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gNewSense…Free as in Freedom

I just installed gNewSense v2.0, a linux distribution composed of completely free/libre software. I copy-paste from their website’s “Features” page:

gNewSense is derived from Ubuntu, and thus has most of the same functionality. There are a number of differences though.

  • Firmware removed from kernel in main*
  • Builder, a tool to produce a distribution
  • Restricted removed
  • Ubuntu logos replaced
  • Universe enabled by default
  • emacs, bsdgames, nethack and build-essential part of the default install

Note our goal is to produce a fully free distribution, not to have as many features as possible.

*At the time of the 1.0 release this was 119 files and the debian/firmware directory

One of the proprietary applications installed on my other distributions is the Adobe Flash player for firefox. This time I wanted to avoid installing any non-free software on this clean and free distro so, I gave gnash and swfdec a try. At first gnash gave me some problems with playing the video but after I installed the gstreamer plugins it worked. However it refused to play sounds on flash based video sites. I removed it an installed swfdec which played out of the box!

Two applications that I use often and need them on my machine but there are no libre alternatives to them are Skype and Winrar. For Winrar there is the proprietary unrar tool and the open source unrar-free, which however has some limitations in dealing with the Rar 3.0 format. However to avoid installing any non-free software on my clean distro I will be using them through Wine which is not a Windows Emulator ;). Furthermore I am now using the libre icedtea java runtime environment instead of the proprietary sun-java package.

gNewSense looks pretty much the same as any ubuntu distribution. However it is much closer to the ideology of Free as in Freedom Software and that’s why I am considering shifting to this distro once and for all. Join us now and free the software as Stallman sings! Oh, now that I said that, a nice thing I found after installing the distribution is a collectionf of Stallman’s essays in a complete 230 page pdf file. Here it is for all of you to download!


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