A relatively new Linux distribution has emerged whose mission is to provide
a completely free and open source Linux distribution.
known as gnubuntu and Gnuiscance) is designed for those who just want to
use free software for everything in their operating system. Based on
Ubuntu, the gNewSense Linux distribution is officially supported by the
Free Software Foundation. Even though gNewSense is based on Ubuntu, it
stands out from other Linux distributions since it does not focus on having
numerous features; its goal is to produce a completely free
distribution--in every aspect.
gNewSense was created by Paul O'Malley and Brian Brazil, two Irish FOSS
(free and open source software) advocates. The distribution was born
because neither Ubuntu nor Debian meets O'Malley and Brazil's definition of
a completely free
distribution. Builder, a program that was developed in-house, was created
to assemble gNewSense and it also aids the creation of a new GNU/Linux
distribution based on Ubuntu
6.06 Dapper Drake. It requires that a large amount of disk space be reserved, since it downloads over 25 gigabytes of data. Builder not only configures most of the distribution but it also creates a Live CD of the newly created Linux distro.
The gNewSense distribution differs from its parents in many ways, primarily in the removal of some non-free firmware from the Linux kernel. Furthermore it includes several software development tools such as gcc, make, and GNU Emacs which it installs by default, and it only runs on the x86 platform. To cater to hackers, bsdgames and nethack are also installed. The gNewSense community's beliefs on kernel firmware are stricter than Fedora's so that gNewSense users can be one hundred percent free of proprietary software.
The second major difference between it and Ubuntu is
gNewSense's repository changes. The "multiverse" repository
is disabled and the "restricted" repository was removed entirely.
gNewSense encourages users to download free and open source software by
enabling the "universe" and "main" repositories.
Although most software in the "universe" repository is free and
open source, the gNewSense team has been forced to remove several packages
that were not completely free due to licensing issues, such as
nvidia-xconfig (a package to configure non-free drivers) and
gstreamer-0.10-plugins-ugly-multiverse (which allows gstreamer applications
to play a myriad of closed-source codecs). In the kernel, over 115 files
that are in Ubuntu that did not comply with gNewSense's free software
beliefs were removed from project since its 1.1 release earlier this
Recently, gNewSense has been making some changes and considering
others. The community recently set up a forum and although gNewSense
provides its users with full security updates, they are also planning a
community-managed software repository, with some of the same principles of
the Fedora community (which maintains livna.org). The community managed
repository would be for software that gNewSense will not distribute. Some
users have also proposed a new distribution logo which combines the aspects
of the Ubuntu and GNU logos. The results look promising. Some potential
users may be discouraged by a question that was raised about the frequency
of gNewSense package updates. Brian Brazil responded "7 months
isn't old, it's actually very new. 10 years is old. Stability is
important, and it's a lot easier to track LTS which has major changes
once every 3 years, rather than every 6 months. Thus far, noone [sic] has
put any effort into working on the non-LTS releases." This could be
one disadvantage to using gNewSense over Fedora.
gNewSense is a great example of what a completely free Linux
distribution should be. It allows its users to free themselves from
proprietary clutches with ease of the apt package manager, while giving it
the stability and speed of Ubuntu and Debian. This project has a promising
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