How time flies when you’re having fun instead of fighting with unfixable annoyances in proprietary software! It has been three years since the birth of gNewSense, the FSF-blessed, all-free Ubuntu derivative.
In his anniversary message to the gnewsense-users mailing list, project co-founder Paul O’Malley had a look at both the past and the future of the distribution. As for the future, the message broke news that the original project leaders Brian Brazil and Paul think they have taken the project as far as they think they can, and plan to hand over maintenance to other community members. Thankfully, interested people have replied, and I’m fairly certain that the future of gNewSense is not in danger. It is well supported by the FSF, who provide hardware and bandwidth among other things, and of course benefits from the solid Ubuntu base distribution on which to build on.
How far, then, has gNewSense come? According to Paul’s message, one of the main goals of the project was to prove two points:
- That Free software works
- That non-free software “can bite you hard and should not be run”
It is fairly safe to say that on both accounts gNewSense has been a success. They provide a complete, free operating system with all the proprietary binary blobs removed and only ships with free software, and the system works well on lots and lots of hardware, thereby demonstrating the first point. Furthermore, their insistence on the second point has made a noticeable difference by making people focus on delivering more crucial pieces of software as free.
Most notably, they were instrumental in liberating GLX, which brings accelerated 3D graphics to free software. They also helped in building 100% free Linux kernels: their builder script pushed the linux-libre project forward and removing binary blobs from Linux is now easy.
Linux distributions and their users benefit from gNewSense even if they do not run it on their own machines. gNewsense is kind of a litmus test of software freedom. It is easy to check the level of freedom of your Ubuntu system for example: how much of your installed software is free enough for gNewSense? How free is your favorite distribution? For the tasks you do on your computer, do you actually need any non-free software, or would you even be able to do all the same things on gNewSense?
Hats off to the success of gNewSense so far, and may the project thrive until obsoleted by a future software status of complete freedom!