The truth about Goobuntu: Google’s in-house desktop Ubuntu Linux | Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols | August 29, 2012 | ZDNet

My preferred desktop, like at Google, has been Ubuntu (with Windows 7 as a last resort dual-boot option) on my laptops for the past year, for both corporate and personal use. I’m now using Ubuntu 12.04.1 LTS 64-bit, with the classic Gnome (i.e. session fallback) interface, as I prefer more options over the default simpler interface.

Ubuntu Linux is Google’s desktop of choice ….

.. Thomas Bushnell, the tech lead of the group that manages and distributes Linux to Google’s corporate desktops unveiled Goobuntu from behind Google’s curtain at LinuxCon, the Linux Foundation’s annual North American technical conference, First things first, can you download Goobuntu to run it yourself? Well yes and no.

Bushnell explained that “Goobuntu is simply a light skin over standard Ubuntu.” In particular, Google uses the latest long term support (LTS) of Ubuntu. That means that if you download a copy of the latest version of Ubuntu, 12.04.1, you will, for most practical purposes, be running Goobuntu.

Google uses the LTS versions because the two-years between releases is much more workable than the every six-month cycle of ordinary Ubuntu releases. Besides, Google also tries to update and replace its hardware every two-years so that syncs nicely as well.

Why Ubuntu, rather than say Macs or Windows? Well you can run those too. Bushnell said, “Googlers [Google employees] are invited to use the tools that work for them.. If Gmail doesn’t want work for them, they can use pine [an early Unix shell character-based e-mail client] that’s fine. People aren’t required to use Ubuntu.” But, Goobuntu use is encouraged and “All our development tools are for Ubuntu.”

Googlers must ask to use Windows because “Windows is harder because it has ‘special’ security problems so it requires high-level permission before someone can use it.” In addition, “Windows tools tend to be heavy and inflexible.”

That said, Bushnell was asked why Ubuntu instead of say Fedora or openSUSE? He replied, “We chose Debian because packages and apt [Debian’s basic software package programs] are light-years ahead of RPM (Red Hat and SUSE’s default package management system.]” And, why Ubuntu over the other Debian-based Linux distributions? “Because it’s release cadence is awesome and Canonical [Ubuntu’s parent company] offers good support.”

Yes, that’s right. Google doesn’t just use Ubuntu and contribute to its development, Google is a paying customer for Canonical’s Ubuntu Advantage support program. Chris Kenyon, who is Canonical’s VP of Sales and Business Development, and was present for Bushnell’s talk confirmed this and added that “Google is not our largest business desktop customer.”

So, what about the desktop itself? Is everyone required to use Unity, Ubuntu’s popular but controversial desktop? Nope.

When asked about Unity use, Bushnell said, “Unity? Haters gonna hate. Our desktop users are all over the map when it comes to their interfaces. Some use GNOME, some use KDE, some use X-Window and X-Terms. Some want Unity because it reminds them of the Mac. We see Mac lovers moving to Unity.” There is no default Goobuntu interface.

What there is though is “tens-of-thousands of Goobuntu users. This includes graphic designers, engineers, management, and sales people. It’s a very diverse community. Some, like Ken Thompson, helped create Unix and some don’t know anything about computers except how to use their application.”

The truth about Goobuntu: Google’s in-house desktop Ubuntu Linux | Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols | August 29, 2012 | ZDNet at The truth about Goobuntu: Google’s in-house desktop Ubuntu Linux | ZDNet.

The truth about Goobuntu: Google's in-house desktop Ubuntu Linux | ZDNet


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2 comments on “The truth about Goobuntu: Google’s in-house desktop Ubuntu Linux | Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols | August 29, 2012 | ZDNet
  1. Bob says:

    I left Ubuntu when 11.04 came out – shades of MS Metro. Why not check out Linux Mint DE (Debian Edition) with MATE. It has 2 good features – rolling updates (no need to worry about LTS anymore) and non-PAE support (for that older H/W with the Intel “M” series processors). I recently read about it and replaced Mint 13 and Zorin OS 6.2 (I had the on USB sticks as my HD crapped out on one laptop (Acer with no PAE support).


  2. daviding says:

    Bob, as someone who comes from a corporate environment where maintenance is scheduled, I prefer to not have rolling updates. The Ubuntu schedule of 6-month releases are too frequent for me, so I prefer the 2-year cycle in Long Term Support releases. Having to do a major update every two years is something I can schedule, at a time when time pressures to get “real work” done isn’t so heavy.


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