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News and Editorials

gNewSense makes sense

January 31, 2007

This article was contributed by Joseph Quigley

A relatively new Linux distribution has emerged whose mission is to provide a completely free and open source Linux distribution. gNewSense (originally 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 month.

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 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 future.

Comments (16 posted)

New Releases

Foresight Linux 1.0 goes gold ( carries an announcement of the Foresight Linux 1.0 release. "Project maintainer Ken VanDine on Jan. 28 announced the release of Foresight Linux 1.0, the first stable release of the rPath-based desktop Linux distribution after nearly two years of development. It sports a new kernel and the GNOME desktop environment."

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LFS LiveCD 6.2-5 released

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Trustix Secure Linux 3.0.5 RC 1

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Distribution News

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New openSUSE Mailinglists - networking/usability

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Congratulations and thank you

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New Distributions


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Distribution Newsletters

Debian Weekly News

The Debian Weekly News for January 30, 2007 covers an interview with Anthony Towns on Dunc Tank, status of the Alpha port, standards for how applications organize data and configuration files, a proposed Social Committe for Debian, a request for translation updates, a Debian-Installer Loader for win32, a new UTF-8 Migration Wizard, Debian at the Chemnitzer Linux-Tage 2007, and several other topics.

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Fedora Weekly News Issue 75

The Fedora Weekly News for January 29, 2007 has articles on Fedora 7 Test 1 Freeze, Fedora 7 Test 1 Approaching, Plymouth: The next generation RHGB, The Top Ten Reasons to Attend SCALE, Amanda 2.5.1p2 RPMS are available for Fedora Core 6, and much more.

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Gentoo Weekly Newsletter

The Gentoo Weekly Newsletter for January 22, 2007 covers the release of Flash Player 9, Adopt-a-dev update, end of KBase and much more.

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Ubuntu Weekly News: Issue #29

The Ubuntu Weekly Newsletter for January 27, 2007 covers the new Ubuntu Scribes team, the Ubuntu Support Team, Ubuntu IRC Channels Statistics, LoCo News, Weekly Quiz Update, Changes in Feisty, OSDL Survey Says: Ubuntu most popular Linux Distro, Canonical named in top 20, and several other topics.

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Minor distribution updates

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Package updates

Debian Packages for 2.0.8 of Linux-HA

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Updates for Fedora Core 6: spamassassin (annoying typo fix), squirrelmail (clean up .orig files), systemtap (development refresh), crontabs (rebuilt), xorg-x11-drv-trident (update to 1.2.3), cman (synched to the latest RHEL5 cman package), enscript (bug fix), policycoreutils (update to upstream), xorg-x11-drv-mouse (update to 1.2.1), hsqldb (updgrade to, nautilus (fix crash), glib2 (update to 2.12.9), gtk2 (update to 2.10.8), gfs2-utils (new upstream sources), xorg-x11-drv-mga (mga-1.4.5-no-hal-advertising.patch), gnome-python2-extras (correct a packaging error), autofs (unspecified), pinfo (bug fixes), gnome-screensaver (bug fix), emacs (update to 21.4-17.3), dvgrab (new upstream release v2.1), PyQt (update to 3.17), sip (update to PyQt-3.17/sip-4.5), fetchmail (bug fix), libdv (new upstream release), netpbm (bug fixes), autofs (not specified), traceroute (bug fixes).

Updates for Fedora Core 5: squirrelmail (clean up .orig files), gcc (update from gcc-4_1-branch), enscript (bug fix), gphoto2 (bug fix), spamassassin (annoying typo fix), pinfo (bug fixes), PyQt (update to PyQt-3.17/sip-4.5), fetchmail (bug fix), netpbm (bug fixes), sip (update to PyQt-3.17/sip-4.5).

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rPath updates

Updates for rPath Linux 1: conary, conary-build, conary-repository (Conary 1.1.16 maintenance release).

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Ubuntu updates

Updates for Ubuntu 6.10: app-install-data-commercial (added channels/opera.desktop and channels/realplayer.desktop), app-install-data-commercial (fix edgy-commercial channel description), xubuntu-system-tools (add debian/patches), lvm2 (fix dev_is_md check on big endian machines), system-tools-backends (no-change upload to edgy-updates), gnome-applets (no-change upload to edgy-updates), gnome-system-tools (no-change upload to edgy-updates), xubuntu-system-tools (no-change upload to edgy-updates), gnome-netstatus (no-change upload to edgy-updates), app-install-data-commercial (new opera/realplayer packages added), gnome-panel (no-change upload to edgy-updates), lvm2 (backport endian fix for dev_is_md from upstream), digikam (bug fixes), foo2zjs (bug fixes), udev (no-change upload to edgy-updates), azureus (bug fixes), python-imaging (backport of missing ${shlibs:Depends}), nautilus (debian patches), python-apt (protect against not-parsable strings sent from dpkg), epiphany-browser (debian patches).

Updates for Ubuntu 6.06 LTS: app-install-data-commercial (added sugarcrm), synaptic (bug fix), app-install-data-commercial (fix capitalisation/description of sugarcrm and dapper-commercial.eula), glibc (bug fixes), lvm2 (fix dev_is_md check on big endian machines), lvm2 (backport endian fix for dev_is_md from upstream), mousepad (address issues raised by QA Team), apt (bug fixes), python-apt (protect against not-parsable strings sent from dpkg).

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Newsletters and articles of interest

Debian ARM accelerates via EABI port (LinuxDevices)

LinuxDevices looks at Debian's ARM port. "Embedded system specialist Applied Data Systems (ADS) has contributed an experimental new root filesystem for the ARM architecture to the Debian project. Comprised of 9,877 packages and growing, the ADS-contributed filesystem offers greatly improved floating point performance, thanks to support for ARM's EABI (embedded application binary interface)." For more information on the ARM EABI see the wiki page. (Thanks to Lennert Buytenhek)

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Expert shares secrets to saving thousands with K12LTSP ( looks at the K12 Linux Terminal Server Project. "The K12 Linux Terminal Server Project (K12LTSP) is a thin client distribution designed for use in schools. Recently, I was invited by Robert Arkiletian, a K12LTSP contributor, to see the software in action in his computer lab at Eric Hamber Secondary School in Vancouver, Canada. We talked about the system requirements for a K12LTSP installation, investigated the available software, and discussed the success of Arkiletian's own lab, which has saved his school thousands of dollars in hardware costs."

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Inside PC-BSD 1.3 (O'ReillyNet)

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Distribution reviews

BSD goes live with FreeSBIE 2.0 (NewsForge)

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E is for elegant with Elive live CD ( reviews Elive. "Elive is a live CD Linux distribution based on Debian that uses the Enlightenment window manager. Elive aims to provide an aesthetically pleasing environment with a full suite of desktop applications that runs efficiently on older systems. Its developers aren't finished yet, but they've come a long way with Elive since the release of 0.3 more than a year ago. This CD shows how beautiful distributions can become without being bloated."

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Ubuntu Christmas Edition and Linux Mint Review (OSWeekly)

OSWeekly reviews Linux Mint and the Ubuntu Christmas Edition. Both projects strive to make it easier for users to install proprietary applications. "[It's] Ubuntu's perceived openness that both helped propel its adoption as well as hinder it. It's an interesting double edged sword as a large number of us from the Linux community have dropped our previous distributions in favor of using Ubuntu, but at the same time, we see people from the Windows world showing little patience with it when they discover that much of the things that they need to successfully make the switch are not included with this particular distribution."

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Lesser known "mini" Linux runs from RAM (Linux Devices)

Linux Devices covers the release of Mustang Linux 2.3.1. "Mustang Linux, a fork of Buffalo Linux and a newcomer to the "mini" Linux distribution field, achieved a v2.3.1 release earlier this month. The lightweight distro, which can run entirely from RAM, is based on a 2.6.16 kernel and offers a choice of desktops, the project team said. Like some other "mini" Linux distros, such as Puppy, Mustang boots from the CD and loads the base operating system into RAM, without requiring a hard drive. It occupies 168MB of RAMDISK and requires a system having a 586 (or greater) processor and at least 256MB of total RAM."

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Pardus gives Linux a custom lift ( reviews Pardus 2007. "Apart from a KDE desktop and applications, the developers of the Pardus 2007 Linux distribution have built an entire distribution from scratch. Pardus, released last month, has its own multilingual installer, custom dependency-resolving package manager, and an INIT system that slashes boot times by several seconds. The distribution has come a long way since its first release in 2005, when it was based on Gentoo and lacked a package manager. Thanks to its custom tools, it's one of the easiest Linux distribution to run and manage."

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