gNewSense 2.0 (deltah) Review

So gNewSense 2.0 came out a few days ago as the gNewSense crew is tracking Ubuntu LTS releases. Of course, the bad part is that there is no upgrade path from gNewSense 1.0 to 2.0. Ubuntu recommends upgrading by going from release to release so upgrading is not feasible (or is too hard for the developers to implement) so freedom lovers need to have a good backup strategy.

Since I reviewed gNewSense 1.0, I wanted to structure this review as comparing and contrasting this release to the last one to see where the progress has come. They have a much cooler looking desktop background. There wasn’t anything wrong with the last one – it just didn’t have as much of a cool factor. They still have ugly icons on the screen.

gNewSense 2.0 Default Desktop

I mentioned in my last review that I thought it was wierd that gNewSense came with Firefox and not IceWeasel. Well, the Free Software Foundation (FSF) appears to have skirted the issue this time around because they just included Epiphany instead. This way they get to use the standard Gnome browser without worrying about explaining IceWeasel and Firefox and all that ridiculousness.

epiphany web browser in gNewSense 2.0

The GIMP is still included – no reason for them to remove it. Ditto for Emacs.

To keep things consistent with the last review I loaded up gNewSense 2.0 (deltah) onto my Windows computer. gNewSense was able to mount my NTFS external hard drive without any problems as well as detecting my NTFS internal hard drives. This remains unchanged from last time.

ntfs mounted hard drive in gNewSense 2.0 (deltah)

The examples folder was also included again on this release. These are examples of common tassk which may be completed using the included software. Strangely, they included the GPL v2 again even though the GPL v3 has been out for, I think, almost a year now. To find out more about the examples files, see my previous gNewSense review.

examples folder in gNewSense 2.0

Overall, there isn’t really too much to report. Most of the same software is there – just updated to the latest version. I’ve read that most of the changes were under-the-hood (or bonnet, if you like) and wouldn’t be noticed by most users. This version appeared to run a little slower off the CD, but that doesn’t really say much about how it’ll run installed. I still recommend it for anyone who wants a completely pure Linux version with the simplicity of Ubuntu. This can also be achieved by using Fedora, Debian, and Mandriva Free and not enabling any repositories containing non-free software. I’d recommend it to anyone who, as they say on LugRadio, Loves Freedom. (By the way, it appears to have incorrectly detected my keyboard because when I try to put quotes I get the @) Freedom-Haters shoudl stay away as other reviews I’ve read seem to imply that you can’t start off with a gNewSense install and enable the non-free repos. I think they’ve changed some settings in the kernel or elsewhere to make it next to impossible to install such software.

Finally…evaluating the purpose of both Gobuntu and gNewSense

I’ve always been the first to jump to the defenses of people who love creating more distros and programs. After all, if everyone just stuck to the established distros we would never have had Ubuntu and perhaps Linux would still be just a curiousity to most. However, I just didn’t see the purpose in both Gobuntu and gNewSense. First of all, they’re both based on Ubuntu. It’s not even that one is Ubuntu and one is Debian or that one is Ubuntu and one is Red Hat-based. That would have made sense to me as perhaps they liked a different packaging format or something.

Second, they’re not only both based on Ubuntu but are both 100% libre versions of Ubuntu. 100% libre distros are already quite a niche market as you can’t properly use a laptop or even some desktop functions. You certainly can’t have all the Compiz or AWN frills. I think that gNewsense even refers to themselves as more of a reference distro. In other words, this is the current state of the 100% libre desktop and therefore what can we do to fix it. They certainly haven’t released a new version since I reviewed it way back in late 2006!

So in that sense, Gobuntu, backed by Canonical was in a better position since it would be released every six months. But that’s just an argument for the gNewSense people to get off of their distro and go help the Gobuntu guys. I mean, seriously, how many people could really be interested in such a small niche that they’d support a userbase for 2 distros?

So I was happy to read the following by Mark Shuttleworth:

Perhaps we really are on the wrong track, that the only way to meet the
needs of the gNewSense folks is to have completely different source
packages to Ubuntu. If that is the case, then I think it would be better
to channel the energy from Gobuntu into gNewSense.

I had hoped to see more participation and collaboration around Gobuntu
because of the benefits of keeping up with the standard Ubuntu (regular
releases, security updates etc). However, it seems that the audience for
a platform like this is willing to accept infrequent releases and less
maintenance in return for a platform which can be modified more
radically. That's OK, it's just a bit unexpected - I thought we could
get the best of both worlds, with six-monthly releases of something that
excluded *binary package* that were controversial in the eyes of the
FSF, but retained access to everything else in Ubuntu.
I don't mind having been wrong in that expectation, I can see the
arguments in favour of less collaboration in the case where it is more
important to be different than to have infrastructure in common, and
from what I've seen on this list, the desire to be different (have
different source packages as well as binary packages) is stronger than
the desire to collaborate (share infrastructure, release cycles etc).
I'm not sure that the current level of activity in Gobuntu warrants the
division of attention it creates, either for folks who are dedicated to
Ubuntu primarily, or to folks who are interested in gNewSense. I would
like us to have a good relationship with the gNewSense folks, because I
do think that their values and views are important and I would like
Ubuntu to be a useful starting point for them. But perhaps Gobuntu isn't
the best way to achieve that.
So, I would like to hear from the gNewSense guys how they would like to
be involved in Ubuntu, to help ensure that Ubuntu is a useful starting
point for their important work. If Gobuntu is not the best way to
achieve that, then I think we should stop working on it and encourage
folks who want that to focus their efforts on gNewSense, while at the
same time figuring out how Ubuntu can be more useful for gNewSense.

As you can see, he points out that there isn’t really THAT much of a userbase for both distros.  Also, as my brother is fond of pointing out, sometimes rms needs to be different for the sake of being different, no matter how annoying that is.  So if they need to have their own distro for whatever reason, they’re going to do that instead of pointing to Gobuntu and telling people to just use that.

This is just one case where I felt it was best for all involved to just consolidate into one distro.  They were appealing to too small of a market without any real distinguishing features.

GPL shows benefits in unexpected places!

When most people think of the GPL, if they think of it at all, they tend to think of Linux and perhaps other operating systems.  However, there are many benefits to using the GPL for programs on a smaller level.   For example there is a Go Application in Facebook.  This programmer could have gone through the near impossible headache of creating an implementation of Go

However, as Wikipedia mentions, it is very tough to create sofware to play go, “While the strongest computer chess software has defeated top players (Deep Blue beat the world champion in 1997), the best Go programs only manage to reach an average amateur level.”  This has to do with the high complexity level of the game’s strategy.

But someone has already created a game to play Go, called GNUGo.   Since GNUGo is licensed under the GPL, the developer of the Go Application for Facebook is able to use the work which has already been done instead of having to replicate it.  So in addition to the ethical/moral reason for licensing software under the GPL you can also add efficiency.  It’s not efficient for people have to reimplement software just so they can mash it up with some new technology.

 

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Charitable Donations for 2008

This year I decided to mainly support technological causes.  I donated to the Free Software Foundation and the Electronic Frontier Foundation.  I think that rms and the rest over at the FSF are really doing a lot of great work to preserve our freedoms.  I especially like the Defective by Design campaign they’ve been running.  So this year they get the lion’s share of my money. 

The EFF has been doing a lot of work with other things I care about such as opposing the broadcast flag and overall protecting our electronic and Internet freedoms.

Finally, I donated to NPR because I enjoy their programming every day and I thought it was time to help keep them afloat.  This was especially urgent as Congress has recently been reducing the mount of funding they give to public broadcasting, a real shame. 

I was going to donate to the Gnome foundation this year, but after their blunder with their support of OOXML and other moves that seem to legitimize Microsoft’s shady actions, I decided to withhold any funds from them this year.  There are only two ways to vote in the Free Software world, with programming talent and with money.  They get neither from me for 2008.

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Is it really stealing?

Publishers often refer to prohibited copying as “piracy.” In this way, they imply that illegal copying is ethically equivalent to attacking ships on the high seas, kidnapping and murdering the people on them.

If you don’t believe that illegal copying is just like kidnapping and murder, you might prefer not to use the word “piracy” to describe it. Neutral terms such as “prohibited copying” or “unauthorized copying” are available for use instead. Some of us might even prefer to use a positive term such as “sharing information with your neighbor.” – rms on Piracy in Some Confusing or Loaded Words and Phrases that are Worth Avoiding


Photo by redjar on flickr, used under a Creative Commons License

rms

Copyright apologists often use words like “stolen” and “theft” to describe copyright infringement. At the same time, they ask us to treat the legal system as an authority on ethics: if copying is forbidden, it must be wrong.

So it is pertinent to mention that the legal system—at least in the US—rejects the idea that copyright infringement is “theft.” Copyright apologists are making an appeal to authority … and misrepresenting what authority says.

The idea that laws decide what is right or wrong is mistaken in general. Laws are, at their best, an attempt to achieve justice; to say that laws define justice or ethical conduct is turning things upside down. – rms on Theft in Some Confusing or Loaded Words and Phrases that are Worth Avoiding

Recently I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about copy protection and unauthorized downloading of video content. I saw unauthorized instead of illegal because I believe that, using common sense principals, it is easy to see that this should not be an illegal process in some circumstances. My arguments in this post hinge on ethical and logical assessments of the situation, not legal arguments in any way shape or form. IANAL (I am not a lawyer) so don’t use the opinions of this post to legally justify your actions. I do encourage you, however, to use them to try and persuade our leaders that the rules need to change.

Quickly, to comment on why I chose the above quotes by rms. I think, as he does, (and all politicians) that the words we use to describe things end up framing the debate. When downloading of videos is called “stealing” it’s easy to get behind Hollywood’s side. After all, who is for stealing? No one. I say that stealing requires the taking of some object and denying its use to others. This is a good definition, right? If I steal your bike, you can no longer use your bike for riding. If I steal your car, you cannot get around any more. If I steal your money, you may be unable to buy the things you need to sustain yourself. However, if I download video content, who is being denied the ability to watch it? In fact, with digital media, copying is the opposite of stealing. As objects are copied, they are seen by more and more people.

So, when should you be ethically in the clear when it comes to sharing video content? I feel that anything being shown on network Tv should be legal for me to download; it’s certainly ethical to do so. Why? Because any show I can watch on network Tv is available 100% free. If I have a Tv and an antenna I can get those channels. If I don’t have to pay for them in the first place, then how can it be stealing if I download it? That would be like saying that if I used a free public wireless access point with a PDA instead of a computer that I’m stealing the network. I find it impossible and an utter failure of logic to say that anything that’s FREE can be stolen. There should be no limitations on the way I obtain free things.

Now you might bring up one of the favorite arguments of the copyright owners, “Network television isn’t free! It’s paid for by commercials! And the Tv programs you download do not have commercials.” That would be a fine argument, if there were any way to actually force me to watch commercials. It could be an infringement upon my rights as an American to force me to watch commercials. Who says I can’t use commercial time to use the restroom or flip channels? Do they expect us to watch the commercials and then go to the bathroom during the content we are actually tuning in to watch? I have to admit that I rarely ever watch commercials, thanks to my wife. She hates commercials so much that she gets antsy if I don’t let her flip through the channels. It’s the same with newspapers, magazines and anything else subsidized by advertisements – I don’t look at them. (And no one can make me!) And if I could be forced to view them, no one can force me to pay attention. Because, if they can do that, then I’m getting the hell out of this country.

One more thing on the issue of commercials. I can always get a VHS tape or computer and do what I used to do as a kid – hit pause during commercials and start recording after the commercials. I never recorded commercials as a kid. And, since I can record Tv without commercials, what does it matter if someone else has done the recording for me?

So, while the companies might have a legal case against me in court, if we look at this like intelligent, rational engineers, we see that there should be no case against me when it comes to downloading network television. They were never making any money off of me in the first place, so they lose nothing if I don’t watch. The commercial sponsors have already paid for the content and GAMBLED that some portion of the viewing public would watch the commercials. There were absolutely no guarantees, just statistics. (Which we all know are BS numbers made up during sweeps week)

So now we move to cable television. When it comes to cable Tv, I argue that I have an even stronger case to be allowed to download the content – I’m actually paying for it. Not only am I paying for the programs I watch, but I’m also paying for thousands that I don’t. In fact, since I pretty much only watch Scrubs, The Office, and The Daily Show, I’m already paying for tons of shows I don’t even watch. Plus, all of these except for the premium channels are also paid for by advertising. They are already paid (sunk cost) and, as I said before, there’s no way to force me to watch commercials.

When it comes the the premium channels, I’m paying a premium to watch it, so I think I should have premium rights to download this content. The ethical parts comes in that I should only ethically download shows that play on channels which I am subscribed to. I would not see the content on the ones I’m not paying for, so I don’t have the right to watch them. This brings me to my next topic, what should I not ethically download.

I should not ethically download any movies still showing in the theaters and not yet showing on Tv. There is no way for me to watch this content other than going to a theater, so therefore, there is no logical or ethical reason that I should be allowed to download those movies. Once they show on Tv, I should be able to download them.

As I mentioned above, we’ve always had the right to use VCRs to time shift programs. What logical difference does it make if I’m using a VCR, TiVo, or downloaded content to the the time shifting? Think about it – there’s NO difference!

What it all comes down to is control. The video companies don’t like the idea of not being in control. They don’t like the fact that Europeans can download American shows while they’re still showing in America. Why that artificial system is still in place, I have no idea. They simply have not joined the technology era. People of my age group do not want to be inconvenienced by bull crap. If there’s a real, logical reason why something can’t be done, then we accept it. But, given today’s digital world, there’s no reason why I can’t watch all the stuff they produce in Britain, Spain, or any other country whose language I can understand.

If they truly need the advertising money, then just move to a James Bond model for all video content. Have companies subsidize the cost of the show by paying to have the characters wear/use their products. Then, it won’t matter if they view it on Tv or off of the internet, they’ll have to see the products being advertised. AND, here’s why I don’t logically understand why they don’t do this. Right now video producers have absolutely no idea how many people watch a Tv show. All they know is what Nielsen Families watch. And they are occasionally wrong. For example, shows like Family Guy that apparently tested negatively or they wouldn’t have canceled it. Then they suddenly realized that a ton of college students and other people loved it. If their products were watched on computers, it would be a trivial task for them to count up how many people were watching the show. So they’d be able to accurately charge advertisers based on how many people were seeing the products advertised.

Of course, there is one other issue. That is the fact that, at any time, a friend of mine could come over with a DVD or VHS tape of some Tv show and I can watch it with him. This cost me nothing and it may convert me to a fan. Thanks to my brother bringing over The Office for me to watch, I’m now watching it on NBC. Would it not, ethically and rationally, have been the same thing if I had downloaded the first few seasons and then liked it so much that I now watch it on NBC? I think if you answer honestly, you’ll see that I’m right. Yet, the Tv and movie producers are trying to make it more and more so that stuff you buy only plays in your house. I can tell you for a fact that if I would have had to go to my brother’s place to watch The Office I would not be a fan today. There was just too much inertia working against me going to his place.

I would like to address one final issue which I also feel exactly the same way about when it comes to music. For those who cry of the apocalypse whenever someone talks of downloadable content (meaning that if everyone downloaded then the Tv and movie studios would go out of business), I have this to say to you. First of all, that’s false for the reason I outlined above – just adapt and build the commercial into the video content. But even if it did implode, I could not care less. Look at the FOSS software movement. While it is true that today a small to medium portion of developers are paid by companies to do the work, a lot of the key work for the first 20 years of the movement was done by volunteers. And look at the amazing things they created – the Apache web server which runs approximately half of the internet, the Linux kernel, countless programs which run on Linux and other platforms, Firefox – the list goes on and on. Similarly, I’ve seen a lot of amazing videos and Tv shows on the internet. Sure, there’s a lot of crap out there – monumental amounts. But I also believe there’s a lot of crap on Tv (otherwise I’d watch more than 4-5 shows). There are a fair degree of people out there with talent who simply do video work in their spare time. For some great examples, check out this work by ReMyyyx. It might not be your cup of tea, but there’s more out there like this, this, and this.

I hope I’ve helped you see past the MAFIAA rhetoric and helped you see things through the logical and ethical point of view.

Please share this with as many people as possible and even send it to your elected representatives to see if we can knock some sense into them. Leave comments, I’d love to hear what others think. They are moderated, so it may take a while to appear.

Riddle me This; Riddle me That

Next time you find yourself wondering why people like me (or rms) make such a big deal about having the source code to software (especially when it comes to voting machines), ask yourself why we make scientists show us all of their research instead of taking their word for it. Think about why it’s important that other scientists can recreate the experiment and how that analogy applies to software stability, security, and overall quality.

GPL wins Legal Battle Again!

The same dork who, last December, was trying to claim that the GPL ruined his ability to program because the software was available for free, appealed last December’s decision. Well, on 9 November, he was handed another blow from the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. The Judge was a pretty smart guy and asserted that if Linux was so anti-competitive by being free, why do more people have Windows and Macintosh computers than Linux? Why do people use Photoshop instead of The GIMP. I love it when our government officials actually know about technology! (Unlike the congressmen who passed the DMCA!)

You can read more about the case at InternetCases.com where I got the information from myself.

gNewSense Review

I have to say that the first thing I noticed when I booted into gNewSense is that they have chosen a supremely ugly theme for their icons. I felt like plucking my eyes out rather than continue with this distro. I don’t know why I had such a against it. As you can see in the screenshot below, it’s just not aesthetically pleasing! I gues I’m just used to Fedora’s nice, smooth icons. Some people may say that Fedora’s icons are getting tired, but I like it.

Interestingly enough, considering the problems that Debian has with Firefox, apparently gNewSense has no problem with it. I found this strange as I generally consider the FSF to have a tougher stance on things. However, there have been some cases, such as the Invariant Clause in the GPL’s publication license. However, I don’t see the actual Firefox icon (which was the whole dispute between Debian and Mozilla), so perhaps Firefox is ok (as opposed to IceWeasel) because the FSF doesn’t need the Red Panda Icon. You can see this for yourself, as well as the exact version of Firefox 1.5 in the screenshot below.

gNewSense - firefox
gNewSense – firefox

It should be absolutely no surprise that GIMP is included, as it provides the GTK+ library upon which Gnome is built. In case you didn’t know, (I didn’t) Gnome is somewhat of a GNU program. It was developed as a response to Trolltech’s original in the QT library for KDE. (This has been solved in the past year or so)

gNewSense - GIMP
gNewSense – GIMP

Just a screenshot below showing the version of Gnome that gNewSense 1.0 is running.

gNewSense - Gnome
gNewSense – Gnome

Now, I’m sure this will truly surprise you, but gNewSense comes with EMACS! Yes, Emacs is included, as the screenshot below proves. However, it is the ONLY program provided under the development menu item.

gNewSense - GNU Emacs
gNewSense – GNU Emacs

One good thing about the gNewSense distro is that it was able to mount my external hard drives without any problems. Here’s on of my NTFS hard drives.

gNewSense - NTFS hard drive mounted
gNewSense – NTFS hard drive mounted

And here are some pictures from within that hard drive. As you see, Gnome has rendered the pictures into thumbnails.

gNewSense - NTFS hard drive mounted - thumbnails
gNewSense – NTFS hard drive mounted – thumbnails

The Free Software Foundation has always used its software as a platform for spread its view of the way software should work. For example, there are some essays by RMS in every (or at least, mostl) Linux distro under the Emacs folder in the filesystem. gNewSense contained a folder called Examples, with many examples of how the software in the distro could be used. Some of these were also FSF propaganda.

When I opened the folder, the first item was a Speex file recording of one of Aesop’s fables. This was a file from what seems to be a FSF audio book collection of Public Domain works. The Speex codec is a codec from Xiph and is optimized for speech. Thus it can have much better compression ratios than MP3 or OGG, which were created for music.

Next up was a powerpoint (not really powerpoint, but in the same way that people call gelatin Jello) presentation about the creation of gNewSense. It was neat to go through, but as it was a pretty well written presentation, a lot of the informatin was missing from the slides, and, presumably, filled in by the presenter.

After that was the “Free Software Song” sung by RMS, I think. It’s a pretty good song and you can read the lyrics here at Wikipedia. However, Stallman should stick to proselytizing and stay away from singing. I was hoping there were some other versions, and, indeed, it appears that Wikipedia links to some different versions. The song sung by Stallman is, of course, in the OGG format. OGG is related to MP3 in the same way that wma is – it’s a music format. OGG, however, is unecumbered by patents, unlike the other two. It is also developed by Xiph.

The demonstration of free software continues with a PNG (PNG::GIF -> OGG::MP3) of the GNU and Linux mascots dressed as super heroes. Also included are a Open Office Math equation file showing Maxwell’s Equations. Two spreadsheets showing off OO.o Calc include a payment schedule for a house and trig calculations and their graphs.

Finally, to round things off are a text file of the GPL version 2 and an approximately 300 page PDF collection of RMS’ essays. The appendices to the PDF include the GPL, LGPL, GFDL, and some terms RMS recommends you use. For example, don’t say DRM is digital rights management, say it’s digital restrictions management. Also, don’t say it’s software piracy, for you aren’t committing murder and plunder on the high seas. Say you are simply sharing your software with a neighbor.

Overall, it is a pretty good start for the FSF. They’ve chosen a solid set of distributions to build upon and should do well. I ran everything off the live CD (which ran remarkably fast) and didn’t do a hd install, so I can’t comment upon the choice of included software. If you truly believe 100% in the aims of the FSF and want to walk the walk, this is the distro for you. If you need things like MP3 and WMA playback – look at Mandriva, PCLinuxOS, or modified versions of Fedora, Ubuntu, and Debian.

More Updates on the Novell and Microsoft Deal

Eben Moglen, a lawyer for the Free Software Foundation, remarks that the new deal may violate Section 7 of the GPL! So now you see that the stakes in the GPLv3 talks are very high! The GPLv2 may indeed be our saviour against Microsoft’s tyranies, but more on that momentarily! Mr. Moglen specifically comments:

“If you make an agreement which requires you to pay a royalty to anybody for the right to distribute GPL software, you may not distribute it under the GPL,” Moglen told CNET News.com Thursday. Section 7 of the GPL “requires that you have, and pass along to everybody, the right to distribute software freely and without additional permission.”

And, it seems that Microsoft wants to play the role of the mafia, asking for money to protect other Linux distros against being sued by MS for violating patents. “You might want to buy our ‘insurance policy’, it’s a dangerous town,” he would say in a gangster movie. In reality he said:

“If a customer says, ‘Look, do we have liability for the use of your patented work?’ Essentially, If you’re using non-SUSE Linux, then I’d say the answer is yes,”

and

Competing Linux vendors “are certainly welcome to get involved to quickly provide these covenants not to sue,”

Both quotes courtesy of this eWeek article.

On Open Sources, Matt Assay points out:

  • Microsoft wasn’t going to sue Novell, anyway.
    A little remarked, but still true fact is that Novell has long held patents that go to the heart of Microsoft’s Office business. Whatever saber rattling Microsoft might do about Linux, it knows that Novell has a great “counter argument.” This announcement was little more than public acknowledgment of an uneasy truce. And it’s a truce that helps Red Hat as much as it does Novell..

  • The patent protection applies to Red Hat, whatever Ballmer might say. Specifically, he said:

    “Novell is acting as a proxy for its customers, and only its customers. If they (businesses) want patent peace and interoperability, then they’ll have to look to Suse Linux.”

    Given that most of the code in SUSE Linux is (gasp!) exactly the same as in Red Hat Enterprise Linux, it’s hard to see what lawsuit Microsoft could launch against Red Hat (or Ubuntu, or Debian, or….) that wouldn’t land on Novell’s SUSE Linux, as well. So they won’t. It’s a clever gimmick, but only that.

Finally, in this article, Red Hat expresses frustration and anger over Novell selling their soul.

So, this should tell you a few very important things!

1) Licenses are a PITA, but they are necessary! Without the GPL, we’d be sunk! The choice of the license matters too, as a BSD license would not have offered this level of protection.

2)Microsoft’s racketeering should prove, once and for all, that Microsoft is pure evil – just like a mafia! Gates, with his foundation, may be a nice guy, but the company he co-founded is seriously lacking in any kind of ethics or morals. They truly disgust me. Of course, they funded the SCO case, so what could you expect?

gNewSense, a TRUE GNU/Linux System

So you thought Debian was pretty anal about free software did you? Well you ain’t seen nothin’ yet! Love ’em or hate ’em, but the Free Software Foundation is very serious (and extreme) in their position of what constitutes free software. Although this has alienated some, I think that a certain amount of what they do is necessary because the forces of Evil in the World as pulling just as hard in the other direction. (eg Trusted Computing, DRM, etc) Well, RMS likes to get into quibbles with Linux distros over the fact that they don’t call them GNU/Linux systems when a large portion of important programs (GCC, for example!) come from the GNU project. So, they decided to play on Linux’s turf. (instead of finishing their own kernel, HERD) Using the power of the GPL (which the FSF is in charge of), they forked a Debian/Ubuntu mix of Linux which is 100% free! That’s right, forget the little fights over Firefox/IceWeasel. gNewSense (nuisance? the first part is creative pun on GNU, but the overall word may or may not be what they were looking for) is a Linux distribution where ALL of the software has the sources available. Anything available only in binaries (eg nVidia/ATI drivers) are nowhere to be found!

Check out the gNewSense press release here.

Get an installable Live CD here.

This is certainly one way for RMS and his crowd to prove how usable/popular a PURELY, 100% free distro would be. While I agree that they are wonderful ideals, certain websites only offer MP3s and I can’t use neat-o graphics like Compiz without the nVidia drivers.

Shuttleworth Weighs in in IceWeasel

As you may have heard recently, Debian has a problem with Firefox due to the fact that the artwork is not released under a free license. This is an extension of problems they’ve had with GNU’s documentation and the clause that allows some parts to remain uneditable. So Debian has forked Firefox into IceWeasel. The engine and core program are the same, only the artwork is different.

This has caused a lot of name-calling back and forth between the two camps. Mark Shuttleworth, who’s Ubuntu is based in Debian, posted a reconcilatory post today whereby he called on both sides to respectfully disagree.

Both groups really, genuinely mean well. I know this because I’ve spent some time working with both of them. Both care deeply about free software and both want to see the world improved through the wide availability of high quality software that comes with the right to change it. So it is a little frustrating to see this level of public tension between two groups that have come to represent, each in their own way, something iconic about free software.

First, let me say that both groups are being entirely reasonable about their positions. Debian has every right to insist that it have the freedom to ship the package in the form that it deems most appropriate for its users, and Mozilla has every right to protect its trademarks.

Spoken as a true businessman/mediator.