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Ubuntu Server Edition: GUI Or No GUI, And Does It Matter?

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There’s been a lot of ink spilled—er, pixels fired—about Canonical’s decision not to offer a graphical interface in the server edition. The debate is understandable. After all, given Canonical’s professed commitment to ease of use, it might seem a bit strange that Ubuntu Server Edition should not come with some kind of desktop environment by default.

The reasons for making the server edition command line interface (CLI)-only are logical enough. Above all, it’s ideal for experienced system administrators who want their machines to be as lean and secure as possible. Graphical interfaces waste disk space and RAM and are a liability—they represent one more thing that can go wrong to bring the server down, and one more potential gateway into the system for attackers to exploit.

By Your Command

On the other hand, a CLI-only interface is next to useless to most modern computer users, including many skilled system administrators trained in the Windows tradition. This has led to accusations that Ubuntu has no real product to compete with Windows Server, especially in the small-business market, where IT staff tend to be less experienced than those managing an enterprise environment.

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