Home opinion-and-analysis Open Sauce Kubuntu v Ubuntu: looks like the house is dividing

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Just a day before Ubuntu announced that it would be making its Mir display server the default from the next release, in October, the chief Kubuntu developer, Jonathan Riddell, announced that Kubuntu would not be using Mir or XMir.

Coincidence or anticipation? One wonders.

Kubuntu was an official project of Canonical until it split off and gained sponsorship by a company known as Blue Systems. Riddell was for some time an employee of Canonical but left the company some months ago.

His announcement seems eerily prescient.

Kubuntu is Ubuntu with the KDE desktop environment. Ubuntu originally used GNOME but now uses its own desktop known as Unity; applications from the GNOME desktop are present. There are other Ubuntu derivatives like Lubuntu and Xubuntu, using the LXDE and XFCE desktop environments respectively.

Riddell's announcement was very definitive. He contrasted the style of development at Kubuntu with that at Canonical: "Here at Kubuntu we still want to work as part of the community development, taking the fine software from KDE and other upstreams and putting it on computers worldwide."

And he went on: "So when Ubuntu Desktop gets switched to Mir we won't be following. We'll be staying with X on the images for our 13.10 release now in development and the 14.04LTS release next year. After that we hope to switch to Wayland which is what KDE and every other Linux distro hopes to do."

The upstream KDE project has indicated that it will not be using Mir at all; rather it will be switching to Wayland for its display server. It thus becomes difficult for a downstream project like Kubuntu to cater to another display server. Kubuntu has far less manpower at its command than Ubuntu itself which is funded by Canonical.

You'd have to wonder - will Mark Shuttleworth, the head of Canonical, consider revoking the use of the name of Kubuntu, given its similarity to Ubuntu, if it were not using the same components and, in fact, using a display server that Shuttleworth has jettisoned from his plans?

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Sam Varghese

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A professional journalist with decades of experience, Sam for nine years used DOS and then Windows, which led him to start experimenting with GNU/Linux in 1998. Since then he has written widely about the use of both free and open source software, and the people behind the code. His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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