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I am wondering what the difference between Ubuntu and it's derivatives is besides the desktop interface (GNOME, XFCE, KDE, etc..)

I have used Xubuntu in the past, and seems I have been able to apply solutions for Ubuntu problems on Xubuntu. Which makes me think that Ubuntu and it's derivatives are just the same car, but with a different paint job?

Am I thinking about this correctly?

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    Would say the same car, but with different trim options, than just different colour paint. Some trim options might affect the answer. – crip659 Sep 28 at 16:00
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Calling the different flavors of Ubuntu derivatives explains it all in a nutshell. They are all the same under the hood except for whatever packages are bundled with each desktop environment. Packages in the default Ubuntu repositories can usually be installed on any Ubuntu derivative.

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The underneath of all is Ubuntu as @karel has already stated, so if using GNU/shell or anything terminal based or are the core of Ubuntu's inner-workings, they are all identical.

Yes the differences are in the GUI or desktop. If you are changing GUI settings, a command intended for a GTK+ environment may work in GNOME, MATE, Budgie and recent XFCE (thus Ubuntu-Studio), but may not have the same effect on KDE or LXQt (both being Qt based). The reverse will also be true.

Under the desktop or GUI the user is the toolkit in the software stack. GNOME uses the Gimp+GNOME.Toolkit, which is also used by many others. KDE and LXQt however don't use this, instead using Qt, an older toolkit that is owned by a company that lead to the FSF creating GTK+ from the then GTK (Gimp.Toolkit) and creation GNOME.

This toolkit makes a huge difference, especially for programmers or people who to go through the software stack to deal with the OS underneath. GTK+ is easiest in C, where as Qt is written for C++, but the issue is more than just language, and it's something most users can ignore (but may notice with theming and window decorations).

If I look at a solution, I work out where in the software stack it's impacting, and this will tell me whether it'll work in my different Ubuntu flavor. For most 'fixes' they will work, but because not all the stack is identical - not all fixes will help.

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    Older Lubuntu was based on GTK+2, but LXDE never made the jump to GTK+3 (later version of the GTK+ toolkit) and Lubuntu jumped to LXQt using Qt. This has many software changes to avoid wasting memory. Users with enough ram may not notice differences, but as many users of Lubuntu do so on old & limited ram machines, this switch can be noticed if users don't change their behavior .. fixes for older Lubuntu (LXDE) are inefficient in modern Lubuntu (LXQt) and can be done in better ways! (old ways can cause machines to become slower with low memory; 1gb for example) – guiverc Sep 28 at 21:30

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