Google at work on desktop Linux

Search engine giant preps own version of Ubuntu


Google is preparing its own distribution of Linux for the desktop, in a possible bid to take on Microsoft in its core business - desktop software.

A version of the increasingly popular Ubuntu desktop Linux distribution, based on Debian and the Gnome desktop, it is known internally as 'Goobuntu'.

Google has confirmed it is working on a desktop linux project called Goobuntu, but declined to supply further details, including what the project is for.

It's possible that it's just one of the toys Googleplex engineers play with on Fridays, when they get time off from buffing the search engine code or filtering out entries about Tiananmen Square.

It could be for wider deployments on the company's own desktops, as an alternative to Microsoft, but still for internal use only.

But it's possible Google plans to distribute it to the general public, as a free alternative to Windows.

Google has already demonstrated an interest in building a presence on the desktop. At CES Las Vegas this month, it announced the Google Pack, a collection of desktop software bundled together for easy downloading.

The pack includes many apps which compete directly with the Windows bundle, such as Google Talk, Google Desktop, Mozilla Firefox, the Trillian instant messenger client, RealPlayer, and Picasa photo management.

Going the whole hog and distributing a complete desktop software suite would merely be another step down the same path.

However, entering the desktop software world would be a huge step. Making Goobuntu as easy to use as XP will require a lot more development. It's unlikely to be ready for showtime any time soon, and it's possible Google itself hasn't finalised where the project should go.

Whatever Google's intentions, the input of Google engineers and developers, writing new features and fixing bugs, will be a huge boost to the Ubuntu project.

Ubuntu, funded by the South African internet multimillionaire and occasional cosmonaut Mark Shuttleworth, is already emerging as a leader in the desktop Linux world.

It has built considerable momentum in the Linux community, and is starting to appear more widely. Shuttleworth is seeking to persuade white-box PC manufacturers to start shipping machines with Ubuntu preinstalled.

It is top of the Distrowatch download chart, is installed on up to six million computers, and doubling every eight months, according to estimates from Shuttleworth's company, Canonical.

It has spawned a number of different offshoots, including Xubuntu, Kubuntu and Edubuntu (for schools).

The word Ubuntu means "humanity to others" in several African languages, including Zulu and Xhosa. It's one of the founding principles of post-apartheid South Africa. The origin of the word 'Goobuntu' is not clear, though it does not appear in online Zulu dictionaries.

The Goobuntu.com domain has been registered in the past couple of days, though presumably not by Google. It now redirects to a Cuban portal. Perhaps Google will have to think of a new name for the system before they launch it to the wider public. ®


Other stories you might like

  • Experts: AI should be recognized as inventors in patent law
    Plus: Police release deepfake of murdered teen in cold case, and more

    In-brief Governments around the world should pass intellectual property laws that grant rights to AI systems, two academics at the University of New South Wales in Australia argued.

    Alexandra George, and Toby Walsh, professors of law and AI, respectively, believe failing to recognize machines as inventors could have long-lasting impacts on economies and societies. 

    "If courts and governments decide that AI-made inventions cannot be patented, the implications could be huge," they wrote in a comment article published in Nature. "Funders and businesses would be less incentivized to pursue useful research using AI inventors when a return on their investment could be limited. Society could miss out on the development of worthwhile and life-saving inventions."

    Continue reading
  • Declassified and released: More secret files on US govt's emergency doomsday powers
    Nuke incoming? Quick break out the plans for rationing, censorship, property seizures, and more

    More papers describing the orders and messages the US President can issue in the event of apocalyptic crises, such as a devastating nuclear attack, have been declassified and released for all to see.

    These government files are part of a larger collection of records that discuss the nature, reach, and use of secret Presidential Emergency Action Documents: these are executive orders, announcements, and statements to Congress that are all ready to sign and send out as soon as a doomsday scenario occurs. PEADs are supposed to give America's commander-in-chief immediate extraordinary powers to overcome extraordinary events.

    PEADs have never been declassified or revealed before. They remain hush-hush, and their exact details are not publicly known.

    Continue reading
  • Stolen university credentials up for sale by Russian crooks, FBI warns
    Forget dark-web souks, thousands of these are already being traded on public bazaars

    Russian crooks are selling network credentials and virtual private network access for a "multitude" of US universities and colleges on criminal marketplaces, according to the FBI.

    According to a warning issued on Thursday, these stolen credentials sell for thousands of dollars on both dark web and public internet forums, and could lead to subsequent cyberattacks against individual employees or the schools themselves.

    "The exposure of usernames and passwords can lead to brute force credential stuffing computer network attacks, whereby attackers attempt logins across various internet sites or exploit them for subsequent cyber attacks as criminal actors take advantage of users recycling the same credentials across multiple accounts, internet sites, and services," the Feds' alert [PDF] said.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022