Ever Wondered WTF Gnome vs Ubuntu?

This post will either go one of two ways, either people will get more irritated or it will shed some light on why seemingly rational people keep on doing seemingly irrational things.

From near as best I can tell, we look like this:

Your agreement may vary, post below (politely) if you do or don’t agree with my graphic.

17 thoughts on “Ever Wondered WTF Gnome vs Ubuntu?

  1. I think trying to understand the difference between Ubuntu (the project) and Ubuntu Desktop (a product produced by the project) is useful and helpful. I have found the overloading of the term Ubuntu to cause a number of issues and if we can disambiguate these two concepts it will be helpful.

    I don’t understand what Gnome the OS is (nor would it make any more sense to if it were (KDE) Plasma OS).

    It’s all a matter of layers which I think of (in a simplified way) as


    Naming the operating system after the workspace doesn’t seem to fit very well?

  2. Do the colors of the line mean something?

    I don’t think that has any specific inaccuracies. Though I think a similar graph that included Canonical as a specific entity would bring further accuracy concerning how the red line in particular is actually drawn.


  3. ScottK: You’d think so, but then taken from the intent of those involved it’s clear there is a movement to reform the workspace/desktop layer into the entire operating system user experience. Hence the identity crisis. Although I’ve heard it claim that this was always the intent.

  4. ScottK

    I believe the AndroidOS does exactly that…Android is the workspace…Dalvik is the plumbing…linux is the kernel.

    Naming the OS after the workspace on which applications are then layered on top of seems a pretty successful model.


  5. @ScottK: I’m all for disambiguation, and I agree. Best thing is that doing so will get us even nearer to dropping the “L” word. Naming an OS after a kernel (either explicitly or by association) is a recipe for disaster.

    @Martin: Could you elaborate on what “Gnome the OS” is?

  6. Randall: It’s Gnome Shell, the user experience therein as designed by the project designers. It does the same thing that Unity does but isn’t tied to one distro. Instead I got the impression it will attempt to coherence hopefully by agreement each of the distros to it’s design rigidly (I don’t know if that will fly but we’ll see).

  7. Randall,
    Its a vision being laid out for Gnome 3 and beyond.


    I think the attendees of recent GUADEC conferences and attended this talk are probably the only people who could significantly elaborate on the concept without causing additional confusion.


  8. I don’t agree because Ubuntu is a Linux distribution.

    That means that it has different components (nothing new, the bazaar idea). It just happens that Ubuntu will be shipping some components that Canonical is developing instead of Gnome (or KDE), but I don’t think the concept “Ubuntu the OS” is incompatible with “Gnome the OS”, because the difference is just the UI.

    We have a software stack here: Linux, user land, x.org, different toolkits (GTK, Qt, etc), a display manager, window managers, etc.

    I guess I’ll try to reflect that in you graphic 🙂

  9. Juanjo: It’s been a while since “Liinux distribution” was meaningful. Since Android, Netgear firmware, TiVos and TomToms are all “Linux Distributions” and yet the “Linux” versions of firefox don’t seem to want to run on them. Linux is a kernel project, nothing more. It’s a problem when you try and ascribe more to the name because you end up with confusion and simple untruths in assumption. Part of all this process we’re going through is a social reconfiguration of what the free and open source community should be considering to call itself in the desktop arena.

    Canonical would like Ubuntu to be the Desktop, Gnome would like Gnome to be the desktop, I would like FreeDesktop to be the crowning cross organisation of awesome. But alas.

  10. @doctomo: Ubuntu distributes software that I’ve made (and released as GPL).

    If it’s not a software distribution, what’s my position then in Ubuntu? Is my software being distributed, or is Ubuntu itself?

    I don’t know if this makes any sense, I’m sorry. English it’s not my first language and today it’s been a tough day 🙂

  11. doctormo,

    There is a way out, Gnome still can be both platform and a specific deliverable. It really comes down to defining a set of things which must be provided by a vendor who uses GNOME modules as a starting point for their own deliverable. Gnome as a project could choose to define what it means to be compatible with a specific GNOME platform release in such a way that you could actual create a way to test for compliance.

    Litl’s interface and Canonical’s Unity could both be self-certified and independently verified as “GNOME compatible.” I think Canonical has made a best effort to be compatible with the idea of GNOME as a modular platform. I think everyone would benefit if GNOME itself codified what they want to see in compatible platforms and take away the ambiguity on that score.

    Then Gnome as a project could them move on and develop GNOME OS as a GNOME Platform compatible OS with much less friction with those who want to experiment with their own ideas on top of GNOME as a platform.


  12. OK. If Gnome is the OS (still trying to grok this), what is the particular expression of it that might be delivered by projects such as Debian, Ubuntu, opensuse, etc called?

  13. I think there is an overlooked layer in this onion: the gnu tools, the X server, the window manager, aka ‘plumbing’ (in the case of desktop, being android, netgear, etc is other story or may be another version of the same story). To me, up to that layer, I can call that ‘onion’ an ‘OS’, at less from strictly technical point of view. Up to the last layer (gnome, kde, unity, b&w terminal) I think is… ‘perceived OS’? So if I install Ubuntu, Debian or LinuxMint but configure it to use just terminal, I still have an ‘OS’, no matter what I perceive (or dislike :). From there to the top, I think there is ‘choices’, I can choose Gnome or KDE, or just stick to plain Icewm and forget the upper layer choice. Teorically, I can use an Ipaq only with terminal o even a smartphone (I wonder how useful THAT could be 🙂
    Bottom line, I think that pushing the idea of an OS as an user percepcion gestalt is not good, an OS must retain at less some kind of technically accurate definition, or in the future, may be the linux/open source users will see someone trying to sell them an ‘XPerience’ (ahem)

  14. I just had to laugh at the “drinks beer with” line! It’s making me think of that photo Riddell has on his blog where he and Vuntz swapped laptops–Riddell using one with lots of GNOME logos, and Vuntz using one with a giant K. And of the fact that every time I go to UDS I end up hanging out with GNOME upstream people (but I’m a Kubuntu user).

  15. Have you every used the GNOME’S API? The list widget is too complex. GNOME is a tool, I loving using it but I hope Ubuntu replaces it. Mackenzie some Gnome users and programmers are very cute. I like KDE.

Comments are closed.