Ubuntu Remixes: 4 Of The Best Alternatives to Ubuntu

Our recent article entitled Ubuntu As Intended drew in a fair amount of discussion about the base software and configuration in the default Ubuntu install. Some readers pointed out a few alternatives that aim to take the standard Ubuntu desktop and give it more polish than the original. Some of these projects just include a few extra packages, some replace the standard software suite, and others are complete makeovers. Today we aim to sift through a few of the more popular Ubuntu variants to find the best ones of the bunch, and see what they can offer.

Linux Mint

Let’s get the obvious out of the way first. Linux Mint is an extremely popular Ubuntu variant, and for good reason. Mint provides several desktop solutions including Gnome, KDE, Fluxbox and XFCE, and what they all have in common is a solid software base with several of Linux’s “trickier” packages already installed. This includes some non-free software so that you have support for MP3, DVD, and Flash right out of the box.


Saner Defaults Remix

This is a fairly new project, but it’s beginning to gain a following. The basic idea of the Ubuntu SDR is that the stock Ubuntu is great, but some of the decisions regarding included software may not be ideal. While that is of course subjective, it’s hard to argue with some of the enhancements found in SDR.


Some of the changes you’ll find include:

  • Empathy IM replaced with Pidgin
  • Min/Max/Close buttons moved back to the right
  • Evolution mail replaced with Mozilla Thunderbird
  • Simple clean blue (Clearlooks) theme
  • Gufw firewall included and activated on install
  • All Mono-based apps removed (includes GThumb for photos and Gnote for notes)
  • Multimedia repos enabled by default

and more

Ubuntu Ultimate Edition

While some (including this author) find the intensity of the color scheme to be a bit jarring, Ultimate Edition does have a bit working for it, and one of those things is speed. Several of the existing applications have been removed in favor of smaller and faster alternatives. Additionally, UE gives you some help with a few of the more legally or technically complicated packages like Flash and DVD support, either by bundling in to the default system or providing install helpers.


Ultimate Edition is clearly the most “home made” of those on the list, but if you’re willing to tolerate or change the visual theme, it can quickly become a useful desktop.


One common complaint about the normal Ubuntu release is that can sometimes be a bit slow, especially on older computers. Lubuntu aims to solve that by replacing the normal Gnome desktop with LXDE. Gnome apps like Nautilus and Gnome Terminal have been replaced with the liked of PCMan File manager and LXTerminal. The system is also designed to reduce power usage over the standard install, making Lubuntu and excellent choice for laptops.


There are certainly several other Ubuntu forks worth checking out, including Super OS, gOS, and wattOS. There’s certainly no shortage of high-quality Ubuntu variants out there, so if you’ve got any others to recommend, let us know in the comments!

Joshua Price

Josh Price is a senior MakeTechEasier writer and owner of Rain Dog Software


  1. May i also suggest SuperOS http://hacktolive.org/wiki/Super_OS which includes Nvidia and ATI drivers.

    1. I haven’t tried Pinguy before, but I’m reading up on it as a result of your post and it does appear to have some excellent features.

      If possible, and if the distro warrants it, we could certainly include that in any future articles along this topic, thanks.

      1. Of all the distros that pack in piles of extra applications (super OS, ultimate edition, ect) I must say PinguyOS does it the best. Truly worth the mention.

    1. I love Crunchbang, and indeed would have included it here, but they’ve moved to a Debian base instead of Ubuntu, which took it outside the scope of the article.

    1. Mint is indeed a quality distribution, but a bit heavy on resources. That was actually the inspiration for this article, as a friend was asking about Ubuntu distros but needed something more light weight than Mint. Thanks for the comment.

  2. Looking for a lightweight Linux system? I suggest you Bodhi Linux http://www.bodhilinux.com/ . I installed it on a quite old laptop for my wife and she loves it. It is really snappy with some eyecandy too

    1. +1 for Bodhi. Enlightenment is one of the best desktops around – as light as LXDE with Eye Candy :)

      1. @Jeff, How it comes you are supporting Bodhi?? ;)

        Good job, keep on the efforts, we need an Enlightenment up to date Linux system around here.

    2. I tried Lubuntu and I love it. it will be a great candidate for the best lightweight Linux system

      1. Agreed. I had a pile of spare parts from older computers. When I accumulate enough parts, I build a computer and give it away. Ubuntu installation failed repeatedly, same with mint and PCLinux. Lubuntu installed without a hitch. It seems like a great solution for older and slower computers.

  3. Looking at the Linux Mint screenshot it looks like xfce but the application menu is new to me. Is this Linux Mint specific? Is it also available for other distributions?

    1. Mint provides multiple versions depending on your desktop preference, but I believe the screenshot is showing their KDE edition. The menu as seen there is one of KDE’s possible menu configurations.

      1. Nope. That’s the mint Gnome desktop. BTW, Mint menu is downloadable from the ubuntu repositories if anyone wants to use it on their re-spin. IIRC PinguyOS uses it.

    2. That’s called mintmenu, developed by the mint team. I think it looks pretty much the same in all versions of Mint. It has a search box that can search the web or search for software packages and install them from the repositories without opening the package manager. It does a lot of other stuff to. I think you can get it from launchpad’s WebUpd8 PPA.

      1. Is that so? My mistake, only time I used that menu was Mint KDE and thought it was a KDE feature (which I otherwise don’t use very often). Thanks for clarification.

  4. Hey friend. Thanks so much for the coverage and kind words on the Saner Defaults Remix! A few other benefits to it are choice in that both lucid and maverick are offered (although the LTS Lucid is the focus) as well as a lucid lubuntu, UNR/UNE, CD and DVD, and 32 and 64 bit versions. Further, the lucid .iso are respun monthly to include all updates (to minimize the updates to download after installation.) The DVD .isos include all multimedia codecs as well and flash and sun-java6 (the 64-bit DVDs include 64-bit flash.) Also, nautilus elementary is included. Basically, it is scratching my own itch for .iso for friends and relatives (or any other potential new user) with all the necessary tweaking already done. Thanks again for the mention. The next batch of updates will be respun shortly.

  5. I’ve used Ultimate Edition since v.1.8 and though I’ve tried other Ubuntu variants I always find myself running back to U.E.. Though I do (As you suggest.) have to change the default theme to something easier on my aging eyes. U.E. is fast, nice looking, has very friendly and helpful forums/moderators and it comes with everything you need + the kitchen sink.

  6. You mention Lubuntu and not Xubuntu? Epic fail. Lubuntu is no where near as complete as Xubuntu, which just works right out of the box. Sure it uses slightly more resources than Lubuntu, but not that much based on my real tests. IMHO, Xubuntu is the best Linux distro out there.

  7. Another vote for PinguyOS, which I think is the best of the respins I’ve tried (though I haven’t looked at Zorin yet, which also seems to have a similar ethos to Pinguy)

  8. I liked what “Saner Defaults Remix” (SDR) made claims to do.

    I have been using Ubuntu since the 4.x days.

    I started the first install, this morning at about 0600…

    I FINALLY got the basic update (Nvidia Drivers and update/upgrade) finished 3 HOURS later… but with broken packages, pixlux errors, packages I installed (like VLC_) being uninstalled (By SDR) and several other innanities.. It is now 1335 hours… and I still am trying to finish basic install to get to the point of doing something productive (FireFox would not work for a while, also)…

    I have NEVER had unmitigated crap like these problems, even with Mint/Ubuntu…

    I am working to finish, because I am pig-headed stubborn…

    You need to do some things on this ‘package’

    1. Hey friend! Thanks so much for downloading and installing the SDR! That is incredible that you have used Ubuntu since Warty! Were you a Debian user before that or is Ubuntu the first Linux distro you have used? Anyway, I am sorry you had problems with the install. Further, I would be much obliged if you would file a bug report: http://sourceforge.net/tracker/?group_id=345820&atid=1446629 (You would, however, first need to register for a sourceforge login, which is quick, simple and painless.) In any case, please at least advise me of which .iso you downloaded (lucid/maverick, 32/64 bit, etc) and also as detailed description as you can regarding the problems you experienced. Lucid is the focus but maverick packages are also available (but are not kept updated.) Further, input would be much appreciated. Thanks again and sorry for the problems.

      1. To turn off notifications, go to: http://disqus.com/account/

        It was the supposedly the Maverick, 64 Bit, but, Some of the things
        loaded had me curious.

        I am currently on an AMD dual core 64Bit system (I upgraded chip to dual
        core. It came as single core.)

        It is Compaq Presario (funds are low… I keep cheap and beat things out
        in tweaks)

        I used to use Windows. Did since 3.1 was brand new. As a result of
        visiting quite a few Black Hat sites (Warez, etc) I learned about what
        the bad guys know about Windows. Active X says it all.

        I went to many sites, learning how to ‘tweak’ and secure Windows. In the
        end, the Auto Updates knocking my system out of the water for the 2nd
        time, said I was getting rid of it…. Period.

        That, too some time. The systems I had, over the years, would not load
        most distros. (I tried many… they would rarely if ever get past the
        load screen, if that far.

        Ubuntu (Warty) was the first to actually be installed, and work. I have
        tried about 10 different distros, un-numbered times. I have tried
        variants of Ubuntu. I have had as many as 4 versions of Linux on system
        at one time (using only one, of course). I have programming (very low
        level languages) and lots of old time experience.

        Mint was the first distro of Ubuntu to drive me nutz (Will not install
        it, knowingly, again. My hats of to Pinquy for what he did. I hate Mint,
        and could not stand his distro, either.)

        Now… recalling what I can I cleared the sector for the install, but,
        kept my home file as it is (on a separate sector). I can test with what
        I use (and have it backed up on a USB 250 Gig drive). If it won’t use my
        data, I don’t need it)…

        The install took a little longer than I am used to. (Keep in mind the
        boot sector was blank to begin with.)

        I finally scratched the load, restarted.

        The install still took overly long, but I got it up and ‘running?’

        Then to install the nVidia drivers. I was watching things not working
        correctly, but, figured that would clear up with the ‘update.’

        At the start of the second install, it was 0615. nVidia drivers took
        until 0715 (usually I am updating the install by then. Fully until 1100,
        I was updating, watching something called pixlux (??) cause something to
        not load – dozens and dozens of times, while I was watching (something
        to do while waiting). When that was done… Firefox would not work.
        could not get Thunderbird up, and when it got up… Some file (it would
        not tell me) was missing, so I could do nothing… but…

        Un-installs and re-installs, making sure I had all the gnome and other
        niceties put in… kind of fixed the problems.

        Updates, patches, installs and fixes ran for another several hours. I
        was not done, when I posted in the forums. It is still installed on a
        separate partition, and I can load it up… but…

        I am running 10.10 on the system right now. I have Linux kernel 2.6.37
        (release) running. (yes, I may not be great, but know where to get
        stuff). Using same ‘/home’ file, I have no problems at this time, with

        Can I help, other than what I have said? Don’t know. To a point, I am

        Keep in mind, I was raised in Computers in the 1960s. Security is my
        forte (we, that and efficiency) neither of which anyone cares about

        You will not find me on facebook, twitter or the ilk – they have NO

        Hope this helps.

        I am using email.. Source Forge would not send me to your thread, and I
        was not starting a new one.

        the old rang

        “The truth is more important than the facts.”
        – Frank Lloyd Wright

        “Facts are stubborn things;
        and whatever may be our wishes,
        our inclination,
        or the dictates of our passions,
        they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.”
        – John Adams

        To quote the famous philosopher Giovani Spok…

        Hey! Wassamadda you, Dr. McCoy??
        I’ma gonna tella you!!
        At’sa What Ammagonna say months ago!!
        You wanna starta listen?

        (where do you get these translators from?the UN Climate czar??)

    1. We’ve actually written on Peppermint here a while back


      It was nice, but to me personally there wasn’t anything especially compelling about it.

  9. Your best bet is to go back to the source of it all. Debian. Add ons and fluff only go so far. Use debian. Go for squeeze, sure it’s not out yet, but it’s more than stable. More stable than a derivative of ubuntu which is based on a snapshot of Sid

    I guess that in the iPad world (I’m tying this on one) it’s unfashionable to learn the command line, but god damn it people, learn some bash and a scripting language like perl or python.

  10. Has anyone checked out iGolaware Linux 2.0 my son downloaded it last week from www.igolaware.com and it looks very complete. I’m going to show it to my colleagues at work next week

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