Announcing Edubuntu Revival

Hello everyone! Since Edubuntu is no longer an official flavor, I couldn’t figure out a good place to post this, so this seemed to be most appropriate.

If you’ve been around Ubuntu for any amount of time, you may have heard of Edubuntu, the official flavor of Ubuntu that was for classrooms, schools, homes, and communities of education that was discontinued in 2016.

This past November, I was given the opportunity to attend Ubuntu Summit as the leader of Ubuntu Studio and for my nearly five-year contributions to Ubuntu. I brought my wife and son with me. My wife, Amy, was sad to learn that Edubuntu wasn’t a flavor anymore. She didn’t realize you could do so much with Ubuntu and open-source software in general. She felt inspired by the many talks and conversations she had while there.

For some background, Amy is a 16-year veteran of Early Childhood Education here in the United States and has a Bachelor of Arts in Early Education and Family Studies from the University of Washington where she graduated with High Honors. She currently works for a non-profit that provides early education resources for Somali refugee children in the Seattle area, and the concept of Ubuntu is a core part of their ethos.

When we got home, she asked me about what it would take to get Edubuntu going again, and I took a look and saw that everything was still there that was needed to make it happen, including the seeds. We decided to talk to the Community Council and the Technical Board to get the necessary permissions to get access to those items, and now here we are.

Amy will be the Flavor Lead in this case while I’ll be her technical lead. Right now, we’re still in the early stages and we don’t yet have a .iso image, but if you want to try it out on a Lunar Lobster daily, it’s pretty easy from a minimal Ubuntu Desktop install: simply install the edubuntu-desktop package and you’ll have it!

You’ll notice a few differences from the Edubuntu of old.

  • We’re using the GNOME desktop. Edubuntu will simply, from a .iso image standpoint, be built on-top of the Ubuntu Desktop. This will ensure ease of configurability and administration as we won’t have to “reinvent the wheel” and instead use what the Ubuntu Desktop team has already established for workstations.
  • New logo:
    Edbuntu-logo-2022_RGB
    You’ll notice this is based on the new Ubuntu logo as of this past March. We’re keeping with the concept of the Circle-of-Friends with one person raising their hand, much like the old Edubuntu logo. This one, however, is modernized to be much like the current Ubuntu logo.
    (As an aside, we [Ubuntu Studio] did something similar with the Ubuntu Studio logo when the new Ubuntu logo released, and I really hope that the other flavors follow suit in keeping uniformity and consistency.)
  • The theme uses the red Yaru variation in keeping consistent with the red logo. This saves from having to run our own icon theme. Additionally, Qt-based applications don’t take to the dark theming, which is unfortunate.

Please do note that this is very much work-in-progress. Plans do include:

  • Default application folders by education subject (Math, Science, Language, etc.)
  • An installer much like Ubuntu Studio Installer which allows the metapackages (ubuntu-edu-preschool, ubuntu-edu-primary, ubuntu-edu-secondary, ubuntu-edu-tertiary) to be installed on any official flavor of Ubuntu
  • A meta uninstaller much like Ubuntu Studio has which lets groups of irrelevant applications be easily uninstalled. For instance, a preschool classrooom wouldn’t need what a secondary school classroom would need, etc.
  • Further curation. So far, we’ve worked through the preschool and primary seeds, but application curation can take hours.
  • A new website. Right now, edubuntu.org redirects to ubuntu.com, which is a wee-bit problematic. I believe after reaching official flavor status we can get IS to get us set-up with a site and we can go from there.
  • A stretch (and secondary) goal is to reimplement the Linux Terminal Server Project component, but I think this would be after reaching official flavor status.

We have been in communication with the Technical Board about our intentions, so this is no surprise to them, but we at least wanted to make it known that this is going on and that you can at least see a “preview” right now. Again, very much work-in-progress, and hopefully we can get the ball rolling further.

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Hi @eeickmeyer,

Personally I’m really excited about this announcement.

Being a parent, I’ve dabbled in distros/frameworks like sugar to provide a “linux based distro/ open source option” for my children. At the time of my search (post 2017), Edubuntu was not an option :frowning:

My only request, is that Edubuntu is made with student finances in mind. As you may be aware, often enough some students’ finances are not great, so older/slower hardware is the only option for them.

Officially supporting lower spec’d DEs (xfce, lxqt, etc) would help ensure that all students have access to Edubuntu, with less of a regard to circumstance

I’m curious about both your thoughts (Amy and yourself), about this request. Hope this finds you well.

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Hi @voryzen!

There are two ideas that come to mind here. The first one is that I have, in my possession, a very low-spec’d circa-2015 Lenovo Thinkpad that runs Ubuntu 22.10 very well. I’m not certain of the exact specs, but keep that in mind. Along those same lines, I have a similarly low-spec’d Microsoft Surface Pro 4 that seems to hold-up well with the exception of its battery life, possibly due to age as batteries do deteriorate over time.

The other one is what I mentioned in the post, and this is being developed with your low-budget use-case in mind: I’m working on a fork of Ubuntu Studio Installer (calling it Edubuntu Installer) for the very purpose of being able to take any official flavor of Ubuntu (e.g. Lubuntu, Ubuntu MATE, Xubuntu, etc.) and install Edubuntu packages onto it with ease. This would include another package: edubuntu-menu, which would organize the applications into custom menus (or in GNOME’s case, custom application folders in the activities overview). We would support the installation via this method, but the DE would be supported by the flavor it came from.

The other thing most people don’t think of is that the DE is probably the least of your worries. Most DEs, especially lately, are very good at memory management as the memory holes of GNOME have been plugged, and even KDE Plasma and Xfce run neck-and-neck in memory consumption (my personal tests show +/- 50MB difference). Where the rubber meets the road for hardware specs is the individual applications. For instance, the most memory-hungry applications you run these days are the ones you run all the time: web browsers. Web browsers will eat more RAM than any single desktop environment. So, let that sink-in.

The reason for using GNOME as a desktop on the .iso image is because it will be easier for schools to deploy using methods already developed by the Ubuntu Desktop team, and it already has built-in Remote Desktop Sharing which would make it easy for a teacher to assist a student. Another advantage GNOME has is that it gets first-class attention from Canonical, so that’s hard to pass-up.

To have more than one DE would require more than one .iso image, which would mean, per the Technical Board, more than one official flavor of Ubuntu, which is a no-go. I have been down this road with Ubuntu Studio and it is too difficult and time-consuming to maintain two different .iso images in a volunteer project. That, and we would be at the mercy of Canonical’s infrastructure, so I’m afraid that’s just not possible.

I hope that answers your questions (and then some), as your questions were largely technical. Amy is mostly working with me on application curation, user experience, aesthetics (wallpapers), and those subject-based application folders which we intend to dive deeper into tomorrow. Basically, she’s the brains and I’m the muscle. :slight_smile:

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Wow. This is good news and would love to contribute where I can. I always missed it and it would be great to get one back to daily use.

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Hello @eeickmeyer
This news is tremendous.
No child should be left behind without an education,
especially at a young age. Thanks to both of you for taking on
this enormous task. This shows both of you have dedication
for what was left behind in Ubuntu.
Thanks for making Ubuntu better.

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Hello, @eeickmeyer!

This is awesome to see! The old edubuntu variant was both useful and a lot of fun, and I was sad to see it go.

Are there ways people can help support this effort? One item you mention is content/website curation, and how that can take hours (I’m assuming per site/resource, which actually feels a little low). Getting the curation right is equal parts critically important and very difficult. Site and app evaluation is something I’ve done a lot of work on over the years, including developing evaluation and ratings systems for edu services that helped inform software selection at the district level - I’d be glad to talk and share anything from my experience that could be useful for this effort.

My personal wish: it would be great to see Edubuntu have a point of view about education that goes beyond current practice. For example, Chromebooks have a stranglehold on many elements of our educational system for a few reasons, including the fact that they are the cheapest piece of hardware capable of working with standardized testing solutions (and they are also easy to maintain for district admins).

But the edu work permitted by Chromebooks is a sliver of what’s possible - and an edu-focused linux distro could help illustrate the range of what is possible.

Anyways - I’ll cut it off here, but I’m glad to see Edubuntu making a re-emergence, and I’d be glad to put some personal time into helping if or when that’s useful.

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Hi @funnymonkey!

No, you’re misunderstanding. I mean the initial package selection per seed/metapackage. For instance, we’re done (for now) with the ubuntu-edu-preschool and ubuntu-edu-primary metapackages which install a curated list of applications for their respective grade levels. The trickiness here is to not duplicate purposes in applications while keeping things age-appropriate. This is where Amy’s expertise comes in because this is something where she has extensive training and experience. She and I sit down next to my computer, evaluate an application based on where it was in the Edubuntu of old, decide if it’s useful for that age group, or decide if it’s useful for a different age group, and I format the seed accordingly which is then used to generate the metapackages.

As for website curation, that’s going to have to be left up to parents and school administrators. We don’t have an easy solution for parents, but for school IT departments, most are set-up with DNS restrictions already. Website allowlisting and restrict-listing might be something we come up with a solution for in the future, but that’s going to be a stretch goal at this point. Right now, we’re just working on getting the project restarted from a pragmatic standpoint.

I agree with this. Our son’s school loans his age group personal Chromebooks (slight cringe), even though he has his own personal laptop, a hand-me-down from myself. We intend to make him our (willing) guinea-pig, and he’s pretty excited about it. Yes, that makes us a true Ubuntu development family!

We have several goals for this in mind, so this is just the tip of the iceberg.

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Absolutely magic, @eeickmeyer

You did, indeed, answer my questions, and then some. I immensely appreciate the insight; it is both interesting and educational.

I have an identical opinion of modern browsers; their footprint is positively insane. How do you plan on tackling that issue? Making use of a Firefox fork? Using opera?

You have my support here; If I can help with anything, please reach out.

And thank you.

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We’re going to use Firefox as Edubuntu is, staying true to the original, going to be an add-on to the Ubuntu Desktop from an .iso image development point of view. However, for under-powered machines, there is always the option of switching that out. Unfortunately, switching to a different flavor of Ubuntu doesn’t tackle that issue as all flavors use Firefox by default.

Additionally, we can’t seed Opera as it doesn’t meet the licensing requirements of Free and Open Source Software. While they do offer a .deb and have a Snap version, and it is Chromium under-the-hood, the license is proprietary for the user interface in the same manner as Google Chrome.

For lightweight browser options, there are browsers such as Falkon by the KDE community that is readily available in the software repositories that could help under-powered machine with basic browsing, and also includes ad blocking. If resources are at a REAL minimum, there’s always the text-mode web browsers that can be run in the terminal such as Lynx, but I don’t think you’ll need to go that far. :slight_smile:

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Could the “Launchpad Ukrainian Translators”
Be included with Ed-Ubuntu Revival ? Most of these children
are in the country of Poland…! They are stranded in a foreign country . These are Ukrainian young children, left their country, left the ones that speak their language. War was not the child’s
choice.
This group would have to be approached to Translate EdUbuntu
into
https://translations.launchpad.net/~lp-l10n-uk Ukrainian.


@eeickmeyer If with some help from … My friend Mark…

Hi Bernard!

Considering we’re not starting from scratch but building on top of the exising Ubuntu Desktop, the vast majority of the translations are already there. Translations might be needed eventually for the edubuntu-menu package and the edubuntu-installer package, but those are some time out, and we could use the help of the entire Launchpad Translations team at that point.

There’s also the matter of the edubuntu-docs package, but we’re likely to deprecate it and have it removed from the archive as it’s basically ancient GNOME Yelp files that barely even work anymore. The ideas are definitely valid there, but much of everything that’s there needs to be rewritten from scratch. This would be a vast undertaking and probably wouldn’t make it in time for the first release.

I hope that answers some of your questions, but we’re definitely keeping translations in mind. Right now, nearly everything we need translated is translated, but when we need more translated, we’ll be enlisting help at that time. :slight_smile:

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Thank You for keeping the Ukrainian children in mind.
Thank You for taking on the very huge task.
Perhaps it could be a flavor by time the next LTS is out.

@eeickmeyer Just my viewpoint here, but KDE is (in my experience) more lightweight than Gnome, and using KDE also allows us to use Qt app theming as well as GTK app theming.

Another reason for the KDE suggestion is the wide usage of windows, and how being familiarized with a more similar interface (you probably won’t want to include dash to panel and a menu app with gnome) would be more helpful to certain student groups in the long run.

My other slight problem with the current implementation (although this is specific) is that Firefox and certain webapps do not play well… As a Firefox user myself, this is their fault, but in the interest of compatibility with certain web apps (e.g teams) wouldn’t it be better to include a chromium fork like ungoogled-chromium or vanilla chromium builds? You are already (probably) including a snap of FF so I think it might be acceptable to include Chromium as a snap. (This brings up the point of lower-end hardware and FF being generally more ram efficient though)

These are just my questions as to the way that this is currently being designed.

Oh, and thanks for remaking edubuntu! I (as a student and sole IT person for my school a couple of years ago) had a couple Linux computers and managing and finding educational apps for them was not my favorite thing :smiley: so I can imagine a proper education distro being extremely useful to schools and students. Sadly, my current school makes me use a Chromebook so…

Hi @traman124!

So, just one point of clarification: KDE is not a desktop environment. It’s a community of developers that develop several applications. I think you’re likely referring to Plasma, which is the desktop environment developed by KDE.

I’m no stranger to Plasma. The desktop environment of Ubuntu Studio is Plasma, and I, until recently, was employed as a developer with the Kubuntu Focus project, and am considered one of that project’s founders. In that time, I learned a lot about what it takes to maintain Plasma as a desktop environment for a distribution, and it’s no small feat, especially when the upstream releases a version of the DE that is very buggy (Plasma 5.25, for instance).

Additionally, there’s the matter of the system installer. Ubiquity, which is the installer for all Ubuntu flavors except Lubuntu and Ubuntu Studio, has two frontends: a GTK frontend and a Qt frontend. The Qt fontend is hard-coded to Kubuntu and is not easily changed without multiple changes and pull requests to the maintainers of Ubiquity, which can take weeks or months to get through. Additionally, the Qt frontend does not get the same amount of maintenance or attention as the GTK frontend, and the Kubuntu developers do not have direct access to fix bugs in the Qt frontend. Those with direct access do not let anyone else touch the code without reviewing pull requests, which can, again, take weeks or months. So, for my wife’s sake (who is a new contributor) and my sake, we’d rather not deal with that.

So, to keep maintenance at a minimum, we’d rather keep the delta as minimal as possible between Edubuntu and Ubuntu Desktop. But, this is where the aforementioned Edubuntu Installer application will come-in so that people can install any official flavor of Ubuntu (read: any desktop environment) and install whatever Edubuntu metapackages they need. This includes Kubuntu.

The other advantage using Ubuntu Desktop as a base has is that, quoting myself from a previous comment:

This is a good point, and there’s nothing stopping an administrator from installing Chrome directly from Google, or installing Chromium from the snap store. I’ll talk to Amy about this and see if she wants to seed both Chromium and Firefox, just to see what she thinks would be best, because this is definitely a valid point. The only thing is that, in my testing and in other’s testing, snapped web browsers with installed webapps don’t do well in offline mode anyhow, so that could be a factor, but might require more testing. Definitely something to think about.

To your point about Ungoogled Chromium, this is not in the software repositories and I’m not about to package it as maintaining a web browser is a gigantic undertaking and, arguably, a much higher undertaking than maintaining a flavor of Ubuntu (I considered packaging Seamonkey at one point in time before I slapped myself out of it!).

So, TL;DR: We’re going with GNOME because that keeps our delta with Ubuntu Desktop at a minimum, it gives us the advantage of having Canonical’s team in our corner, the metapackages will be install-able on any official flavor, and we’ll look into seeding Chromium, but I’m not making any promises right now.

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I do understand your point about KDE releases being buggy (and I have encountered this firsthand - just recently, the Bing Wallpaper started crashing my KDE system after the 5.26 update on Fedora - ugh). Also, your point about ubiquity makes sense - afaik Kubuntu uses Calamares, which has a proper Qt port.

As for snaps, I personally hate them but as I thought you, as a flavor maintainer, would need to package snaps instead of debs. If possible, not having snaps is preferable for the average user :smiley:

Kubuntu uses Ubiquity. Lubuntu and Ubuntu Studio use Calamares, but only because of the aforementioned issues with Ubiquity’s Qt frontend.

No, seeding snaps is do-able, but only if the snap meets a certain set of qualifications in order to be seeded. I maintain an application that could only be a snap to be seeded as it could not be packaged traditionally as a Debian package, but many snaps in the snap store are fair game. To be clear, I’m not anti-snap especially since they are improving by the day, but I lean toward traditional Debian .deb packages.

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I meant that I thought that you would need it use snaps. I’m not a flavor maintainer, and my last comment was poorly worded, so sorry for that.

Oh, and the installer looks a bit like Calamares

Here is Calamares (as a new user there is a image limit)

Yes, I’m highly familiar with Calamares as that’s the installer that’s used in Ubuntu Studio (I’m the project leader there). However, and as I’ve said (and given my qualifications having been involved with Kubuntu as well) Kubuntu uses Ubiquity.

I think I need to make one thing clear: the official flavors of Ubuntu are not separate distributions from Ubuntu. There is no line, they’re all Ubuntu, just different spins or default out-of-the-box configurations of Ubuntu maintained by different teams. We all pretty know what each other is doing, so believe me when I say I know what is going on and what installers are being used and where.

So no, Kubuntu does not use Calamares, but Ubiquity. If you want examples of Calamares in use in Ubuntu, look at Lubuntu and Ubuntu Studio. However, that is not in the scope of Edubuntu at this time. We plan to use the new flutter-based Ubuntu Desktop Installer which replaces Ubiquity and will be default for Ubuntu Desktop. Barring that, for whatever reason, we’ll be using Ubiquity.

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Thanks for clarifying. I was not implying that you were wrong (you are right) but stating that the Qt port of Ubiquity looks like Calamares…

Also, just because I’m curious, I’m assuming the new flutter installer doesn’t GTK theme.