Linux Mint and Elementary OS are two popular alternatives Ubuntu, but they are based on Ubuntu. If you’re new to Linux, this might confuse you. Try to understand what it means and why it matters to you.
Ubuntu is a free alternative from open source to commercial, proprietary operating systems such as Windows and macOS. At the top there is a panel that shows time, system indicators and the way to open the overview screen or dashboard that allows you to access your applications. There you can also switch between Windows and virtual desktops.
Behind Ubuntu is Canonical. Unlike Microsoft and Apple, Canonical does not develop a large part of what is included in the operating system. Instead, Ubuntu is composed of free and open source components that come from individuals and teams from around the world.
The interface that I described above, not unique to Ubuntu. Actually it is a desktop environment known as GNOME.
Canonical uses these components to create a functional desktop that everyone can download for free. You can use Ubuntu for General computing, office work, software development or games. You can also use Ubuntu to run servers.
Ubuntu and Linux are one and the same?
Not really. The core, which allows the software to communicate with your computer’s hardware, is Linux. The Linux kernel is just one of many components that Canonical uses to create desktop Ubuntu.
One way to understand the difference between Ubuntu and Linux is that you can’t run the Linux kernel on their own. It works in the background, supporting many different devices in your life: from the pumps for refueling, Android smartphones. Desktop Linux is not just Linux, but all free software is open source running on top. Therefore, it is proper to consider Ubuntu as Ubuntu Linux, and not as something separate.
Ubuntu is much more than the desktop that you download from the site ubuntu.com . It is a community of developers and users. And a set of applications and programs collected from many sources and used for different purposes.
Most of the code that supports Ubuntu, is not owned by Canonical.
Based on what Ubuntu?
Ubuntu is based on Debian, a massive project that does the same thing in Ubuntu, only in a less accessible form. To clarify the situation, we need to define a few terms.
- Packages: the way in which developers distribute software for Linux. Applications, system components, drivers, codecs and other software supplied in the form of packets.
- Package formats: different versions of Linux manage packages using different formats. At the moment there is no single format that would be compatible with any version of Linux.
- Repository: instead of downloading installers from the web-site, Linux software is typically located in the repository. The repository is a large collection of packages, where they can be downloaded as needed. App stores provide Linux software akin to Android and iOS, while the more traditional tools, known as package managers.
- Distributions. Distributions are collections of programs that are packaged in a manner that ensures the functioning of the operating system, and is also accompanied by the community and stored in repositories.
Ubuntu and Debian are distros of Linux, Ubuntu uses the same DEB package format, and Debian, although the software is not always compatible between them. Ubuntu provides its own repository , but mostly fills their packages from Debian.
Ubuntu is distributed in many forms. Desk defaults to the GNOME desktop. There are different “flavors” (versions), which use a different desktop environment. Kubuntu, for example, uses a desktop KDE Plasma. Xubuntu uses a different interface, known as Xfce.
Canonical is not developing these versions, but he makes them, and all of the related software. They are stored in the same repositories that Ubuntu desktop by default.
Distributions based on Ubuntu
There are many distributions based on Ubuntu, which Canonical is irrelevant (similar to how Ubuntu is based on Debian). Linux Mint and elementary OS are two of the most popular examples. They are both from different teams and offer their unique solutions. One of the key differences between Ubuntu and Linux Mint is that the latter has an interface more similar to Windows.
Looks can be deceiving. At its core, the infrastructure of Linux Mint is the same that supports and Ubuntu. Similarly, when you open the app store in Linux Mint and elementary OS, a large part of the software is the same that you can get in Ubuntu.
What does it mean?
This means that when you see a program that mentions support for Ubuntu, this support is not limited to a Desk Ubuntu. Such software will also work on the official versions of Ubuntu and unrelated projects that share a basic infrastructure of Ubuntu. Steam says it works on Ubuntu, but you can run this same installer, and Pop!_OS (another distro based on Ubuntu).
If you decide to install elementary OS instead of Ubuntu, you need to know that most of what applies to Ubuntu applies to you. If Ubuntu doesn’t work on your computer, elementary OS, most likely, too will not work. Similarly, if a game controller not working with Ubuntu, most likely it is not compatible with your system. When you encounter any errors you may be luckier in finding solutions related to Ubuntu than in the search for elementary OS.
But things are (usually) do not go in the opposite direction. Ubuntu can’t easily run software designed specifically for elementary OS. To explain this relationship, the Linux community uses the metaphor of a stream. Ubuntu is rising in relation to elementary OS (described below). The software works downstream from Ubuntu. The water flows only in one direction.
The farther you are from the source, the more chances of finding errors. Debian takes the source code for software and package them into DEB packages. Ubuntu restructurare these packages, and for some introduces its own settings; then elementary OS adds a few additional changes. When something goes wrong, you have several points in the chain for consideration. The problem is in the source code, Debian, Ubuntu or elementary OS?
Should You use a distro based on Ubuntu?
It depends on your needs and expectations. Here are some key points to consider:
- Are you happy with Ubuntu? If you are satisfied with a work Desk Ubuntu by default, stay with what you have.
- You like Ubuntu, but not the interface? You can change the desktop environment without reinstalling the distribution. Or you can install a different flavor of Ubuntu.
- You like the Ubuntu infrastructure, but not how it is managed? If you have any problems with Canonical, can help to use a distribution based on Ubuntu provided by another community. Linux Mint, elementary OS and Pop!_OS use the infrastructure of Ubuntu, but Canonical decisions affect them not so as to the official Ubuntu versions.
If you don’t like Ubuntu infrastructure, you may want to leave the ecosystem entirely. There are many other Linux distributions, with different strengths and weaknesses. They can completely change your impression about Linux.
Translation of the article: https://www.makeuseof.com/tag/ubuntu-vs-ubuntu-based-distros/