Taking a look at gNewSense
You might have noticed that posting in this space has been rather non existent for a while. That’s not because I’ve lost interest in FLOSS, nor is it because of a lack of ideas or desire to post. It’s just that things have gotten in the way.
But, in the words of Jules Winnifield, I’m trying, Ringo …
Having said that, taking a break (whether intentional or not) can bring things into focus. Or bring things to one’s attention. Which is the case with this post.
One Linux distro that had fallen off my radar was gNewSense. When I first heard about it, I was intrigued. Recently, a tweet from Roy Schestowitz about version 3.0 of gNewSense passed through my stream:
Here are a few thoughts about gNewSense.
A little background
Before we begin, a little background for those unfamiliar with gNewSense. It’s a a fully free software GNU/Linux distribution that’s sponsored by the Free Software Foundation. The goal of the project is to create a completely free Linux distro, with all proprietary and non-free software removed.
Previous versions of gNewSense were based on Ubuntu. Now it’s based on Debian (the same distribution on which Ubuntu is based). The main differences, as I mentioned a paragraph ago, is that gNewSense is completely free — it uses no proprietary drivers or software or libraries.
Working with gNewSense
The installation was quite fast, partly (I’m sure) because I was installing it on a computer with a better-than-average SSD. gNewSense runs quite well on that computer, too, even though it’s running in a virtual machine with 2 GB of memory and 25 GB of hard disk space.
The distribution itself is quite lean. The software that gNewSense packs is minimal, but it does the job. The most notable applications that come with gNewSense are:
- GNOME Desktop (version 2.30.2)
- OpenOffice.org (version ema3.21)
- The Epiphany and Iceweasel browsers
- Ekiga Softphone (version 3.2.7)
- The GIMP (version 2.6)
There are a bunch of other applications pre-installed, too. You’ll notice, however, that gNewSense comes bundled with older versions of various pieces of software. Still, you can use gNewSense for about 80% to 90% of what you do right out of the box. If you need more software, you can turn to Synaptic. You obviously don’t get the range of applications that you do, for example, with the Software Manager that’s available with Ubuntu or Linux Mint.
To be honest, it’s been a while since I’ve used the standard GNOME desktop. Over the last couple of years, I’ve been using Cinnamon and Unity. In case you’re wondering, I happen to like both (for a variety of reasons).
There’s nothing wrong with GNOME, though. And it didn’t take long to adapt to it. I was quickly able to get working and had no problems in that area.
Drivers and such
Having tried another completely free distro in the past, I was worried that gNewSense wouldn’t play well with some of the hardware on my computer. Most of my worries revolved around the wireless card and sound card.
I didn’t need to be worried. Both worked. I didn’t notice any problems or any issues with performance. That said, I don’t expect this to be the case with all hardware. But I definitely wouldn’t mind being proven wrong!
On the surface, there’s nothing special gNewSense. However, it’s what’s inside that counts. Or, in this case, what’s not inside. Specifically, the proprietary binary blobs.
While gNewSense isn’t the first Linux distro in recent memory to move towards becoming free (in all senses of the word), it’s one of the more successful distros in that regard. gNewSense has a level of polish and support hardware that I found both refreshing and exciting.
Thoughts? As always, your comments are welcome.