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UberStudent 3.0 default desktop.jpg
UberStudent – Linux for Learners
Company / developer UberStudent EdTech and community contributors
OS family Unix-like
Working state Long-Term Stable Release (2.1) and 3.0; actively developed and supported
Source model Open source with minor closed source additions
Latest release 3.0
Marketing target Higher education; Secondary education; Researchers; Knowledge workers; Lifelong learners
Kernel type Monolithic, Linux 3.5
Default user interface XFCE, MATE, and LXDE Editions
License Mainly the GNU GPL; a few other free software licences; minor additions of officially licensed proprietary software
Official website uberstudent.com (official site), uberstudent.org (official site), uberstudent.net (official repository)

UberStudent is a free and open-source computer operating system and collection of programs for higher education and college-bound secondary students, their teachers and schools, and researchers, knowledge workers, and lifelong learners.

Dubbing itself "Linux for Learners", UberStudent describes itself as "a cohesive academic success curriculum integrated into an installable, easy-to-use, and full-featured learning platform" aimed at increasing overall student learning and academic computer literacy, and lifelong computer fluency. Its additional aim is to increase the adoption of free and open-source computing platforms, like itself, within higher education and secondary schools.[1]

UberStudent has been described by reviewers as "highly in tune with student needs",[2] "loaded with student-friendly tools and customizations",[3] "perfect for the higher education environment", [2][4] succeeding at its aims "with aplomb, elegance, and power",[2] "a smart pick for getting your actual schoolwork done",[3] and "fantastic and delicious".[5] It received a positive review in The Chronicle of Higher Education, which cited UberStudent's completeness for doing core academic work, user-friendliness, and free and open source nature.[6] Sixty days after UberStudent's official 15 July 2010 release of UberStudent 1.0 Cicero Full Edition, its first non-beta, DistroWatch ranked it the most popular Linux distribution for education worldwide and the 32nd most popular overall out of the 316 varied distributions tracked by the organization.[7]

UberStudent's current release is 3.0, dubbed Plato. A major change from prior editions is that the distribution uses its own dedicated software repository.[8]

Origin and design[edit]

UberStudent's founder and lead developer is Stephen Ewen, a U.S.-based educator who specializes in postsecondary literacy, academic success strategies, and educational technology. He began UberStudent, he has said, as "a way to place a set of smart and dedicated computing tools, and just the right amount of support, into the hands of students, whether currently within higher education or preparing for it in secondary school." His stated goal through UberStudent is for students to "learn to really excel at the core skills and habits they need to become everything they can academically be, and on into professional life." Ewen has stated that UberStudent is, in part, inspired by his own experiences achieving top academic performance with the assistance of educational technology.[9]

UberStudent's core academic skills approach

Ewen has described UberStudent's overarching design philosophy as one that provides a "unified system for learning, doing, and teaching academic success". Within this, he has said that UberStudent takes what he calls a "core academic skills" approach, which he has delineated as "the skills in research and writing, studying, and self-management required of students across all academic majors". He has stated that UberStudent can be "easily extended" for specific majors via additional software. Ewen has additionally asserted that, in part due to UberStudent's open source and cross-platform nature, as well as its Unix-like base, it is geared to produce "computer fluency" among its users as a "more or less natural outcome".[1][10][11]

Ewen has argued that academic institutions can increase both their student learning outcomes and economic efficiency by more broadly adopting open source application and system software for everyday student academic computing needs. He has additionally argued for academic institutions to increase their involvement in developing open source tools, such as UberStudent, citing successes such as the bibliographic manager Zotero by George Mason University, included among UberStudent's set of core academic programs.[12]

Software and system[edit]

The first level of the Education menu in UberStudent 1.0 Cicero Full Edition

Nearly all of UberStudent's software is free and open source and its core programs cross-platform so its adopters can avoid vendor lock-in, whether with Windows, Mac OS X, or Linux.[11] The tech review site Dedoimedo reviewed UberStudent as containing a "superb" collection of "smartly selected" programs, "probably the best when it comes to serious work", with each "stitched into the fabric of the operating system".[5] Tech columnist Jack Wallen said UberStudent "contains so many education-specific tools you will be spending your first days with it just marveling at what the developers have packed into one single operating system."[2]

UberStudent's core programs for academic work are clustered within an applications menu entry, Education, where they are organized by sub-categories, including for Reading, Research and Writing, Self-Management, Study Aids, Subjects, and Utilities, which themselves have sub-categories.[2] In addition to its academic-specific application set, reviewers have noted UberStudent's inclusion of templates for academic work and "tons" of on-board how-to guides as "welcome additions" that are "often missing" from other operating systems.[5] UberStudent also contains a full range of student-oriented programs in the Audio/Video, Games, Graphics, Internet, and several other categories. Its "Cloud Menu" contains cloud computing applications for a full array of tasks, and has been described as containing additions "you don't often see elsewhere".[6]

Within its stated intent to couple user-friendliness with security and stability, UberStudent production releases are based on an Ubuntu Long Term Stable releases, which stems from the Debian branch of Linux. UberStudent also includes numerous self-developed programs, including ones for one-click-installation of multimedia codecs and for various utilites. UberStudent utilizes its own Update Manager and the Deb file format to manage and update its platform.[5]

The default desktop of UberStudent 1.0 Cicero Lightweight Edition


UberStudent main editions are distributed as a DVD image or pre-made disc. Full editions are available with the XFCE or MATE desktop environments, and a lightweight edition with the LXDE desktop and features befitting low-specification computers is available that fits on a single CD.[11]

Criticisms of desktop environments[edit]

Ewen has stated, "UberStudent must prefer stability, dependability, and traditional usability over the novel when it comes to such a major thing as the basic desktop environments it uses; and it will."[13]

GNOME 3, Ubuntu Unity[edit]

During UberStudent's 2.0 release cycle, Ewen sharply criticized the designs of both the Ubuntu Unity and GNOME 3 Shell Linux desktop environments as hindrances to student academic computing productivity. In a 2011 April Fools' Day satire, he announced an "UberStudent Dumbed Down Edition" featuring the GNOME 3 Shell. Pointing to what he called "the enforced helplessness" leading to "learned helplessness" that he says the GNOME 3 developers designed into their new desktop environment, he stated that the intent behind the spoof UberStudent edition was to "obscure what is not obvious and easy so it can be continually avoided" by students and thus never learned.[14] In a May 2011 interview, Ewen expanded his criticisms of Unity and GNOME 3 by citing specific usability issues, and stated that UberStudent had no plans to adopt either Unity or the GNOME 3 Shell.[15]


Amid UberStudent's 3.0 release cycle, Ewen criticized the Cinnamon desktop environment, developed by Linux Mint, pointing out what he called "major shortcomings" in Cinnamon, which he stipulated as its failure to honor certain fundamental freedesktop.org standards. Ewen stated that, while the desktop environment holds promise, "Cinnamon as of its full May 2013 version 1.8 release is actually beta-quality software," which he said its own developers had repeatedly and rightfully implied within developer circles but never forthrightly stated to its users. As such, he characterized Cinnamon as "not yet suited for a serious and stable workstation" like UberStudent.[16] [17]

Releases and naming[edit]

UberStudent 2.0 pre-release screenshot.

According to Ewen, "UberStudent dubs each of its major releases after a famous historical thinker", a practice he describes as "only fitting" in light of UberStudent's educational mission. So far, the thinkers have been Greek and Roman. UberStudent's version 0.9, the first beta, was released on 15 January 2010 and named after Thales. Version 1.0, released on 15 July 2010, was named after Cicero.[18] 1.0 also had a brief pre-release edition, once inadvertently reviewed as the release edition.[5] UberStudent 1.0 Cicero Lightweight Edition was released on 4 September 2010 and inherited the name Cicero from the full edition. According to an 11 June 2011 announcement by Ewen, UberStudent 2.0 would be dubbed "Aristotle".[18][19]

In an August 2012 news post, Ewen stated that UberStudent 2.0's main edition was being built as a multi-boot system with both XFCE 4.10 and MATE 1.4 as available options.[20] It was released in November 2012 as version[8]


  1. ^ a b "Unique Linux Distro Geared to Impact Higher Education, Student Success." EFYTimes, 30 July 2010. Available at http://www.efytimes.com/e1/48950/fullnews.htm (Archived on retrieval date by WebCite).
  2. ^ a b c d e Wallen, Jack. "Uberstudent: The students’ Linux," 9 August 2010. Available at http://www.ghacks.net/2010/08/09/uberstudent-the-students-linux/ (Archived on retrieval date by WebCite)
  3. ^ a b Purdy, Kevin. "UberStudent Is an Ubuntu System Custom-Built for Students," Lifehacker, 20 September 2010. Available at http://lifehacker.com/5642659/uberstudent-is-an-ubuntu-system-custom+built-for-studenst (Archived on retrieval date by WebCite).
  4. ^ Kafle, Sudip. "Uberstudent—A Linux Distribution for Students," 21 September 2010. Available at http://technott.com/2010/09/uberstudent-a-linux-distribution-for-students/ (Archived on retrieval date by WebCite)
  5. ^ a b c d e Ljubuncic, Igor. "UberStudent 1.0 Cicero—Almost perfect; killed by a bug," Dedoimedo. Available at http://www.dedoimedo.com/computers/uberstudent.html (Archived on retrieval date by WebCite)
  6. ^ a b Cavender, Amy. "UberStudent: An Academic-Oriented Linux Distribution," The Chronicle of Higher Education, ProfHacker, 8 October 2010. Available at http://chronicle.com/blogs/profhacker/uberstudent-an-academic-oriented-linux-distribution/27523 (Archived on retrieval date by WebCite).
  7. ^ Ewen, Stephen. "UberStudent Moves From 0 to 32 on DistroWatch in 60 Days," UberStudent News, 24 September 2010. Available at http://www.uberstudent.org/mod/forum/discuss.php?d=49 (Archived on retrieval date by WebCite).
  8. ^ a b http://uberstudent.com/node/14
  9. ^ "Stephen Ewen - Project Lead," 12 Aug 2010. Available at http://www.uberstudent.org/mod/resource/view.php?id=18 (Archived on retrieval date by WebCite)
  10. ^ "About UberStudent." Available at http://about.uberstudent.org/ (Archived on retrieval date by WebCite)
  11. ^ a b c UberStudent Slideshow, http://uberstudent.org/slideshow/slides/, retrieved 28 May 2011.
  12. ^ "UberStudent—Ubuntu Version for Students and Researchers," Ubuntu Geek. Available at http://www.ubuntugeek.com/uberstudent-ubuntu-version-for-students-and-researchers.html (Archived on retrieval date by WebCite)
  13. ^ http://uberstudent.com/phpBB/viewtopic.php?f=8&t=73&p=1204#p1204
  14. ^ Ewen, Stephen, "Announcing UberStudent DumbedDown Edition Based on GNOME 3," UberStudent News, 1 April 2011. Available at http://www.uberstudent.org/mod/forum/discuss.php?d=117&mode=1 (Archived on retrieval date by WebCite)
  15. ^ Byfield, Bruce. "Other Linux Distros' View of Ubuntu's Unity: It Ain’t Pretty," 17 May 2011. Available at http://itmanagement.earthweb.com/osrc/article.php/3933716/Other-Linux-Distros-View-of-Ubuntus-Unity-It-Aint-Pretty.htm (Archived on retrieval date by WebCite).
  16. ^ https://github.com/linuxmint/Cinnamon/issues/2180
  17. ^ http://uberstudent.com/phpBB/viewtopic.php?f=8&t=73&p=1204#p1204
  18. ^ a b Ewen, Stephen. "UberStudent 2.0 to be Dubbed 'Aristotle,'" UberStudent News, 11 June 2011. Available at http://www.uberstudent.org/mod/forum/discuss.php?d=125#p424 (Archived on retrieval date by WebCite).
  19. ^ http://www.uberstudent.org/mod/forum/discuss.php?d=150
  20. ^ http://www.uberstudent.org/mod/forum/discuss.php?d=168 and http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10150978234841927&set=a.382465811926.171279.345518906926&type=1

See also[edit]

External links[edit]