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Eight Distros a Week: gNewSense 1.1

February 13, 2008 3 comments

[This is the fifth in an eight-part series on distros I use. These observations are based on distros running on one or more of the following hardware: Dell Inspiron 5000 laptop, an brandless Pentium III-based desktop, an IBM PL 300 Pentium II, an iMac G3 (Indigo) and an iBook G3. As the auto commercials say, your mileage may vary.]

A couple of Saturdays ago, I appeared as a guest on KUSP’s GeekSpeak radio show to talk about Free Software, and about two-thirds of what I said on the radio was about gNewSense.

Truth in advertising: I was on with Richard Stallman, who the panelists really wanted to speak to (and rightfully so), and my total contribution to the hour-long radio show was three sentences. But two sentences out of three praising gNewSense isn’t bad.

What I said on the show was that gNewSense was the only completely free-as-in-freedom distros I would recommend, and that I have already had one user converted from a proprietary OS to gNewSense.

The third sentence — I corrected the host on how to pronounce my name, I think.

Nevertheless, of all the distros providing true digital freedom, gNewSense stands out as probably the best performing and most stable distro available. To those for whom complete free-as-in-freedom programs with the distro is of vital importance, gNewSense provides suitable alternatives to other-than-free (for whatever reason) software; Burning Dog, for example, is the free (albeit domesticated?) replacement for Firefox as a Web browser. Rhythmbox works well on a PIII, as does Serpentine.

The KDE version of gNewSense, which I ran on the PIII desktop, ran through its paces flawlessly, although the caveat here is that I didn’t have an Internet connection and couldn’t put it through some on-line tests that I did with the laptop.

Whether you prefer GNOME or KDE — and I don’t mean to start a flame war here, and past posts have outlined where my desktop loyalties lie — bear in mind that both desktops run the OS suitably and makes a strong argument for running completely free.

Further, Ireland is beginning to stand out as a digital leader in Europe — both gNewSense and Linux Mint (which we’ll talk about tomorrow) are two testaments to how Eire is taking a lead in FOSS. So a toast with a pint of stout to the both Brian Brazil and Paul O’Malley — and the rest of the developers of gNewSense on either side of the Atlantic — for providing a great distro.

Coming tomorrow: Linux Mint 4.0 Darnya Xfce

[FSF Associate Member](Larry Cafiero, editor/publisher of Open Source and Free Software Reporter, is an associate member of the Free Software Foundation.)

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Notes, quotes and gloats

February 6, 2008 2 comments

Driving Mister Stallman: My 1994 Jetta (with the specialized California license plate “GNU LNUX”) and I had a special guest over the last few days: the Free Software Foundation’s Richard Stallman. RMS, as he is known, needed transportation from Palo Alto to Santa Cruz on Saturday morning, and at 8 a.m., we appeared at the doorstep of the home at which he was staying for a ride to KUSP in Santa Cruz for an appointment with a radio show.

After a spot of tea, we loaded up the Jetta and headed southwest. For the most part, RMS kept to his work on his laptop in front of him as he rode in the passenger seat (no, I don’t know what he was working on — I didn’t look) but we did have time to talk about some of the upcoming events — the radio show, his Op-Ed piece running in the Sunday Santa Cruz Sentinel and his talk on Monday at Cabrillo College. He also commented on the road noise my car makes, but after 274,000 faithful miles, the Jetta can play Sousa marches with every passing mile for all I care.

On Tuesday morning, I drove RMS from Santa Cruz to the San Francisco airport, and the trip was a little more conversational. While negotiating the twists and turns of Highway 17 over the Santa Cruz Mountains (hoping all the while I didn’t hit anything, lest his laptop become a permanent part of RMS’s forehead thanks to the driver side airbag), we talked about a GNU-friendly “Intro to Unix/Linux” textbook (which may soon be available — watch this space) and how much alike surfing and love are. Other topics — the folly of highway expansion in the face of peak oil and a McAfee billboard on Highway 101 that said “Hackers are bad” — led us both on conversational tangents punctuated by work on his laptop.

We arrived at SFO after a side trip to Palo Alto to the home he had stayed in before to pick up an item he had forgotten. At 11, he had plenty of time to catch his plane. As we shook hand to take leave of each other, he left me with two words (and you can say them with me): “Happy hacking!”

[Note to P.L.: Not to worry -- I didn't tell RMS about the dream you had about him.]

Blue Screen of REAL Death: The Defense Department and Boeing plan to base their new Future Combat Systems not on Microsoft Windows, but on a GNU/Linux based system using Red Hat. The reason the generals made is clear — they don’t want to be beholden to Microsoft — but another more important issue arose, this from John Williams, a sergeant at the Boeing plant in Huntington Beach: “Soldiers don’t care about software,” he said. What they care about is “if it’s going to work.” That means the men and women on the ground have their lives depending on software, and that software has got to work or the result could be fatal. So, arguably, that counts Microsoft out.

[So how far did that chair travel, Mr. Ballmer?]

Coming soon (like tomorrow): Starting tomorrow, I am going to release eight straight blogs on eight distros I use and particularly like, and why. Call it “Eight Distros a Week” if you like, because I plan to. In any case, hope you enjoy it. Up tomorrow: AntiX 6.5 Spartacus and 7.0 Lysistrata.

[FSF Associate Member](Larry Cafiero, editor/publisher of Open Source and Free Software Reporter, is an associate member of the Free Software Foundation.)

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Miscellaneous ramblings

September 9, 2007 Leave a comment

Back to school: The last time I had a college ID, Gerald Ford was president, disco was ravaging the country and I — try not to laugh — entertained thoughts of studying architecture. Of course, Ford passed away and disco faded away (only to become part of a ’70s-based sitcom) and my all-but-non-existent math skills had no chance to fade away, guiding me from this failed endeavor to become the next Frank Lloyd Wright and propelling me into the writing field.

But 32 years after proudly graduating at the middle of my class from Monsignor Edward Pace High School in Opa Locka, Fla., I am a college student again, this time at Cabrillo College in Aptos, Calif., where my sole class to date is Intro to Unix/Linux.

Jim Griffin, a pretty enthusiastic and all-around good instructor, teaches the course. I have about 30-some-odd (meaning there are about 30, some of them odd) classmates and the course seems to be pretty easy, so far — that year of self-study masquerading as throwing myself into FOSS didn’t hurt. Needless to say, I will keep you posted on the class and my yet-to-be-announced efforts to start a Cabrillo LUG. Oops . . .

Born free: A couple of those who commented on the blog’s name change — as well as those of you who e-mailed me personally — seem to think that I am a recent convert to free software. Nope — I’ve always been on the side of “free as in freedom” (although I have absolutely nothing against free beer!) since I converted to the FOSS side. Again, with what’s being touted these days as “open source” not being so — or defined in a kind of “1984” doublespeak — and when even the OSI is having a hard time redefining what “open source” is, then clearly it was time for a name change.

RMS . . .SF . . OK?: Richard Stallman does a series of talks in Northern California this week: Stanford on Monday (Sept. 10), San Jose State on Tuesday (the 11th), Berkeley on Wednesday (the 12th) and the University of San Francisco (a block from where I used to live when I first moved to San Francisco) on Thursday (the 13th). The Berkeley event may need an RSVP, but the others are free — as in freedom and free beer. A schedule is available from the Free Software Foundation — click on the day of the week for the event time and location.

Hello, Columbus: For those of you Buckeyes (and those of you in the neighboring states) finding yourselves with free time on Saturday, Sept. 29, make your way to the Greater Columbus Convention Center for Ohio LinuxFest 2007. Fedora’s Max Spevack and Bradley Kuhn, of the Software Freedom Law Center, are keynoting. From what I’m told, it looks like it is ramping up to be a good event — don’t miss it.

[FSF Associate Member](Larry Cafiero, editor/publisher of Open Source Reporter, is an associate member of the Free Software Foundation.)

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