Thursday, April 19, 2007

A word on gNewSense

I use Ubuntu at home and work, which isn't a completely free distro, and have often debated the question of whether this sets back free software (mind you, I maintain a dual-boot machine that has XP on it, which I use for watching some streaming video that requires, grrr, the dreaded IE/MP combo, so I'm definitely not pure as driven snow). Still, I've often dreamed of going to a completely free distro, so recently, I went ahead and asked at the Free Software Magazine how distros like Blag, Ututo and gNewSense were doing. I received a very useful reply from another reader, which I reproduce in full (in case anyone is thinking about going, like, totally free):
I'm using gNewSense 1.1 at the moment, and it works really well. I definitely recommend downloading the live CD and trying it out. There's nothing I can't do with it that I couldn't with Ubuntu (unless I really wanted to download the proprietary ATI driver in Ubuntu Dapper, which let me have 3D acceleration but caused various other problems). I did buy a new wireless card (the Linkysys WUSB54G v4) so it would work well with gNewSense using 100% free software, without any proprietary firmware. To get my old one working with Ubuntu I had to download and compile the driver anyway (which contained proprietary firmware), and it worked terribly. This one works fine out of the box in gNewSense and Ubuntu. I haven't tried the other fully free distros such as Ututo, but I've heard they don't work as well. Judging by gNewSense though, I expect that's because of factors other than a lack of proprietary drivers.
Here is the page where I asked my question, which features an interesting discussion in its own right, about the propriety of using not-completely-free distros. More on that later.


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