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The Official Ubuntu Book, 7th Edition: Ubuntu-Related Projects and Derivatives

This chapter provides an overview of some Ubuntu's officially supported derivatives, recognized derivatives, and other projects that are part of the international Ubuntu ecosystem.
This chapter is from the book

Chapter 9. Ubuntu-Related Projects and Derivatives

  • Recognized Derivatives
  • Editions
  • Remixes
  • Other Distributions
  • Launchpad
  • Bazaar
  • Ubuntu One
  • 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 Lubuntu project, are created by a community of users with specific desires.

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 and others are based on Ubuntu, but distinct projects. One may be more appropriate than another 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, also know as flavors, 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.

Recognized Derivatives

Recognized derivatives, or flavors (Figure 9-1), release on the same schedule, share a common repository of packages, and work in close relation with Ubuntu. There are at the time of publication six officially recognized derivatives—Xubuntu, Ubuntu Studio, Mythbuntu, Kubuntu, Edubuntu, and Lubuntu—which are discussed in more depth later in this chapter. As of the 2011 Ubuntu Developer Summit (UDS-P; Orlando, Florida), Canonical has implemented changes around its derivatives. No longer are there any “supported” derivatives, and all “official” derivatives are referred to as “recognized” derivatives. Canonical now supplies these recognized derivatives with infrastructure, daily ISO build and publish resources, coordination with the Ubuntu release, and support after the release. However, there are services that Canonical does not offer these recognized derivatives: testing of the derivative images on ISO tracker, automated ISO or upgrade testing, fixing of packages not in Ubuntu desktop or server images, security updates of packages not in main, publishing on http://releases.ubuntu.com, and mastering of the CD or USB images. It is now the responsibility of each of the recognized derivative communities to take ownership of those services.

Figure 9-1. Ubuntu.com Derivatives page

Like Ubuntu, each of these recognized derivatives has vibrant communities that help develop, maintain, test, support, advocate, and more. Each has IRC (Internet Chat Relay) channels on freenode.net, mailing lists, Launchpad teams, forums, wiki pages, and Web sites for users to actively participate in. More information on these resources is listed under each recognized derivative section, and further general information can be found at https://wiki.ubuntu.com/RecognizedDerivatives.


Kubuntu (Figure 9-2) 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. It strives to take the best of Ubuntu and the best of the KDE to produce a great Linux distribution.

Figure 9-2. Kubuntu 12.04 desktop

Like Ubuntu, Kubuntu makes the following commitments: Kubuntu will provide the very best translations and accessibility infrastructure that the free software community has to offer; Kubuntu will always be free of charge, and there is no extra cost for an “enterprise” version; and Kubuntu will always provide the latest and best software from the KDE community.

Kubuntu is a complete desktop but one built around KDE and Qt. Kubuntu opts for a more traditional blue and makes only a few other visual changes. The project is led by the Kubuntu Council (an elected group of developers) and an army of volunteers. The Council includes:

  • Christian Mangold
  • David Wonderly
  • Harald Sitter
  • Jonathan Riddell
  • Jonathan Thomas
  • Scott Kitterman


Edubuntu (Figure 9-3) 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.

Figure 9-3. Edubuntu 12.04 desktop

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
  • Marc Gariépy

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.

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 located in your Unity launcher found on your desktop. Once the Ubuntu software Center opens, type Educational Desktop for Ubuntu or Educational Desktop for Kubuntu in the search window.


Lubuntu (Figure 9-4) gained its official recognized derivative status during the 11.10 release cycle and strives to provide an even lighter and faster desktop by using the Lightweight X11 Desktop Environment (LXDE), by default, in place of GNOME, KDE, or Xfce. While LXDE can be built on many current Linux distributions, it is the native environment of Lubuntu alone.

Figure 9-4. Lubuntu 12.04 desktop

Lubuntu is targeted at “normal” PC and laptop users running on low-spec hardware and who may not know how to use command-line tools. In most cases, they just don’t have enough resources for all the bells and whistles of the “full-featured” mainstream distributions.


Xubuntu (Figure 9-5) is a version of Ubuntu built on top of the Xfce window management system. In Xubuntu, Xfce and its associated applications play a role analogous 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 may make 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.

Figure 9-5. Xubuntu 12.04 desktop

Like Kubuntu, Xubuntu is community driven and began outside the project in the universe repository of Ubuntu. In releases 5.04 and 5.10, 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, where it has remained since.

Ubuntu Studio

Ubuntu Studio (Figure 9-6) is a 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 as well as graphics production and manipulation. It 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 the kernel may be inappropriate in other environments. Its first release was based on Ubuntu 7.04.

Figure 9-6. Ubuntu Studio 12.04 desktop


MythTV is one of the most popular pieces of home theater software, but it has a bit of a reputation as a beast to set up. Mythbuntu (Figure 9-7) is designed to make that setup easy. Like Xubuntu, Mythbuntu uses Xfce as a desktop environment, has a custom-made Mythbuntu Control Center, and has a LiveCD for easy testing. Mythbuntu’s first release was based on Ubuntu 7.10.

Figure 9-7. Mythbuntu 12.04 desktop

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