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.

One response to “Finally…evaluating the purpose of both Gobuntu and gNewSense”

  1. Apparently I wasn’t the only one thinking this. Over at blue< gnu they voiced the same opinion.

    Also, based on what they wrote, I was a little wrong to disparage gNewsense for not having released a new version in forever. I guess they are tracking Ubuntu Long Term Support (LTS) releases in order to have maximum support with less work.