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The Official Ubuntu Book: Ubuntu-Related Projects

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In addition to building a great OS that many use, Ubuntu has grown into an OS that those building other OS use as a basis to build from. This chapter details some of those external projects.
This chapter is from the book

This chapter is from the book

  • Partner Projects
  • Derived Distributions
  • The Launchpad
  • Bazaar
  • Summary

UBUNTU IS NOT JUST A COMPLETE OPERATING SYSTEM (OS); it is also the center of a growing ecosystem of GNU/Linux and Solaris-based 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 nUbuntu project, which focuses on security and networking tools.

Others derive for reasons connected to the international nature of Linux and Open Source. While most Ubuntu development happens in English, there are large developer and user communities in other languages and countries. Thus, a derived distribution, such as Ufficio Zero in Italy, might spring up to satisfy that need. 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 exclusively from Ubuntu. Others might be more appropriate if you are a developer and are most comfortable in a particular language. You can mix, match, and sample these distributions until you find one that works great for you. As we mentioned in the introduction, 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.

Partner Projects

Partner projects are those projects that work in close relation with Ubuntu. All partner projects are officially supported by Canonical Ltd. Partner projects also share a common repository of packages and release in sync with Ubuntu.


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. Rather than Ubuntu's brown theme, Kubuntu opts for a more traditional blue and makes a few other visual changes. Rather than the two panels and three menus of Ubuntu with GNOME, Kubuntu uses two menus and a single lower panel, closer in style to that of Microsoft Windows.

Kubuntu also comes with OpenOffice.org, the same Office suite that is included in Ubuntu. Along with this office suite, Kubuntu also includes Krita, a photo manipulation tool, the K3b CD Kreator, and the media player amaroK, all parts of KDE. Kubuntu is explored in much more depth in Chapter 7 so is not given a full treatment here.


As the name implies, Edubuntu is a version of Ubuntu for use in schools and other educational environments. Edubuntu uses Linux Terminal Server Project's (LTSP) thin client technology as well as a number of programs aimed at the educational market such as Gcompris and the KDE Education suite. Oliver Grawert, a Canonical Ltd. employee, leads the Edubuntu development. Like Ubuntu, Edubuntu uses the GNOME desktop environment. The default desktop is show in Figure 9-1.


Figure 9-1 Default desktop.

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 methodology of deploying clients over a network than in traditional computer deployments. Instead of full-blown computers, LTSP uses thin clients, computers that connect to a larger server to do all the processing work. In larger deployments it is often more cost effective to have a few more powerful servers serving applications to less powerful thin clients than to have a collection of medium-speed computers doing their own processing. Since the thin client ends up being a glorified display, LTSP has become a common use for older machines that are typically not powerful enough to run a full OS. It is common for deployments to remove the hard disks from these machines, which can also result in much quieter computers. Since these clients use the standard X11 protocol, many independent vendors also sell thin clients built just for this purpose.

Oliver Grawert has worked with members of the LTSP community with the intention of making the Edubuntu version easy to set up and administer. A teacher with moderate technical skill could easily set up an entire classroom of Edubuntu in under an hour. Additionally, Edubuntu is unlike standard Ubuntu in its inclusion of educational games and activities. For younger children, Gcompris (French Internet slang for "'I understand") offers a large and growing number of games and activities such as learning how to use the mouse and type, reading, geography, and mathematics, (see Figure 9-2).


Figure 9-2 Gcompris.

Edubuntu also includes the KDE Education suite, aimed at a wider age range of 3 to 18. Some notable programs include the planetarium program KStars, the periodic table program Kalzium (see Figure 9-3), and KEduca, a program to create and give tests. There are also a number of programs to help with learning languages and mathematics.


Figure 9-3 KStars.

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