It was a fresh Friday morning, with a second depression formed over Chennai and rain pouring down like hell, when I had just turned up online and was checking digg.com. One of the posts which attracted my attention was the release of another new GNU/Linux distribution named “gNewSense”. I read the article as well as checked out gnewsense.org, which is the official web site of the project.
This new distribution gNewSense is nothing new in the real sense. Off late, Ubuntu has become really a distribution for the comman man and has acclaimed wide fame. But, there were some non-free (`Free as in Freedom`) stuff contained within which has been a subject of criticism off late. Thus a new distro was created by taking out binary blobs from Ubuntu Dapper, making them free to end up with a more ‘Free’ GNU/Linux distribution.
In addition, their website talks about scripts with which anyone can create an entirely new distribution, based on Ubuntu Dapper. There is a step by step guide to help out creating a new distribution.
Although it is said to be the clone of Ubuntu Dapper, there are a few distinct features such as,
- Firmware and restricted packages removed
- Logos of Ubuntu has been removed
- Universe repos enabled by default
- Emacs and build-essential are part of the default installation
Other than this, it is nothing but Ubuntu Dapper. But it is said that in coming releases more non-free softwares might me removed and this gNewSense made 100% free software.
I downloaded the 661MB iso image of gNewSense Live 1.0 and burned it up in a CD. The iso image can be obtained from cdimage.gnewsense.org or from various mirrors sites that the supporters of this new endeavor has put up. I downloaded from one put up by Gnuklear in his site gnuklear.org.
The official press release by FSF talks more about the project as well as calls for volunteers for acting as developers, website maintainers, graphic artists, freedom verifiers and documentation writers.
There is a very active community already up for the distro in the IRC channel #gnewsense @ irc.freenode.net.
Now comes my personal opinion.. ahem ahem.. this looks cool, ok ?! But, I have been hearing a particular criticism from a part of community, which I found to be justified. Why do we need another distro when there are already numerous ? And that too, one which is nothing but an already existing distribution with a few software, tagged to be non-free, being stripped off from it. Not all people out there are followers of FSF and hence, they accept and agree on certain amount of non-free softwares which one or another make their life a little better without compromising a lot on ‘Freedom’. This is also seen as a move to yank away a part of Ubuntu community which is not too happy with the existence of non-free softwares within Ubuntu. But, will it really affect the existing distributions and their popularity or community strength ? I seriously doubt it. May be a 100 people might migrate from other distributions with a new sense of freedom but not those who have settled down with one distro for their life. I mean those people who will forgive certain inabilities of their favorite distribution even when there is something which is ‘said to be better’ available. I am one of these men, a proud Ubuntero. As of now, I find no other distribution which I personally feel as good as Ubuntu. There are a lots of fellow Ubunteros, Debians, Fedoro Cores, Red Hats, Mandrivians, Suse’s etc etc. out there.
For the eyes of a Free Software zealot, it might be the distro he has been longing for; but for an ordinary Linux enthusiast, it adds one more to the numerous existing flavors of Linux (pardon me if I should have said GNU/Linux instead). For me, it was no better than Dapper Drake or rather Edgy Eft which am currently running.
To be a bit optimistic, let us wait and see what the gnewsense community leads itself to. Whether it is going to reach a height that Dapper Drake did or it is going to see a fall which many other not-so-famous Linux distributions did, is in their own hands of the newly born gNewSense community.
Long live the Freedom! Long live the Community! 🙂