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I am not a noob to Ubuntu. I have been here for a while. The question I am going to ask is basically requiring an explanatory answer, possible with examples. My question is simple. It is as below:-

Everyone says, Ubuntu was developed from Debian, by tripping down so many thing, adding something else, giving custom displays, branding, images or backgrounds, etc. My question is how do they do it. Was it by just installing a minimal Debian distro in a computer system, adding and making changes to that system, adding Ubiquity installer to the installed distro, and then creating an iso file ?

Consider the two scenarios.

Scenario 1

  1. They mount a CD ISO image

  2. Remove unwanted packages

  3. Add branding

  4. Make customizations

  5. repack the ISO


Scenario 2

  1. Install a Debian distro in the PC

  2. Remove unwanted packages, and install new ones to the installed OS

  3. Apply custom brandings to the installed OS

  4. Make customizations in the installed machine

  5. Add an installer to the installed OS

  6. repack the ISO

What is actually happening ?

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1… – Radu Rădeanu Jun 9 '13 at 8:52
@RaduRădeanu He wants to know how this happened "Ubuntu is a fork of the Debian project's codebase." and not that it just is that. How did they do it? – Alvar Jun 9 '13 at 8:55
it is then history of Debian. – dschinn1001 Jun 9 '13 at 10:51
no, the history of how Debian evolved from Debian to Ubuntu. – Alvar Jun 9 '13 at 10:55
Anyone having any idea on this ? – Roshan George Jun 9 '13 at 12:01

The heart of the distribution is the package archive, so they started by creating an archive (, and copying the debian source packages there and building them on the build daemons. Then they proceeded to modify many packages and update the archive, before finally declaring it the first release of Ubuntu, and building fresh cd images from the archive.

The live cd and ubiquity came about several releases later. Initially the install cd used debian-installer: what we now call the alternate/server cd.

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To answer this question would take a very long answer, and it would be a lot of information to put in. I’ve been able to summarize it to this. I hope that it helps in answering your question.

Ubuntu has its roots in the Debian GNU/Linux distribution. It was initially planned as a simple fork from the main distribution.

Debian tends to be more conservative in how often it releases new versions. The new fork was set to be a snapshot released every six months. It was originally released under the name "" This domain now redirects to the main Ubuntu website. The six month release schedule held, but the simple snapshot idea did not. Unlike other Debian-based forks (e.g., Xandros, Linspire, and Libranet), the new version remains freely available and uses predominantly free software (some of the hardware drivers are proprietary).

It has, however, grown beyond its Debian roots and become a distribution in its own right. Whereas one used to be able to mix and match software from the two, now one must be more careful about compatibility. eventually became Ubuntu, and the first publically released version (4.10) was released in October of 2004. It quickly became very popular among Linux users for its ease of use and advanced hardware support. It remains the most popular version of Linux at Distrowatch.

Development of the distribution is currently funded by Canonical Ltd, a company owned and run by Mark Shuttleworth. In July of 2005, Canonical created the Ubuntu Foundation with an initial endowment of $10 million (USD). The purpose of the foundation is to support development and to keep the operating system free of charge should anything happen to Shuttleworth or the parent company, Canonical.

The Official Ubuntu Book: Introducing Ubuntu

This chapter introduces the Ubuntu project, its distribution, its development processes, and some of the history that made it all possible.

  • A Wild Ride
  • Free Software, Open Source, and GNU/Linux
  • A Brief History of Ubuntu
  • What Is Ubuntu?
  • Ubuntu Promises and Goals
  • Canonical and the Ubuntu Foundation
  • Ubuntu Subprojects, Derivatives, and Spin offs
  • Summary

THIS CHAPTER INTRODUCES THE UBUNTU PROJECT, its distribution, its development processes, and some of the history that made it all possible. If you are looking to jump right in and get started with Ubuntu, turn right away to Chapter 2, Installing Ubuntu. If you are interested in first learning about where Ubuntu comes from and where it is going, this chapter will provide a good introduction.

A Wild Ride

In April 2004 Mark Shuttleworth brought together a dozen developers from the Debian, GNOME, and GNU Arch projects to brainstorm. Shuttleworth asked the developers if a better type of operating system (OS) was possible. Their answer was "Yes." He asked them what it would look like.

He asked them to describe the community that would build such an OS. That group worked with Mark to come up with answers to these questions, and then they decided to try to make the answers a reality. The group named itself the Warthogs and gave itself a six-month deadline to build a proof-of-concept OS. They nicknamed their first release the Warty Warthog with the reasonable assumption that their first product would have its warts. Then they got down to business. Read On

Below are some references that I found can shed some more light in answering, but I said in the beginning, this would take a lot of information to answer. There is a document titled Debian and Ubuntu, in PDF format, which can be downloaded from Here

What is Ubuntu Linux?

History of Ubuntu: Revisited & Updated

The Ubuntu story

Source:The Official Ubuntu Book: Introducing Ubuntu

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As far as I can tell, you are not going to get a good answer unless you talk to the developers who where there at the start.

Looking at the ubuntu-devel mailing lists back through September and December 2004 when Warty Warthog was released, gives no good clues as to how they started this. However, if you look at how to build a Debian fork, today, you can get a decent idea of how they might have started.

Basically, you need to create a new repository and go from there.

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Ubuntu is .deb based, so you can't just targz up the operating system and put it onto a CD. While I don't have authentic information as to how Ubuntu was forked off Debian, the best guess would be that they got some of the distro-wide build tools to work and pulled the packages they deemed important from the unstable repo of Debian, then applied customizations to them. These packages got added to the APT repo and the debootstrap process.

Basically if you're building a distro, you can go two ways. Either you start from scratch and look up the packages you want included at the upstream maintainer's site, pull and package those into your own format and add dependency information yourself, or you fork it off a relatively stable distribution.

Repacking the whole system isn't a very maintainable way to go, because you will not have the information as to which package depends on which. This is important because software in the *NIX world gets compiled with a lot of dependencies (libraries and other files) across packages, so even something as trivial as creating a minimalistic chroot is close to a nightmare. Not even speaking of a whole operating system.

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You may need to go ask those that were there ..

The key pieces (from my recollection, as an observer) were the simplified driver model (so everything fitted on one CD), the selection of a group of 'standard' apps, and other (simple) details about making it easier to install and support.

Here is a small piece of the puzzle: > In depth interview: Ubuntu Touch aims to learn from Android's mistakes

The Genesis of Ubuntu Touch

Ubuntu began in 2004 and quickly generated interest within the Linux community. Developers gathered around the product, and more importantly the ethos of the distribution. At the time, Linux distros were the realm of the tech elite, and were not accessible to average users. Mark Shuttleworth gathered developers from the Debian community to change that. The goal was to create a Linux distrobution that was easy-to-use, easy to obtain, and held to a strict update schedule. The first two parts of that strategy were the real keys of course, because accessibility opened up a much wider user base for the OS.

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