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gNewSense Distro Frees Ubuntu 306

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the free-the-beast dept.
Linux.com (who shares corporate overlords with Slashdot) is reporting that gNewSense has gone 2.0. For the uninitiated gNewSense is a stripped down version of Ubuntu's Hardy Heron for the free software purist. Removing over 100 pieces of proprietary code and firmware, gNewSense offers a user the ability to run an OS where everything is able to be studied, changed, and redistributed. "gNewSense is a great alternative to Gobuntu, the Canonical-sponsored free derivative of Ubuntu. According to its wiki page, the 8.04 version of Gobuntu hasn't been released due to a less-than-optimal reaction from the community. Gobuntu used the same repositories as Ubuntu, and the Ubuntu live CD can achieve the same installation as Gobuntu by merely selecting the free-software-only option in the installer (press F6 twice at the boot menu). Also, Mark Shuttleworth, the founder of Ubuntu, has indicated that he would rather focus on gNewSense because the work on that distribution can help the Ubuntu community as a whole. "
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gNewSense Distro Frees Ubuntu

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  • the name? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Brian Gordon (987471) on Friday May 30, 2008 @05:12PM (#23604577)
    What's with the weird name? I get the "nusiance" reference but unless they're trying to somehow imply GNU-siance the g seems pretty random. Awful confusing- why do we need random names for all these ubuntu derivatives.. how about freebuntu or something?
  • Um, great? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Reality Master 201 (578873) on Friday May 30, 2008 @05:16PM (#23604605) Journal
    So, it takes a capable distribution and removes a lot of the stuff that makes it as usable as it is, in the name of freeing the user?

    Huh.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 30, 2008 @05:16PM (#23604607)

    rhymes with "nuisance"

    Brought to you by the same people that thought calling a Photoshop competitor "Gimp" :)

    There's a reason why we geeks aren't in marketing, and I think those are two of 'em.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 30, 2008 @05:20PM (#23604661)
    I'm still using fedora, but gNewSense is a great thing to have. I've had so many problems with wireless cards that use proprietary bits of code and there's nothing anybody can do to fix them if the manufacturer is no longer interested. I'm really glad to be able to use gNewSense to find out which hardware has a future.
  • seems a bit silly (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mabhatter654 (561290) on Friday May 30, 2008 @05:21PM (#23604673)
    gNewSense seems a bit too nitpicky to me. Ubuntu is derived from totally free Debian, but they add optional libraries for "free as in beer" things like binary drivers and firmware bits they get the rights to distribute. The FSF seems over the top here, if they don't like Ubuntu, just use vanilla Debian with the same package list. I think the issue is that Ubuntu's build system, and bug tracking system are not free software so the "free" distro is tainted because of that? Splitting AGAIN seems silly, especially when Ubuntu makes it really easy to choose only Free Software for your install.

    It seems to be the only point is to break Ubuntu's chops over a small thing just because they're not pure enough. Didn't the FSF guys also did this with Debian at one point for including repos with "non-free" software on their servers... how ridiculously silly. This is why businesses don't take the FSF and GNU seriously.
  • Proprietary Debate (Score:3, Insightful)

    by martinw89 (1229324) on Friday May 30, 2008 @05:22PM (#23604677)

    It's great that Shuttleworth is trying to improve the availability of Free (as in speech) software. But I hope he doesn't move too much efforts over to this.

    The reason I use vanilla Ubuntu is because I don't have to put a lot of effort into setting up my OS to agree with all my hardware. Instead, from the start I can work more on customizing how I interact with my OS. I remember the hell I had with a Radeon x800 and Fedora Core 4 a few years ago. If "closed" (as if it's always a bad thing) software provides a better solution, I'm more likely to use that. So, I hope Mark still is going to put his best foot forward for plain Ubuntu. I bet the corporate interest is more aimed to that Ubuntu.

  • As I recall... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Kingrames (858416) on Friday May 30, 2008 @05:22PM (#23604681)
    Some of that proprietary software is the reason my wireless works on Ubuntu.

    I'm all for open source code, and all, but what guarantee do I have that my laptop would work with that?

    This is like saying "It's just like that other free car, but without the ugly cupholder!"

    What's stopping you from removing the other software yourself, if it's that unsightly?
  • Just. Use. Debian. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by borgheron (172546) on Friday May 30, 2008 @05:29PM (#23604761) Homepage Journal
    Period.

    Ubuntu is Debian based... now we have gNewSense which is Ubuntu based trying to be more Free Software conscious than Ubuntu when Debian already is that. :)

    Seems redundant to me.
  • by jeff419 (1112781) <jhenderson419@gmail.com> on Friday May 30, 2008 @05:30PM (#23604769) Journal
    I mean is it really worth it to sacrifice functionality just to be a 'purist'?? Wouldn't it make a lot more sense to focus effort on building free alternatives to the priority code in Ubuntu rather than maintaining a separate distro that most users will end up installing proprietary code on anyways?
  • Zealotry (Score:5, Insightful)

    by db32 (862117) on Friday May 30, 2008 @05:31PM (#23604789) Journal
    I really don't understand this purist nonsense. I certainly understand a preference for F/OSS stuff, but at some point it becomes more religious than practical. Why screw up your own capabilities just to prove a VERY shallow point like this? Computers aren't here to be religious icons, and anyone with an ounce of sense is going to look at movements like this and say "ok, this is just a bit stupid".

    If driver XYZ wants to keep their stuff super secret for whatever reason fine. Let them invest the resources to maintain a working copy for the ever growing variety of linux deployments. Because unless they follow the same path of zeaoltry they will eventually look at their prediciment and say "ok, this is just a bit stupid".

    I think F/OSS in general is a better model, and I advocate for it whenever possible. But at the end of the day the computer and the software it is running is a tool to support getting a job done. The computer and the software is not a holy temple and holy writ to be protected.
  • Re:OK, fine... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by paroneayea (642895) on Friday May 30, 2008 @05:33PM (#23604809) Homepage

    Losing those features is a necessary step toward a fully free desktop. Sure, you might lose them now, but that gives incentive for them to be developed so that we *have* free and open source drivers later.

    Now I know there are people who think we don't *need* a totally free desktop, but then again, there were people who thought we didn't need an open source browser because there were Netscape binaries. And isn't everyone glad now that we have Firefox?

    Besides all that, you'd be surprised at just how much works without needing any proprietary bits in your operating system at all. Before sticking in a gNewSense CD, the idea that I could run a totally, completely free operating system and still do what I need to do was just all theory to me.

  • Re:Um, great? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by saibot834 (1061528) on Friday May 30, 2008 @05:41PM (#23604897) Homepage
    Sometimes we should not only see the short-term pleasure that our system works, but also the long-term interest to be able to live in freedom. Of course the convenience of getting all machines to work seems most important now, but free software is not about convenience, it's about ethics. If we stop caring about proprietary drivers then the hardware manufacturers will think we don't care. And they probably even go a step further and DRM+TC [wikipedia.org] everything. Then maybe in twenty years you look back and ask yourself why you let the industry take away your rights.
  • Yes, great. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by KiloByte (825081) on Friday May 30, 2008 @05:44PM (#23604929)
    Ugh, due to that kind of thinking we still have to put up with crap like Nvidia's drivers.

    I really wish all that buggy stuff was removed. I mean nvidia drivers, flash and things you put inside ndiswrapper. If only a fraction of the time we waste working around related bugs was put into nouveau and friends, all this discussion would be moot. And wireless producents would be forced to actually provide some docs.
  • by Drakonik (1193977) <drakonik@gmail.com> on Friday May 30, 2008 @05:47PM (#23604951) Homepage
    Seriously. The first time I was told about The GIMP, I asked my friend to provide me a link to the actual site. I was too scared to do a search for "GIMP".
  • Re:OK, fine... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Max Threshold (540114) on Friday May 30, 2008 @05:50PM (#23604985)
    that gives incentive for them to be developed

    Um... to whom, exactly? Some nerd who's going to spend the next three months in a darkened office reverse-engineering the proprietary drivers? To give incentive to the hardware manufacturers, we need a distro with the widest possible user base, not some fringe OSS purist crap.

  • by sentientbrendan (316150) on Friday May 30, 2008 @05:54PM (#23605013)
    I'm all for more open source, but crippling your operating system by taking out all of the proprietary bits that were only there *because they are necessary to make things work* seems like just flagellating yourself.

    When did open source become not about making great software, but about punishing yourself in order to achieve some greater level of software "purity"? When did the FSF become the catholic church?
  • by somersault (912633) on Friday May 30, 2008 @05:59PM (#23605059) Homepage Journal

    There's a reason why we geeks aren't in marketing, and I think those are two of 'em.
    Perhaps our great maths and language skills?
  • by Anpheus (908711) on Friday May 30, 2008 @05:59PM (#23605063)
    It's ironic to me that Stallman in this case supports distros which offer users less, as opposed to more choice.
  • Re:Um, great? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by saibot834 (1061528) on Friday May 30, 2008 @06:03PM (#23605095) Homepage
    I don't really understand why you think that "Rights", "Freedom", "Ethics" and "Industry" are buzzwords. They are clearly defined.
    You are partially correct with "Digital Rights Management" and "Trusted Computing", which are used for propaganda (if you read my post carefully, you'll see that I actually link to "Treacherous Computing". I don't use those propaganda terms, I just cite them).

    Your post is the perfect example of why no one gives a shit about what you have to say.

    Well, actually some do. For example my post was important enough for you to respond.
  • Re:the name? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by UncleTogie (1004853) * on Friday May 30, 2008 @06:07PM (#23605129) Homepage Journal

    Free and Open Source, because all coders should live like RMS.

    Rephrased properly:

    Free and Open Source, because all coders should have the option to live as they choose...

  • Re:OK, fine... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by p0tat03 (985078) on Friday May 30, 2008 @06:11PM (#23605183)

    Yeah, NVidia and Adobe are really feeling the heat to provide source code now that millions of Linux users have demonstrated that a little temporary convenience thanks to binary blobs is acceptable.

    And on the other hand, yeah, Nvidia and Adobe are *really* feeling the heat to provide source code now that some fringe distro with zero userbase (and negligible userbase potential) totally lacks drivers.

    Open source drivers would be nice, but I fail to see how this distro does anything to further that goal.

  • Re:OK, fine... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Darkness404 (1287218) on Friday May 30, 2008 @06:14PM (#23605211)

    Yeah, NVidia and Adobe are really feeling the heat to provide source code now that millions of Linux users have demonstrated that a little temporary convenience thanks to binary blobs is acceptable.


    No, but ATI did, and look, they have open-sourced some drivers. Once ATI starts to, NVidia will, once GNASH starts becoming usable, Adobe will feel the pressure to make Flash better. It is called competition, it is something that these companies really haven't had to deal with, though, with Linux they have to compete, and not having a monopoly, they are.
  • Re:OK, fine... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by pinkstuff (758732) on Friday May 30, 2008 @06:16PM (#23605231)
    Yip, a large user base is the only way to make sure the drivers are open sourced. I mean, look at all the open source drivers for windows.
  • Re:OK, fine... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Jherek Carnelian (831679) on Friday May 30, 2008 @06:19PM (#23605255)

    Um... to whom, exactly? Some nerd who's going to spend the next three months in a darkened office reverse-engineering the proprietary drivers?
    To the people who decide what hardware they want to buy based on if it will work on their distro of choice. For example, Intel's video drivers are 100% Free and are plenty good enough for non-gaming 3D (compiz, etc).

    To give incentive to the hardware manufacturers, we need a distro with the widest possible user base, not some fringe OSS purist crap.
    Sorry, but how does that follow? If a distro already has the widest possible user base using proprietary drivers, just where is the incentive for the hw manufacturers to lift a finger?
  • by Vexorian (959249) on Friday May 30, 2008 @06:19PM (#23605257)

    Yeah, really, look at those comments. Apparently now giving a crap about the long term effectiveness of a system and not having to depend on some company that might go broke one day in order to use the hardware you actually paid for has become 'zealotry' or being a purist or taking it as a religion.

    While simultaneously, people who put blind faith on corporations - that they will still want to give you updated binary blobs, that they will actually survive the years to come, etc - get the title of being pragmatists.

    Oh and to they guys that are ranting about it ruining ubuntu, etc. Please notice it is just an alternative, you don't have to use it if you don't want to.

  • by woot account (886113) on Friday May 30, 2008 @06:21PM (#23605271)
    When will people understand that Stallman doesn't believe in choice. He believes in having it his way and his way only.

    I'm not saying I agree with him, but saying he believes in having choice is just silly.
  • Re:Um, great? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by p0tat03 (985078) on Friday May 30, 2008 @06:24PM (#23605297)

    Then maybe in twenty years you look back and ask yourself why you let the industry take away your rights.

    FUD. Are you kidding? Since when is having *software drivers* a right? It would be *nice* if hardware manufacturers supported Linux, and even nicer if said drivers are open sourced. But this is not a RIGHT. Do not dilute a word as important as "right" with such a lowball definition.

    Of course the convenience of getting all machines to work seems most important now, but free software is not about convenience, it's about ethics.

    Woah woah woah. Ethics? Freedom I get - we would be free to customize drivers, fork them, branch them as we please. Security, I get - ability to scrutinize the integrity of the code we're running. ETHICS? Since when is the *refusal to give away your code for free* in violation of ANY sane sense of ethics?

    If we stop caring about proprietary drivers then the hardware manufacturers will think we don't care. And they probably even go a step further and DRM+TC [wikipedia.org] everything.

    You mean like they've done for Windows, right? But no, wait, they haven't. The *vast vast vast* majority of Windows drivers you can download today have NO real protection on them (except the fact that you don't have source). There are even active internet communities hacking video drivers, sound drivers, etc, with no apparent backlash from hardware manufacturers.

    You're just spouting FUD. Open source drivers is a nice ideal, and even nicer if we could have it, but we are by NO MEANS entitled to it.

  • Re:GNUbuntu? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by cheater512 (783349) <nick@nickstallman.net> on Friday May 30, 2008 @06:37PM (#23605411) Homepage
    Its a bit pointless.
    For most people, running a 100% free system isnt really a option.
    There is usually something 'tainting' the system.

    There arent any real advantages to running a free system anyway from a usability aspect.
  • by manwal (648106) on Friday May 30, 2008 @06:39PM (#23605427)
    I think what he means is less choices now makes more choices tomorrow. And here we've reached the exact point where the hair splits. Same Stallman, same thread:

    "... I can encourage installing Emacs, GCC or OpenOffice on Windows, but I should not encourage installing non-free programs on GNU/Linux or BSD, just as I should not encourage installing Windows." (here [marc.info])

    "Providing a recipe to install a non-free program is very direct and clear support for its use. Making your free program work with something non-free if that's already installed is not such a direct message of support." (here [marc.info])
  • 100% free! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by david.given (6740) <dg@cowlark.cCURIEom minus physicist> on Friday May 30, 2008 @06:45PM (#23605483) Homepage Journal

    ...except for the proprietary BIOS software, the proprietary microcode in the video card, wireless card, I/O controller, hard disks, floppy disks, monitor, keyboard, mouse, POTS modem, ADSL modem, power control microcontroller, and all the other little bits of electronics with embedded CPUs on your desk.

    And if you want to be really picky, you could also talk about the proprietary chip and CPU designs in every single piece of silicon in all of the above. Not to mention the patented and extremely commercial fabber techniques needed to make it all (in China). Free, it's not.

    Now that there are genuinely free (as in speech) IC designs out there on places like opencores.com, is it possible to make completely free computers? Even single-board jobs?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 30, 2008 @06:52PM (#23605517)
    Clearly you're misinformed.

    Read Stallman's story on MIT's Xerox laser printer's drivers and you'll know what Free Software is all about.

    Repeat after me: "Open Source IS NOT THE SAME AS Free Software"

  • Re:OK, fine... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by powerlinekid (442532) on Friday May 30, 2008 @06:59PM (#23605571)
    Besides all that, you'd be surprised at just how much works without needing any proprietary bits in your operating system at all. Before sticking in a gNewSense CD, the idea that I could run a totally, completely free operating system and still do what I need to do was just all theory to me.

    Doesn't Debian already do this?

    The claim that it is too easy to install proprietary stuff on Debian is insane. The same goes for all truly functional OS.
  • Re:the name? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by el americano (799629) on Friday May 30, 2008 @07:08PM (#23605649) Homepage
    Free and Open Source, because all coders should have the option to live as they choose...

    Unless they choose non-free software, because then the OS should make it more difficult, otherwise they might hurt themselves ;-)

  • Re:OK, fine... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Braino420 (896819) on Friday May 30, 2008 @07:24PM (#23605759)

    Nvidia, for example, has no reason to open source their drivers for windows because, quite frankly, not enough windows users care.
    I think that when Linux finally has a relatively large user base, the majority of them won't care either. There are a lot of people on the Linux side that want a large user base simply to get more attention from hardware manufacturers. This is because, to many people, proprietary drivers are better than no drivers. I think we're seeing this too with gNewSense and Ubuntu where the majority of users would rather have some proprietary drivers and non-free software than no software or less functional software.

    However, maybe one day all of the hardware manufactures will realize the potential of all these people offering to write drivers for free for open hardware specs.
  • Re:OK, fine... (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 30, 2008 @07:30PM (#23605807)

    Now I know there are people who think we don't *need* a totally free desktop, but then again, there were people who thought we didn't need an open source browser because there were Netscape binaries. And isn't everyone glad now that we have Firefox?

    For most people? Yes, everyone's glad now that we have Firefox binaries .

    Anyone else besides gentoo even bothering to download the source?
  • Re:OK, fine... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by larry bagina (561269) on Friday May 30, 2008 @07:38PM (#23605865) Journal
    Preview (OS X), foxit (windows), and xpdf/kpdf/gpdf/ghostview/etc all view pdfs much better than Adobe's PDF viewer. That's competition on 100% of tha platforms adobe is on (give or take cell phones). If Adobe's feeling the pressure, they aren't showing it.
  • Re:OK, fine... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Max Threshold (540114) on Friday May 30, 2008 @07:48PM (#23605971)
    I think you mean, NVidia and Adobe are really feeling the heat to provide source code now that millions of Linux users have demonstrated a desire to use their binary blobs and a willingness to do all the work of packaging and distributing them. Companies are starting to see the benefits of open design in the form of offloading code maintenance and tech support. The only thing holding them back is negotiating open licenses with the owners of the technology they themselves licensed to produce the binary drivers.
  • Re:OK, fine... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by extrasolar (28341) on Friday May 30, 2008 @08:00PM (#23606075) Homepage Journal
    You know, you don't absolutely have to use and buy that hardware with the proprietary drivers, you know? And, if you find a free alternative, that might give them incentive to make their drivers free, which gives us knowledge about how their hardware works benefiting all of us. Let them write the drivers, it's their hardware.
  • Re:Great! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by arctanx (1187415) on Friday May 30, 2008 @08:23PM (#23606269)
    I would be curious to know what part of that "web content" you're missing out on would actually stand up to scrutiny as "content". Besides, is it really up to a fourth? I must be hanging out on the nice end of the Internet or something.
  • Re:OK, fine... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by laddiebuck (868690) on Friday May 30, 2008 @08:26PM (#23606291)
    You're missing the long view. You call it purist crap, and people have said the same of GNU at so many stages -- and look, today we have a totally free system, precisely because people have _not_ compromised, but stuck to an uncompromisingly free system and developed and worked on it. Who gives a toss, in the long run, about any particular hardware manufacturers today, about Linux's market share, about 3d video drivers, or any of that? There will be totally free 3d video drivers, there will be free drivers, there will be all of what people use proprietary components for today. It's by focussing on that long view that FLOSS has gotten as amazingly far as it has today, and only by keeping focussed on that will it get there. We cannot stop and say "this is good enough" while there are any proprietary components needed for the systems we use. And as a byproduct of this development effort, other people, naysayers or otherwise, will be able to use the system and join the FLOSS world.
  • Re:OK, fine... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Kjella (173770) on Friday May 30, 2008 @09:04PM (#23606503) Homepage

    I think we're seeing this too with gNewSense and Ubuntu where the majority of users would rather have some proprietary drivers and non-free software than no software or less functional software.
    You forgot the biggest reason - to most people it's not gNewSense vs Ubuntu, it's either a Linux stack or a Windows/Mac stack. I use proprietary drivers. Why? Because otherwise I'd probably stick with Windows, so how could I possibly be worse off having one bit of proprietary instead of a whole stack? As long as Linux is in the single digit marketshare, nobody is going to fight for a fraction of a fraction. If Linux has a huge marketshare, sure there'd be closed source products but others would open source (or at least give specs) to differentiate themselves. Why do you think people use open source, to have a shitty experience? No, they use it because allegedely this OSS development model works and gives better results. That means a company opening up their hardware, OSS devlopers doing their magic, then people use it because it's better. Expecting people to use crap because it's free as in speech would never get Linux anywhere. It might work for some zealots and developers working to actually make it usable but it will never catch on. I'm all for using open drivers but then the product must be there for me to use first, otherwise it can't do its function. It's like asking a music lover to buy a half-assembled stereo because it's really cool and comes with schematics and any electrical engineering student can tinker with it. He'd just go WTF?
  • by Kalriath (849904) * on Saturday May 31, 2008 @04:48AM (#23608203)

    I notice however, you mention your day job. I'm a programmer, but sadly haven't found the time to meaningfully contributing to FOSS code. I could if I were to totally ignore my family, I suppose. I could see making money by selling support of FOSS one creates, but they would have to write something people wanted to have support for.
    It'd also have to be buggy enough to require support. I've never understood the "sell support services" geniuses, because the only way to ensure people need your support services is to sell a buggy product.

  • by Aladrin (926209) on Saturday May 31, 2008 @07:17AM (#23608571)
    No, it doesn't need to be buggy. Complicated and feature-loaded will do the same thing. The average business-class computer user can -not- configure his/her own system. That's why they buy the support package.

    Even if they've got an on-staff tech guy, it's likely he doesn't know -everything- and will eventually have to reach out for support. The options are to let him flail around on live systems and try fixes that he found on random websites, or buy a support package and make sure he's got the best chance to fix it quickly and properly.

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