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The Official Ubuntu Book, 5th Edition: Ubuntu-Related Projects

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This chapter introduces some of the derivatives and variations of Ubuntu that are available.
This chapter is from the book
  • Officially Supported Derivatives
  • Recognized Derivatives
  • Other Distributions
  • Launchpad
  • Bazaar
  • Summary

Ubuntu is not merely a complete operating system; it is also the center of a growing ecosystem of distributions. Some, referred to as the partner projects, work closely with and within Ubuntu. Others prefer to work outside the project and are considered full derivatives. Often, these projects are created in order to highlight a specific selection of software or use case, such as the Ubuntu Studio project, which focuses on multimedia creation and editing. Others, like the gNewSense project, supported by the Free Software Foundation, exist for philosophical or social reasons.

Still others are created for reasons connected to the international nature of Linux and open source software. While most Ubuntu development happens in English, there are large developer and user communities in other languages and countries. Thus, a derived distribution might spring up to satisfy that need. There are derived distributions targeted at Christians, Muslims, people with slow computers, and people who prefer to have an Ubuntu system optimized for any of several alternative user interfaces or for use in several different schools and government bureaucracies around the world. Should you use any of these over Ubuntu? We can't answer that question for you. Some of these projects are fully within and, as a result, not mutually exclusive from Ubuntu. Others might be more appropriate depending on your preferences or circumstances. You can mix, match, and sample these distributions until you find one that works great for you. As we mentioned in Chapter 1, Ubuntu sees these derivatives as a sign of a healthy and vibrant community. One of the goals of the project is to make it easier for this type of distribution to appear. We can all expect to see more of them in the future.

Officially Supported Derivatives

Officially supported derivatives, formerly called Partner projects, are those projects that work in close relation with Ubuntu. They share a common repository of packages and release in sync with Ubuntu. These derivatives are officially supported by Canonical in both development and security.


Kubuntu is the first and oldest of all the partner projects. First released alongside Ubuntu 5.04 (Hoary Hedgehog), Kubuntu, which means "toward humanity" in Bemba, builds on the strengths of the K Desktop Environment (KDE) rather than GNOME as Ubuntu does. The project is led by Jonathan Riddell, who now works for Canonical, Ltd.

As with Ubuntu, Kubuntu is a complete desktop, but one built around KDE and Qt. Instead of Ubuntu's brown theme, Kubuntu opts for a more traditional blue and makes only a few other visual changes. Kubuntu is explored in much more depth in Chapter 8 and so is not given a full treatment here.


Edubuntu is a version of Ubuntu for use in schools and other educational environments and uses the thin client technology of the Linux Terminal Server Project (LTSP) as well as a number of programs aimed at the educational market, such as GCompris and the KDE Education suite. It is led by a team council that coordinates and participates heavily in its development; the members are listed here:

  • Scott Balneaves
  • Jonathan Carter
  • Jordan Erickson
  • Alkis Georgopoulos
  • Stéphane Graber
  • Richard Johnson

One of Edubuntu's unique features is the inclusion of the LTSP in an easy-to-use, out-of-the-box installer. LTSP uses a different method of deploying clients over a network than is used in traditional computer deployments. Instead of full-powered computers, LTSP uses thin clients, less capable, cheaper computers that connect to a larger server and have it do all the processing work. LTSP is covered in greater detail in The Official Ubuntu Server Book, Second Edition, also available from Prentice Hall.

Several Ubuntu advocates have leveled the counterintuitive suggestion that the groups of users who have the most problems switching to Ubuntu are those with the most computer experience. For the technically competent, learning Ubuntu often involves unlearning something else. For most of those reading this book, Ubuntu is an alternative operating system for an extraordinarily exciting generation of users. No team or project within Ubuntu has done more to target, support, and grow this group of users than the Edubuntu project.

The community-driven Edubuntu project aims to create an add-on for Ubuntu specially tailored for use in primary and secondary education. Edubuntu exists as a platform consisting of tools for teachers and administrators. The real thrust, of course, and the real purpose, is to put free and open source software into the hands of children. In doing so, Edubuntu provides children with a flexible and powerful technological environment for learning and experimenting. Based on free software, it offers educational technologies that are hackable and that can ultimately be used by students and teachers on their own terms. Distributed freely, its gratis nature serves an important need for schools where technology programs are always understaffed and underfunded. Fluent in Ubuntu and in free software, the children who, right now, are growing up using Edubuntu are offering the Ubuntu community a glimpse of where it might go and the generation of Ubunteros who may take us there.

While the Ubuntu, Kubuntu, and Xubuntu (another recognized derivative covered later in this chapter) desktops highlight the products of the GNOME, KDE, and Xfce communities respectively, the Edubuntu project aims to provide the best of everything in Ubuntu—properly tailored for use in schools and as easy to use as possible. One thing that made Edubuntu popular was its amazing ability to integrate thin clients, allowing the use of one powerful machine (the server) to provide many very low-powered, often diskless machines (the clients), with their entire OS. This model, while uninteresting for most home or business users using workstations and laptops, is a major feature in classroom settings where it can mitigate configuration and maintenance headaches and reduce the cost of classroom deployments substantially.

In 2008, it was decided that the developers of Edubuntu should focus more on bringing the best educational applications to the desktop rather than trying to maintain an entire distribution of their own. As a result, Edubuntu is no longer a distribution like Ubuntu, Kubuntu, or Xubuntu, but rather an "add-on" for users. What this means is that you can easily install Edubuntu using the Ubuntu Software Center in your Applications menu, selecting Education, and then Educational Desktop for Ubuntu or Educational Desktop for Kubuntu.

Ubuntu Server Edition

Ubuntu Server Edition was created with the aim of making Ubuntu easy to install and use on servers. The Server Edition was officially launched with Ubuntu 5.04 and initially focused on making certain that the highest quality server applications were available for easy installation and configuration, including MySQL, Apache, and others.

The most recent work has involved improvements to the cloud computing capabilities of Ubuntu Server. This is done via the Ubuntu Enterprise Cloud, powered by Eucalyptus Systems technology, which enables the use and benefits of cloud computing behind a firewall for enhanced security, ease of deployment, and resource allocation.

To learn more about Ubuntu Server Edition, we recommend The Official Ubuntu Server Book, Second Edition, also available from Prentice Hall.

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