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Distro reviews

gNewSense 2.3-deltah

Totally free and based on Hardy 8.04 LTS.  Enough to make you change your lifestyle?

Totally free and based on Hardy 8.04 LTS. Enough to make you change your lifestyle?

So I have the opportunity to take a look at another Ubuntu derived distro.  There seems to be many in the DistroWatch spotlight, what with MoonOS, Trisquel, Mint 7 (Xfce) to name a few.

gNewSense 2.3 is derived from Ubuntu Hardy Heron (8.04) and has a comprehensive list of software pre-installed for your enjoyment.

I chose GnewSense as it proudly contains 100% free software.   I  apologize for this review being shorter than usual, but with any distro based on Ubuntu you can guarantee (almost) a “minimum standards” of performance, which in turn does not help to find things new to review!

PACKAGES/FEATURES

As with Ubuntu 8.04 LiveCD installation is effortless with Ubuntu “holding your hand” or allowing you to be creative with your install.  Hardware was detected immediately and as always with an Ubuntu derived distro I had no issues to report about.

gNewsense 2.3 comes bundled with: Gnote, GIMP 2.4.5, OpenOffice 2.4, Transmission 1.06, Totem 2.22.1 and a host of those play once games that you usually get as default with an Ubuntu distro.  It was nice to see no real duplication here (which some Ubuntu derivatives are guilt of…..looking at #!CBL) so that is a plus.

There is really not much more to say in respect of whats bundled, if you’ve used 8.04Heron then you will know what to expect, accept gNewsense has been stripped of any none free software.

CONCLUSIONS

gNewsense’s strongest point is that when you install it you are running completely free software.  It was very nice to see that Mono and subsequently f-spot, tomboy et al are absent from this distro.  It was also nice to have the distro based off a LTS and you can almost guarantee its damn stable.  That is also its drawback, its based on an Ubuntu that is over 1 year old and subsequently the packages its bundled with are also old.  Transmission is currently in version 1.75 whereas gNewsense is offering 1.05 which is over a year old.  This is typical of all the packages included with gNewsense and infact Totem which 2.22.1 comes as default I believe is closer to 2 years old if not older.

I am left wondering why someone would choose to install this.  Supporters of free software with Linux experience can easily strip away the non free and bloat if they wish, whilst new users to Linux will IMO be wanting to go for the all singing all dancing “out of the box” proprietary included distro’s…to me a total non-free existence is too big a step for the new user coming straight from Windows.

For the average user I don’t believe they care if the software is open or closed source and that the first priority is out of the box compat.

I made a similar distro of my own (it only has been deployed on one machine in my home!)  which effectively stripped away everything that GS does, it also included far more up to date installs of the latest software and is currently very happy supporting the latest build of Chromium.

I really hope that I am not missing something from GS and if there is a compelling reason to use it, please let me know.  As I see it at present its not the distro I would recommend to a new user and its certainly not offering anything the experienced Linux user can’t do themselves…..please correct me if I’m wrong.

Goblin – bytes4free@google.com

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Discussion

11 thoughts on “gNewSense 2.3-deltah

  1. You should review Trisquel, it is as free as this one, and Jaunty based. They also have a Hardy based LTS, so you can race them :)

    “For the average user I don’t believe they care if the software is open or closed source and that the first priority is out of the box compat.” This is precisely what fully free distros are about, users should value their freedom better.

    Posted by ice | September 16, 2009, 9:30 pm
  2. “This is precisely what fully free distros are about, users should value their freedom better.”

    I agree, although rightly or wrongly I think the average users first concern when switching to Linux is to get all the things working that they had before with little regard as what they use….thats my take on it.

    As for experienced vets, we can all strip our distro’s of any software we want so that particular feature is a moot point also.

    Add that into the fact that the software is out of date (in terms of releases since) and that is the reason why I had issues with it.

    At least with a Jaunty based distro you will have a more modern default packaging. However the question does need to be asked, why not simply strip Jaunty yourself?

    I feel really bad writing something negative about a distro which obviously alot of work has gone into, however I would be a hypocrite if I did not post my negative feelings as well as my positive ones.

    I would really love someone to correct me and point out something I’ve missed in my looking at GS.

    Posted by openbytes | September 16, 2009, 9:44 pm
  3. Cleaning a distro is not so easy, there is more to do than removing things. Some packages need to be cleaned and rebuilt, the hardest one being the kernel, which includes a lot of non-free stuff that needs to be removed without breaking everything…

    So, having this distros is a good idea. Also, they actually _tell_ the users about the difference with the “non-stripped” version, which is making a lot of people aware of the ideas underneath. A thing Ubuntu (to name the worse case) is failing to achieve.

    The “outdateness” is a different problem, and it gets worse when it comes to hardware compatibility. Fully free distros need to be very updated to make their point, so I think it’s normal to miss it with this one.

    Posted by ice | September 16, 2009, 10:42 pm
  4. the most difficult thing to strip out of a distro is the kernel (as ice pointed out)… trisquel and gnewsense both use the linux libre kernel http://www.fsfla.org/svnwiki/selibre/linux-libre/

    so while you can download the libre kernel and do-it-yourself, having a nice packaged 100% free distro where all the hard work stripping out the non-free stuff is done for you is a Good Thing. These distros need our support.

    Posted by rel | September 16, 2009, 11:32 pm
  5. Firstly let me appologize for having not using the openbytes account to post my response, i am currently mobile and unable to log on to my admin account.

    Firstly the points everyone makes are completely correct and I hope I didnt cheapen the efforts of others when commenting on gs. My opinion of making your own disto still stands and I am sorry if people took my stripping comment as simply meaning uninstalling packages. That obviously is only part of the solution, but I would still say that most experienced linux users could build their own using the same ethos as gs, thats why i think the point about outdated packages stands, the completely free existance is one I aspire to but in practice find hard to adhere to. IMO foss is at a crossroads and I think for new users to consider looking at an alternative to proprietary is a very big step, I think its something which users migrate to in pieces in most cases. The issue I had with gs was more of a question of who this appeals to as i am led to believe that other completely free distros have a more up to date bundling.

    Having said all that, you compare gs to a ms offering and in my opinion gs wins hands down imo. Unfortunately other Linux distros have raised the bar so to speak and for me gs in comparison to other distros just does not meet the grade imo.

    I have often said I stand by 100 percent of what I say and I would have been a hypocrite if I had simply not written my opinions on gs. I am very pleased people have come here to defend it and its obviously got a very good userbase who have an honest held belief in it. What I would say to anyone reading this is (as always) do your own research and the best way to do that is to run it yourselves.

    If you find you disagree with me please please post here, I would sincerely like my opinions to be countered by gs userbase.

    In the meantime i am currently going through a slackware derived distro the results of which will be posted soon.

    Posted by Goblin | September 17, 2009, 12:06 pm
  6. Goblin,

    Thanks for your thoughtful responses and for reviewing these distros at all. I hear over and over again about “windows converts” or how easy or hard it is to “bring people over” from XYZ operating system and I always think “Who cares?” if user xyz comes over from OS xyz. I don’t think this is why most developers are working so hard to make GNU/Linux better. The hard work is mostly for the people who have been using alternative operating systems for years… the users who are ALREADY converted. Honestly, in most cases developers work hardest to scratch their own itches… everybody else benefits as a bonus.

    If all the ms users stay on windows, GNU/Linux will still be here… still be evolving. So it doesn’t really matter to me. We know what is better. I liken it to religious tolerance… leave people alone if they are of another faith… it’s nobody’s business to convert them.

    So I hope in the future, reviewers will focus less on how well a distro (completely free or otherwise) could ‘convert’ someone and focus more on whether or not the distro is fulfilling its mission.

    Posted by rel | September 17, 2009, 3:15 pm
  7. “I don’t think this is why most developers are working so hard to make GNU/Linux better.”

    I would completely agree and hope this is the case. What I will say (and I wish the people who had mailed me would post here) is that GS has a very large loyal,happy userbase. That needs to be mentioned.

    I think what also needs to be mentioned is that I have a machine for distro hopping and since Ive covered so many distro’s in order for one to stay on my main system and not just pay a visit on one of the many PC’s around my house it has to appeal in a special way to myself.

    Quote “So I hope in the future, reviewers will focus less on how well a distro (completely free or otherwise) could ‘convert’ someone and focus more on whether or not the distro is fulfilling its mission.”

    A very fair and reasonable suggestion, I think because I’ve spent much of my time installing Linux and introducing others I tend to look at a distro as either being “one for me” or “one for the new user”..

    I will certainly be giving GnewSense another look in later versions and I think if I hadn’t already built my own custom Hardy distro for a machine in my home, the review would be very different….

    I am very pleased that you responded and would like to add to anyone reading this that if my emails are anything to go by, my impressions of GS are completely different to many many others.

    Quote “whether or not the distro is fulfilling its mission.”

    In answer to that question GS performed exactly to spec and very well.

    Maybe its because I can’t yet be 100% free that I just don’t get it…

    Regards
    Goblin.

    Posted by openbytes | September 17, 2009, 8:11 pm
  8. Wow, guess this is a late reply. You mentioned that you were left “wondering why someone would choose to install this”. I don’t believe the average user would or really should.

    Development would be another story though. Wouldn’t it? I use it in combination with Windows to have a local Linux test server on hand. No bloat and newer packages can be installed. Is there a better alternative? I don’t know.

    Thanks for the post, I needed to know what version of Ubuntu gNewSense 2.3 was built on.

    Posted by Tim Valentine | February 26, 2010, 3:59 pm
  9. I understand that this late comment is pretty weird, yet unfortunately I have shocking news to reveal!

    None of us Free Software enthusiasts have obviously studied gNewSense well enough. Since it is a FSF approved distribution, we assumed that it was void of any binary blobs and Microsoft and Miguel’s “gift to the world”.

    Unfortunately we where misguided :-(

    I installed gNewSense 2.3 (Delta-H) yesterday and to my (unpleasant) surprise F-Spot was in the Graphics menu.

    So I googood for “remove mono from hardy” and came to the right blog where the required procedure was described.

    I followed the instructions and came to the horrifying conclusion that the Entire MONO crapola was installed right out of the box

    Beside that, if you click on a MP3 or other file using a proprietary codec, the codec will be installed instantly (using gstreamer-bad and ugly). Not even a warning that you are about to install a proprietary non-free codec.

    On the other hand, KDE4 is not supported because according to the gNewSense devs it includes “proprietary” dependencies. Which IMHO is complete nonsense, since I’ve been running KDE 4.4.2 on a system with a Free X.org driver for ATI Rage 128 Pro Ultro (16 MiB VRAM).

    I seriously wonder why this distribution is FSF approved. It’s a joke.

    Cheers ;-)

    Posted by ml2mst | May 4, 2010, 2:10 pm

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Pingback: Roy Schestowitz (schestowitz) 's status on Wednesday, 16-Sep-09 22:35:38 UTC - Identi.ca - September 16, 2009

  2. Pingback: gNewSense Gets Rid of Mono While Mono Gets Closer to Microsoft | Boycott Novell - September 17, 2009

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Tim Wilson

Tim Wilson

Writer/Novelist of many facets both in the world of technology and fantasy/sci-fi. Co-host of the TechBytes audiocast and writer for both OpenBytes and Goblin's Domain. Supporter of free and open source software.

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