If you are a seasoned Linux user, you most likely know what a “Ubuntu-based distro” means, but for new users, it is often very confusing. So is “Linux Mint” another version of Ubuntu, or is it another version of Linux? This article will explain the significance of Ubuntu-based distros compared to Ubuntu itself and what “Ubuntu-based” means.
Debian, Ubuntu, Debian-Based, Ubuntu-Based
Before I go into Ubuntu-based distros, like Linux Mint, let’s clarify Ubuntu itself. Ubuntu is free open-source software anybody can modify and use as a basis to create their own Ubuntu-based distro.
Ubuntu itself is a distro that also doesn’t start from scratch. It’s based on Debian Linux. Canonical (the company behind Ubuntu) took some Debian files and created a new, more user-friendly distro called Ubuntu. Debian is one of the most popular Linux distros out there with tons of features, but for a non-technical user it’s more complicated to use than Ubuntu. I guess this is the main reason why Ubuntu became so popular – ease of use, coupled with decent functionality.
However, since tastes (and needs) differ, as great as Ubuntu is, it can’t possibly appeal to everybody. One user needs one thing, another needs something totally different. While you can get Ubuntu and install all the additional software on your own, this takes time, and not all packages will work. It’s easier, especially for a newbie, to get a ready-made distro with the stuff you need. This is where Ubuntu flavors and Ubuntu-based distros come into play.
Ubuntu and Its Flavors
You have probably heard about popular Ubuntu-like distros, such as Kubuntu, Xubuntu, Edubuntu, etc. Though you can call them Ubuntu-based, these are just different flavors of Ubuntu. Technically, they are NOT separate distros, they are just the same Ubuntu core plus a different desktop environment. Also, they are official releases by Canonical, while Ubuntu-based distros are typically released by third-party developers.
Why Use Ubuntu-Based Distros?
There are many reasons why one would want to use Ubuntu-based distros. First, you may like Ubuntu but are not happy with what’s included in it or in its official flavors. You might need different software/drivers, more user-friendliness, etc. In a sense, you want Ubuntu … but Ubuntu from a different angle.
Second, since Ubuntu is a very popular distro, chances are the apps you need have a Ubuntu version. If a distro is Ubuntu-based, most software will run without a problem, though don’t take this for granted. With the huge selection of Ubuntu apps from the Main, Universe, Restricted, and Multiverse repositories, your options for new software and updates to already installed apps are unlimited.
Popular Ubuntu-Based Distros
There are many Ubuntu-based distros targeted at a different audience and serving a different purpose. Some of the most popular ones are Linux Mint, elementary OS, and Zorin OS. However, there are dozens more.
One place you can check in your search for Ubuntu-based distros is DistroWatch. The list there includes Ubuntu flavors as well, but this isn’t a problem because flavors use Ubuntu anyway.
When you look for Ubuntu-based distros, I recommend you concentrate on active ones only because if you get a distro that hasn’t been updated in a year and won’t be updated soon (if at all), you won’t be able to enjoy all the perks of Ubuntu and Ubuntu-based distros.