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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 is quickly growing, and this list attempts to give only 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). 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 an approximate total of 200,000 desktops equipped with Guadalinex and free software only. These numbers are increased 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.


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. For a long time, many people expressed interest in a version of Ubuntu without these compromises that provided nothing but free and open source software. Frequently referred to as Gnubuntu or Ubuntu Libre while the project was under discussion, the gNewSense project, spearheaded by Irish Ubuntu community members, was revealed to the world.

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. 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. gNewSense is basically Ubuntu but without the nonfree bits. It provides a great way to ensure that those strongly committed to software freedom neither risk installing nonfree software nor risk advertising a project that has made what some feel are unacceptable compromises.

In creating gNewSense, the project's maintainers wrote a series of scripts that are very useful for people creating Ubuntu derivatives. In time, several other custom derivatives have used gNewSense's tools to help build and maintain their own custom distributions.


nUbuntu is a collection of security and networking tools that was first released in January 2006. Created by a group of three developers from the United States and the United Kingdom, nUbuntu is aimed at security and networking professionals.

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, scheduled to be based on Ubuntu 7.04 (Feisty Fawn), will mark the first major commercial distribution and the first major Ubuntu "competitor" that is switching to become an Ubuntu derivative.

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.


ImpiLinux is a South African distribution designed as a commercial derivative of Ubuntu. Charging money allows ImpiLinux to ship software that Ubuntu cannot legally ship, such as MP3 and DVD support. Originally based on Debian for version 1, it was then built from scratch for version 2. In 2005 it was announced that Mark Shuttleworth had invested 10M South Africa rand in ImpiLinux (Pty) Inc. ImpiLinux will ultimately be available in English, Xhosa, and Afrikaans, and there are plans to add more languages.

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