Five Brilliant Ubuntu-based Distros You Never Knew Existed

The major derivatives of Ubuntu are well known, but what about the others? Just because they aren't as popular doesn't mean they don't have something to offer! We introduce five of the least known, yet simply outstanding distributions.

There’s little doubt that Ubuntu has changed the Linux landscape since its creation several years ago.

It has adopted and developed several key technologies to help make those typically harder tasks under Linux, easier. Even though it itself is based on Debian, it has become a popular foundation for several other distributions.

Although one can take a base command-line install of Ubuntu and make it into anything, derivatives are popular because they take away that need for custom configuration. The vast number of distributions testifies to that!

Of course, there are the official derivatives such as Kubuntu, but what about all those others? It turns out, there are quite a number of simply fantastic distributions based on Ubuntu that you probably never even knew existed. Generally these are geared towards a specific niche, but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t useful – quite the contrary!

DEFT (Digital Evidence & Forensic Toolkit)

Kicking off our look at useful derivatives is DEFT, a 32bit live CD dedicated to computer forensics and incident response. DEFT is a distribution based in Italy, created and maintained by a dedicated team of seven (plus the community). DEFT had their first release in 2008, with version 5 released in November last year.

The DEFT live CD is comprised of a custom environment using LXDE (Lightweight X11 Desktop Environment), combined with their DEFT Extra Computer Forensic GUI tools. It also aims to include the best free software forensic tools available, such as DHash, Sleuthkits’s Autopsy, ophcrack, ClamAV, Wireshark, Gigolo, Nessus and more.

DEFT desktop
DEFT desktop

The goal of DEFT is to provide an easy to use interface and showcase the excellent free software tools available for forensic work. If you have a security breach, DEFT could be just the custom live CD you looking for.


New this year is Element, a 32bit distribution aimed at the media or home theatre PC market. Although the project is very young, the release candidate for version 1.0 has just been announced.

Element is designed to be run as a dedicated media PC in the lounge room, connected to a high definition television. What makes this distribution unique is its special ten foot user interface, created specifically to provide the cleanest experience on a television. Based on Xfce4, it really is simple to use and looks completely snazzy.

Element's ten foot user interface
Element’s ten foot user interface

While its primary function is for managing music, videos, photos, and internet media, it also includes the usual tools such as Firefox and Brasero, for use as a standard PC. It is modular by design, allowing for extra plugins to be installed providing additional functionality.

Element comes with XBMC Media Center by default, a very popular application for managing your digital media. Due to its pluggable nature however, should you prefer a different system such as Boxee, Moovida or Hulu, they can be installed also. The default install also comes with VLC media player, Brasero disc burner and the Transmission bittorrent client. Being based on Ubuntu, you will also have access to the full repository of applications to achieve any task you desire. The project also boasts the ability to use Element as a gaming console with “hundreds of 3D and general games also available.”

Element with XBMC running
Element with XBMC running

If you’ve been looking for a complete, ready to go distribution to use for your own media PC, Element could be just the thing you’re looking for!

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