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The Official Ubuntu Book, 3e: Ubuntu-Related Projects

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Explore the universe of other distributions that surround Ubuntu, including Xubuntu, Gobuntu, Ubuntu Studio, Launchpad, and Bazaar.
This chapter is from the book
  • Ubuntu Editions
  • Derived Distributions
  • Launchpad
  • Bazaar
  • Summary

UBUNTU IS NOT JUST 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 nUbuntu project, which focuses on security and networking tools. Others, like the gNewSense project supported by the Free Software Foundation, exists for philosophical or social reasons.

Others derive 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.

Ubuntu Editions

Other editions of Ubuntu, 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. Each partner project, with the exception of Edubuntu, has a desktop CD generated for it, which is distributed from the Ubuntu Web site and can be used to install a desktop version of the partner project.

Kubuntu

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 included in Ubuntu. Along with this office suite, Kubuntu also includes Krita, a photo manipulation tool, the K3b CD Kreator tool, and the media player Amarok, all parts of KDE. Kubuntu is explored in much more depth in Chapter 8 and so is not given a full treatment here.

Edubuntu

As the name implies, Edubuntu is a version of Ubuntu for use in schools and other educational environments. Edubuntu 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. Oliver Grawert, a Canonical Ltd. employee, leads the Edubuntu development. Like Ubuntu, Edubuntu uses the GNOME desktop environment. 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.

Edubuntu has grown rapidly over the last two years. As a result, we’ve included a full chapter on the subject at the expense of a longer section here. Worth noting perhaps is the fact that rather than simply a different distribution, Edubuntu is now distributed as an add-on to a standard Ubuntu install. To learn much more about this and about the project, take a look at the in-depth overview in Chapter 9.

Xubuntu

Xubuntu is a version of Ubuntu built on top of the Xfce window management system. In Xubuntu, Xfce and its associated applications play an analogous role to KDE in the context of Kubuntu. Xfce is small and lightweight compared to the much fancier GNOME and KDE. It uses less memory and fewer CPU cycles than either of the alternatives in a normal configuration. While this means that Xubuntu is often seen as having fewer features or being less user-friendly than Ubuntu or Kubuntu, it also means that it runs faster, is more responsive, and tends to run very quickly on older or less powerful computers, where the weight of either GNOME or KDE makes the system prohibitively slow. As a result, Xubuntu has been used frequently by computer recyclers, by the owners of old computers, and by those who just want to squeeze out better performance from their hardware using a more efficient interface.

Like Kubuntu, Xubuntu is community driven and began outside the project in the universe repository of Ubuntu. In releases 5.04 (Hoary Hedgehog) and 5.10 (Breezy Badger), Xfce 4 was supported by a special Xfce Team in Ubuntu. Due to the great work done on Xfce, Xubuntu was brought into the fold and became Ubuntu’s third partner project and a part of the main Ubuntu repository, for release 6.10 (Edgy Eft).

Gobuntu

Gobuntu is an official derivative of Ubuntu that is designed to consist entirely of free software. Roughly synonymous with “open source,” free software philosophy, as described in Chapter 1, mandates that all software be usable for any purpose, modifiable, and distributable without restriction. Support of these principles are a core piece of Ubuntu philosophy, as described in Appendix B under Ubuntu Philosophy. The vast majority of software in Ubuntu lives up these standards as is required for inclusion in Ubuntu’s “main” component. However, Ubuntu makes several exceptions within its restricted component (see Appendix B under Components for more information). These include nonfree drivers and firmware necessary for hardware support. Additionally, other nonfree software can be enabled and installed in Ubuntu with a reasonably small degree of effort. In the eyes of many advocates of software freedom and members of the free and open source software movements, this is simply not free enough.

Gobuntu exists to answer these critiques. The project was originally pitched as “Gnubuntu” in reference to the GNU Project described in Chapter 1 but was changed upon objections by GNU founder Richard M. Stallman. In the words of Mark Shuttleworth, Gobuntu aims to take, “an ultra-orthodox view of licensing: no firmware, drivers, imagery, sounds, applications, or other content which do not include full source materials and come with full rights of modification, remixing, and redistribution.” In many ways, the project shares many goals with the derivative gNewSense discussed later in this chapter. However, while gNewSense operates entirely outside of the Ubuntu project, Gobuntu is a Canonical-sponsored project and is implemented as a simple subset of Ubuntu like Kubuntu, Edubuntu, and Xubuntu.

Ubuntu Studio

Ubuntu Studio is an official derivative of Ubuntu that is designed and optimized for multimedia production. The system includes a wide variety of applications useful to those engaging in audio and video recording, mixing, editing, synthesis, and production and graphics production and manipulation. It also contains a modified kernel that allows the system to reduce latency for audio in ways that dramatically improve performance in professional audio recording and manipulation but that may be inappropriate in other environments. Its first release was based on Ubuntu 7.04.

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