—and, more importantly, because Gobuntu is highly dependent on and integrated with Ubuntu’s proprietary Launchpad infrastructure, which is implemented, controlled, and kept largely secret by Canonical Ltd.

gNewSense is a pun on the word nuisance—Richard Stallman, the father of the free software movement and the GNU project, is often jokingly referred to as “chief gnuisance”—but also tries to evoke images of “new sense” that comes from a commitment to software freedom. Like Gobuntu, the project aims to stay as close to Ubuntu as possible, forking only where necessary to maintain a high level of software freedom. As a result, the project is primarily reductive.

Linspire and Freespire

Linspire, a commercial distribution founded in 2001, is produced by Linspire, Inc. It contains a variety of different pieces of commercial and proprietary software and requires the purchase of a license. Freespire is a free version of Linspire built by the same company without the commercial pieces that is distributed at no cost. Originally, the project was called Lindows until the company sold the name to Microsoft, ending a long trademark dispute. For most of their lives, Linspire and Freespire have been based on Debian. In early February 2007, it was announced that the next version of Linspire will be based on Ubuntu. This release marked the first major commercial distribution and the first major Ubuntu “competitor” that is switching to become an Ubuntu derivative.


Ubuntulite is an Ubuntu derivative targeted at low-power computers. Its slogan, “Ubuntu Power for Slow Machines,” is an apt tagline for a project that targets computers as slow as 75Mhz Pentiums with no more than 32MB RAM. The project aims to provide a solution for computers that most operating system developers, including Ubuntu, have written off as impossibly antiquated. Most of the bells and whistles from Ubuntu have been stripped out in the process, but the system provides a compelling option for computers that would be useless with almost any modern operating system.

Nexenta OS

Nexenta OS is the first Ubuntu operating system that is not based on the Linux kernel. Instead, it is built on Sun Microsystems’s OpenSolaris kernel, which was previously proprietary but is now being distributed as free software. It is the first distribution that combines the GNU system—all imported from Ubuntu—with OpenSolaris.

The Open CD

The Open CD is a set of open source programs that can be installed on Microsoft Windows, such as GIMP, OpenOffice.org, Battle for Wesnoth, Firefox, and Thunderbird. The project is led by Henrik Omma, who works for Canonical Ltd. It is actually a modified and rebranded Ubuntu live CD and thus can be booted into Ubuntu as well.

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