I recently heard that Cuba had created their own Linux distribution, Nova. Like many other countries with a rocky relationship with the USA (Russia, China, Iran), Cuba is wary of running their entire computer infrastructure on software developed in the USA. As someone of Cuban ancestry, this development piqued my interested and I decided to check it out. (I figured such a specialist distro would never be on the cover of LXF). According to its distrowatch page, it is a mix of Gentoo, Sabayon, and Ututo. We’ll see if they chose all of the negative aspects of those distros and thus created Satan’s Distro or if they took all that was good and created what Gentoo has the potential to be. So I launch it up in VirtualBox.
It takes a while to boot into the liveDVD, but I AM running it in a VM. I was autologged into the distro. The distro is, obviously, in Spanish. A little less obvious is the fact that it’s running Gnome given how it’s been customised.
Notice the globe on the bottom right? Not the usual angle for a globe image; hehe. So let’s see what programs are running on the LiveDVD. Interestingly, the GIMP is missing. Pidgin is available for IM, but strangely they’ve gone with Bon Echo, the development version of Firefox, for the Browser. For Office applications they have Open Office.org and Evolution. For multimedia they have VLC and audacious. So it’s a pretty bare LiveDVD, but I assume there is either more available on the DVD or in the repos. There is also a PDF on the desktop that translate to “get to know Nova”. It’s 17 pages long and I’m not really that good in technical Spanish. So I’ll leave that to the enterprising reader. OK! Let’s get installing!
I double-click the installer. Here it gives me the option to do a manual or automatic install. Manual lets you set the mount points and have more control over the partioning. I choose automatic and then choose my timezone. I then confirmed the hard drive, gave it a hostname, and put my username and password. Then the disc formatting began.
Annoyingly there was no indication of what files it was working on, but it’s not the end of the world. Installation took 2 hours – but, remember, I’m running it in a Virtual Machine so it may (and probably will) go faster for you. After rebooting I saw this GDM screen:
I boot in and see if there are more programs installed than on the LiveDVD. Nope! Same programs installed. Odd since it’s a DVD, but whatever. I decide to update. I eventually find it under “Centro de Control de Nova” (Nova Control Center). The “gestor de paquete” is the package manager. The bad thing is that the repo is set to the DVD. So I go on Google to try and find the repo. No love there. I couldn’t find the repo in the “getting to know Nova” pdf on the desktop either. I found the page “first steps with Nova” which appeared to list an ftp site, but it was not responding to pings when I did this review. That same page mentioned that most of the repos were on the DVD. So now I needed to figure out how to properly set that up again. Unfortunately, that program keeps freezing up now.
In the beginning of this review I wondered if this distro would take the good parts of the Gentoo distros or the bad parts. Overall, the Cubans appear to have come up with a pretty good distro. I didn’t have any of the installation issues of Gentoo. I liked the polish a bit more than Sabayon. I’ve never used Ututo, so I’m not sure what they took from there. Really, it appears that there is just one problem with recommending Nova Linux to anyone outside of Cuba and that is that there doesn’t appear to be a way to update the distro. Even if there are tons of packages on the DVD, those will eventually need to be patched because of security holes. Firefox, itself, has been patched a few times since this release. I’d like to see some of the ease of use improvements roll back upstream to Gentoo, Sabayon, and Ututo. Overall, not a bad distro and I’ll keep my eye on it.