|Computing for the Masses
Ubuntu is a Bantu word that means 'humanity', while Kubuntu means 'towards humanity' in the Bemba language.
If you are a recent convert to the open source cause, you are bound to be curious about Ubuntu, as well as Kubuntu, which are two of the most widely used Linux distributions. They have helped the powerful open source OS reach beyond the geek domain and enter the consumer market. Ubuntu, freely distributed by South African entrepreneur, Mark Shuttleworth's company, Canonical, is one of the few Linux success stories, that has branched into smartphone and mobile computing domain. It is a Debian-based distribution, which supports IA-32, x86-64, and ARM platforms. The latest release of Ubuntu is 13.10 Saucy Salamander.
Kubuntu is a derivative of Ubuntu, sponsored by Canonical, until 2012, after which it has been supported by the German IT company, Blue Systems, a major supporter of KDE applications. Being a derivative, Kubuntu releases simultaneously with new versions of Ubuntu and shares the same packages, underlying systems, and repositories.
In short, Kubuntu is Ubuntu with a different graphic interface or desktop user environment, in the form of KDE. All software, including KDE applications on Kubuntu and the Unity desktop environment installed on Ubuntu, are interchangeable on both distributions. As far as Linux is concerned, almost every piece of installed software is customizable and can be modified to suit your needs. Kubuntu is largely preferred by people who are not very fond of the Unity desktop environment, offered by Ubuntu or by those who prefer KDE.
Comparative Analysis of Ubuntu and Kubuntu
Here's a quick overview of the differences. The primary distinguishing points are the graphical user interface and the toolkit.
|Kernel and Core|
|Linux Kernel and Ubuntu Core|
|Qt||GTK+, Nux, and Qt|
|Personal Information Manager and Email|
Ubuntu 13.10: A Brief Overview
Some of the prime highlights of the latest Ubuntu release are the Unity desktop environment, Smart Scopes, Linux kernel 3.11, new keyboard applet, Ubuntu One login during installation, Firefox 24, and LibreOffice 188.8.131.52.
Described as a solid and reliable OS that works out of the box directly, without the need to install codecs and other packages, Ubuntu has maintained that image, through this release. The transition from Gnome to Unity Desktop environment in the earlier versions, persists as a regular version now. It consists of a Dash, a desktop search utility, with a search engine known as a Scope, with various lenses that help narrow down search results. It provides video, music, application, file, social, and even Amazon search results and updates through the engine.
This Unity desktop interface has generated diametrically opposite views among Ubuntu's users. Some who preferred the earlier Gnome interface hate it, while there are some who like the innovative new search features; opinions are divided. In fact, Unity is the reason why many dedicated Ubuntu users have chosen Kubuntu instead, which offers a different desktop interface.
A feature known as Smart Scopes makes it possible to include web, as well as local results in desktop search, besides offering a filtering facility. The web results feature can be turned off through the security and privacy settings, if you find it to be too intrusive.
A brand new keyboard applet has been introduced, that lets you easily switch between languages and layouts. A direct login into Ubuntu One during the installation, directly loads your previously saved desktop environment after the setup. The installation is breezy and takes about 15 minutes on most desktop and laptop computers. Rhythmbox music player, Remmina remote desktop client, Empathy IM, and Transmission BitTorrent client are some of the pre-installed programs.
The Ubuntu Software Center is available, from where you can install all the programs you need. To run the OS, system requirements for a desktop or laptop include a 1 GHz x86 processor, at least 64 Mb of RAM (512 Mb is recommended), along with a hard drive that has at least 5 GB of storage space.
It is a decent and reliable OS, that you can count on. It works fast and is ready to run, right out of the box. If you love Unity, there is just nothing to complain about.
Kubuntu 13.10: A Brief Overview
Though it inherits all the under-the-hood core and kernel features of Ubuntu, Kubuntu looks different, due to KDE 4.11 Plasma, the clean and sparse desktop environment, that many users prefer. Besides this environment and its associated applications, some of the new features introduced in the the 13.10 release are a wireless setup in installer, improved user manager menu, Muon Discover Software center, and an improved network manager applet.
The system requirements for the distribution are same as that of Ubuntu. Installation is quite fast and you can download updates during installation; thanks to the new wireless setup facility.
The KDE desktop is clutter-free and provides access to programs and files, through a left-bottom K-button (Kickoff Application Launcher), which is reminiscent of the Start button, that is a standard fixture on Microsoft Windows. The interface is intuitive and easy to use. The widgets which come with this desktop environment, bring in a lot of extra functionality. The widget menu is easily accessible and extremely useful.
Applications like LibreOffice, Okular Document Viewer, Ktorrent, Kontact, Rekonq, Amarok, and Dragon player, come pre-installed, and can be immediately used after setup.
Though both the distributions use dpkg for package management, what sets Kubuntu apart is the new Muon GUI software that forms the front end. It handles the location and installation of new packages. It is similar to Synaptic, another package manager.
Performance wise, Kubuntu is slightly speedier than Ubuntu and more responsive. It offers a user interface that new migrants from Windows and Mac will easily get used to. Most importantly, those of you, irked by the Unity interface of Ubuntu, will find the KDE interface to be a delight.
In totality, considering that both distributions come with the same core and kernel, the difference boils down to the graphic desktop environment. Unity is a new experiment undertaken by Canonical, that integrates web and desktop search. If it doesn't go down well with you, the KDE alternative offered by Ubuntu is a logical choice.
On the other hand, if you fall in love with Unity, there is not a lot on the Kubuntu side which should motivate you to switch. Kubuntu is ideal for users who are switching from Mac or Windows, as they will find the interface to be more intuitive. If you are using very old hardware, Kubuntu might not run that smoothly, but with any of the recent systems, you should not have any issues.
Ergo, in conclusion, both distributions are on par and decision can only be made after you get a feel of the desktop environment for both. Depending on what interface suits you the most, you can then make your decision.