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gNewSense Distro Frees Ubuntu 306 (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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  • OK, fine... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jamstar7 ( 694492 ) on Friday May 30, 2008 @05:13PM (#23604583)
    Now there's a Ubuntu knockoff that developers will like because of the totally free software basis of this distro. But as the article says, it's not for everybody. Who wants to give up their wireless networking capability on a notebook? Not me. Who wants to give up 3D capability in X? Not me.
  • Too many variants (Score:4, Interesting)

    by jd ( 1658 ) <imipak AT yahoo DOT com> on Friday May 30, 2008 @05:20PM (#23604667) Homepage Journal
    Not enough layering. The problems I have with the proliferation of variants are that it's hard to pick the specific spin of a specific package that you want and that picking a desired end result will often lead to Ubuntu's installer complaining that that permutation isn't valid because of a conflict, even if the permutation would not conflict if a sane installation policies were in use. What's needed is to break the problem down into more manageable chunks and to provide far greater granularity.
  • Hairsplitting (Score:4, Interesting)

    by proxima ( 165692 ) on Friday May 30, 2008 @05:24PM (#23604705)
    gNewSense sounds like Ubuntu made to be Debian without the non-free parameter in sources.list. No binary video blobs, fine. Firefox? gNewSense replaces it with Epiphany, while Debian renames it because of trademark issues (specifically, you can't fork Firefox without calling it something else). Debian's course seems idealogical enough already, gNewSense is just over the top, IMO.

    The article claims that one benefit of gNewSense is that it is a distribution the FSF can get fully behind. If I recall, the FSF won't endorse Debian because they offer non-free if you enable it in their repositories. That just seems like hairsplitting to me. I can fully understand the desire to have free software/open source replacements and encouraging development of them, but I fail to see how gNewSense achieves that any better than what we had. In Debian you have to go out of your way to get non-free software. In Ubuntu it's fairly straightforward to avoid it if you want to. Is it really worth a distribution with perhaps the worst name I've ever heard for software?
  • Re:As I recall... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by nawcom ( 941663 ) on Friday May 30, 2008 @05:33PM (#23604805) Homepage
    I use gpl software in slackware. If the kernel supports it, it works. The main issue these days with stuff like ubuntu is that it's designed to be picked up automatically. You arent supposed to have to compile drivers, and set up the configs. This is usually what causes peoples issues with wireless. I've solved a ton of wireless issues by simply compiling the driver modules and network settings. Especially when one is trying to use ndiswrapper - it is a ton easier to compile the driver, set it up with the windows driver files via command line than it is to go through repository hell.

    I am not saying that Ubuntu is for lamers, and real linux users compile; I am simply stating that linux isn't yet ready for simple computer users who have only mastered the mouse quite yet.

  • gNewsense user here (Score:3, Interesting)

    by br00tus ( 528477 ) on Friday May 30, 2008 @05:34PM (#23604825)
    I have been using gNewsense since October of last year. I have been happy with it. I actually did a major upgrade earlier this month due to wanting the latest version of I-don't-even-remember-anymore, which had X number of dependencies, so it asked to upgrade everything and I went for it. It did run into a few problems, and I even had to edit /var/lib/dpkg/status for one tricky and broken dependency chain, but all was well that ends well and all of that is on the Ubuntu side anyhow. I have an old Debian system in another location which I also did not update much and started to break hard on the upgrading circa spring-summer of 2007, so I just leave everything as it was in spring-summer 2007, especially considering I only have remote access to the machine most of the time. As I said, this is all Debian/Ubuntu related though, and not Gnewsense related.

    I had a problem with Gnewsense prior to May where sound would conk off once in a while. The latest update of everything seems to have fixed that. I have to say I have been pretty happy with Gnewsense, I have been surprised about how much has worked automagically.

    One exception to this is my HP printer. I am not a CUPS or HP driver expert, but I hooked it up, it detected it - as the proper HP printer, but it is not printing to it. I guess one fear you have with Gnewsense in these situations is some firmware blob that would just make it work is not included - although the situation might be the same on an Ubuntu, I don't know what the problem is, but I only spent a few hours looking at it.

    I do install things like non-GPL'd-yet Sun Java, mplayer, vlc and the like on my Gnewsense system in its own little segregatd section. The main thing is, I know they are not free. It is really an awareness thing for me, I have all of the non-free stuff segregated in its own little section. I just installed Gnash, and will test it out and see how well it works. Most of the non-free stuff I use revolves around Java (which is being GPL'd) and movie players. I want to at least be aware of this stuff and have it segregated. Otherwise I might as well use Windows.

  • Not as Advertised (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Secret Rabbit ( 914973 ) on Friday May 30, 2008 @05:48PM (#23604963) Journal
    Problem is that this distro still contains non-free software in it. Though it might have a totally free (in the FSF definition) *goal*, it's rather dis-honest to advertise something that has yet to be accomplished. Quite frankly, if one wants a totally free *NIX OS, then one should be looking at OpenBSD rather than this thing. You know, the people who are actually fighting against Blobs, etc instead of just removing things that can be easily put back in.
  • Re:seems a bit silly (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Drakonik ( 1193977 ) <> on Friday May 30, 2008 @05:54PM (#23605009) Homepage
    Thank you. I agree whole-heartedly.

    I am 100% in favor of free software. I don't want to be a victim of DRM or vendor-lock-in more than the next guy, but this is the reason nobody can take Linux seriously.

    Ever seen the Pokemon nerds have an argument with the Yu-gi-oh nerds at school or in your local geek shop? That's what we look like to people who don't understand the difference between proprietary and free software.
  • Re:GNUbuntu? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 30, 2008 @05:55PM (#23605029)
    Isn't that called "Debian"?
  • Re:OK, fine... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by chromatic ( 9471 ) on Friday May 30, 2008 @05:57PM (#23605049) Homepage

    To give incentive to the hardware manufacturers, we need a distro with the widest possible user base, not some fringe OSS purist crap.

    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.

  • Re:the name? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by UncleTogie ( 1004853 ) * on Friday May 30, 2008 @06:26PM (#23605323) Homepage Journal

    If your sales/marketing department can't find a way to sell something that's free, then you're in trouble...

    We do quite a number of Ubuntu installs per month. If I wanted, I could substitute gNewSense and the users wouldn't really notice the difference in most cases.

    We get paid for these installs, too. It supports my family quite nicely... so try pulling someone else's leg...

  • Re:As I recall... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by stinerman ( 812158 ) <nathan.stine@gmail.cTEAom minus caffeine> on Friday May 30, 2008 @06:30PM (#23605353) Homepage

    I don't understand the OMG NOTHING BUT FREE SOFTWARE distros like gNewSense, et al.

    If I want to use only free software, I'll just not install anything that isn't free. I'm smart enough to omit "contrib non-free" from my sources.list.

    The argument about installing non-free drivers and programs by default is a non-starter, too. Anyone who is aware of F/OSS is aware enough to check the licenses of the programs in their package manager.

    The only possible use of such "free only" distros is that some people have a problem with non-free packages existing in the same package mirror as their free stuff or people who get their knickers in a bunch when something non-free is installed by default -- which can be removed in 2 minutes.
  • Re:the name? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by el americano ( 799629 ) on Friday May 30, 2008 @06:59PM (#23605569) Homepage
    First of all, this is a dupe: []

    Secondly, there is already a free version of Ubuntu, called Gobuntu. gNewSense exists because "pure" isn't good enough for some people. Some of the issues were:

    -Gobuntu uses the Ubuntu repositories, so you could, if you wanted, install non-free software.
    -The binaries had non-free removed, but the source packages, if you downloaded them, would not.
    -Some Ubuntu OS "enhancements" encouraged the downloading of proprietary software.
    -Gobuntu/Ubuntu development uses Launchpad, which is a non-open-source server application. (Nevermind that it's not runnning on your computer. Nevermind that you couldn't modify Canonical's version even if it was OSS. Nevermind that these same people use Google, etc.)

    So, if any of these reasons make any sense to you, or if you'd just like a pat on the back from RMS, then gNS might be for you.

  • Re:As I recall... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by pizzach ( 1011925 ) <pizzach@gmail.cEEEom minus threevowels> on Friday May 30, 2008 @10:14PM (#23606819) Homepage

    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?

    1. You go to gNewSense's website, and see if your laptop or the one you are planning on buying has compatibility.

    2. If it's listed, you know that your hardware should work with any Linux distribution and that it is well supported without overly strange hacks. You won't have to worry about Nvidia eventally dropping support for your card, and there will never be binary incompatibility because the binary blob was never updated for the latest kernel.

    gNewSense is not a great consumer OS per say, but you're wrong if you think the community can't benefit from it.

  • by jbn-o ( 555068 ) <> on Friday May 30, 2008 @11:17PM (#23607113) Homepage

    Few things in the world are for everybody, but history shows us that freedom is worth some hard work to build and defend. If that means I do without something for a while, or I have to do something another way, that's a small price to pay. As it happens I don't need 3D hardware and my ASUS cardbus wireless card works with gNewSense GNU/Linux because it requires no firmware, hence there's no issue of uploading proprietary firmware to the device to make it useful. Using it couldn't be easier: I plug it in, it lights up and the system finds a wireless access point. If I leave it plugged in I only have to turn on my computer to get online wirelessly. I think that software freedom is worth some sacrifice and I find that I have to sacrifice less and less over time. I find it interesting to note how dependent on proprietary software many GNU/Linux users are. The push to put more proprietary software on a GNU-based system more clearly illuminates to me the difference between "open source" and "free software" right along the lines described in the latter part of "Why Open Source Misses the Point of Free Software []":

    The idea of open source is that allowing users to change and redistribute the software will make it more powerful and reliable. But this is not guaranteed. Developers of proprietary software are not necessarily incompetent. Sometimes they produce a program which is powerful and reliable, even though it does not respect the users' freedom. How will free software activists and open source enthusiasts react to that?

    A pure open source enthusiast, one that is not at all influenced by the ideals of free software, will say, "I am surprised you were able to make the program work so well without using our development model, but you did. How can I get a copy?" This attitude will reward schemes that take away our freedom, leading to its loss.

    The free software activist will say, "Your program is very attractive, but not at the price of my freedom. So I have to do without it. Instead I will support a project to develop a free replacement." If we value our freedom, we can act to maintain and defend it.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 31, 2008 @09:39AM (#23609149)
    Debian itself is not endorsed by RMS. There are some binary bits packaged in the kernel, at least.

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