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What Makes gNewSense Different from Gobuntu

Nov 13, 2007, 23:30 (0 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Loïc Cerf)

[ Thanks to Loïc Cerf for this article. ]

Both Gobuntu and gNewSense fulfill the desires of the most exigent users when it is about respecting their freedoms. Almost identical at the software level, these two distributions differ in the relation they maintain with Ubuntu at the project level.

Gobuntu is a newcomer in the *buntu family. It aims at satisfying Free Software lovers, who, like me, refuse any piece of proprietary blob to run on their machine. This GNU/Linux distribution looks very similar to gNewSense. At the software level, minor differences are present like the substitution of Firefox by Iceweasel in gNewSense (Gobuntu developers plan to do the same in their next release). The real differences lie at the project level, in the relation these two projects maintain with Ubuntu. In particular, Gobuntu differs from gNewSense in:

  • Its release politics
  • Its infrastructure.

Placing software freedoms above both features and stability does not alter the common preference for the former over the latter especially when this means having your wireless card functioning out of the box and your wide screen properly configured without manually editing /etc/X11/xorg.conf. That is why, in my opinion, the release politics is the most interesting feature of Gobuntu with respect to gNewSense: instead of installing a 15-month old system (gNewSense is based on Dapper Drake), you can upgrade your system following the 6 month release cadence of the Linux kernel, the X.Org window system and the Gnome desktop.

Profiting from Ubuntu's infrastructure has its advantage and its drawback. On the positive side, the visibility of Gobuntu is probably greater. A link to the Gobuntu page is accessible to anybody who heard about Ubuntu and wanted to know more about it. gNewSense has another famous supporter: the prestigious Free Software Foundation. Unfortunately a new GNU/Linux user will probably read Mark Shuttleworth release notes before she hears a talk from RMS. On the negative side, Gobuntu uses, like every other official derivative of Ubuntu, the Launchpad platform. This web application is released under a proprietary license. Promoting Free Software in such circumstances looks hypocritical. In his defense, Mark Shuttleworth is aware of this paradox.

Don Parris over at Blue-GNU decided to stick with gNewSense. I chose to adopt Gobuntu. In the end, their strict respect of the fundamental freedoms of the users matters far more than their differences. The wider the choice among distributions like that (I think of BLAG Linux And GNU or UTUTO), the best it is. Anyway, making these distributions more visible means more people discovering how their softwares currently deprive them from essential freedoms. Making these distributions more appealing means an easier switch to them.

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