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gNewSense 3.0 with GNOME 2 desktop
Developer Current: Sam Geeraerts
former: K.Goetz
Brian Brazil and Paul O'Malley
Written in {{#property:p277}}
OS family Unix-like
Working state Current[1]
Source model Open source
Initial release November 2, 2006; 11 years ago (2006-11-02)
Latest release 3.1[2] / February 9, 2014; 4 years ago (2014-02-09)
Latest preview 4.0 Alpha 1[3] / December 2, 2014; 3 years ago (2014-12-02)[3]
Update method APT
Package manager dpkg / Synaptic Package Manager
Platforms Loongson, x86, x86-64
Kernel type Monolithic (Linux-libre)
Userland GNU
Default user interface GNOME
License Exclusively free software licenses per GNU Free System Distribution Guidelines (GNU FSDG)[4]
Official website

gNewSense is a computer operating system based on Debian, and developed with sponsorship from the Free Software Foundation. Its goal is user-friendliness, but with all proprietary (e.g. binary blobs) and non-free software removed. The Free Software Foundation considers gNewSense to be composed entirely of free software.[5]

gNewSense takes a relatively strict stance against proprietary software. For example, any documentation that gives instructions on installing proprietary software is excluded.[6]


The project was launched by Brian Brazil and Paul O'Malley in 2006. gNewSense was originally based on Ubuntu. Since the 1.0 release, the Free Software Foundation assists gNewSense.[7]

With no releases in two years, on 8 August 2011, DistroWatch classified gNewSense as "dormant". By September 2012 DistroWatch had changed the status to "active" again, and on 6 August 2013, the first version directly based on Debian, gNewSense 3 "Parkes", was released.[1][8][9][10]

Technical aspects

File:GNewSense logo.svg
gNewSense logo, used from 2007 to 2013

By default gNewSense uses GNOME. The graphical user interface can be customized with the user's choice of X display manager, window managers, and other desktop environments available to install through its hosted repositories.[11]

The Ubiquity installer allows installing to the hard disk from within the Live CD environment without the need for restarting the computer prior to installation.[12]

Besides standard system tools and other small applications, gNewSense comes installed with the following software: the productivity suite, the Epiphany Internet browser recently renamed to simply "Web", the Empathy instant messenger, and the GIMP for editing photos and other raster graphics. Common software development tools including the GCC are installed by default.[13]


The Live CD can be used to run the operating system and to install onto disk. CD images are available for download.[14]


gNewSense has made three major releases (TBA stands for to be announced):

Version Code name Release date Supported until Based on Supported architectures
Old version, no longer supported: 1.0 DeltaD 2006-11-02 Old version, no longer supported: 2008-05-01 Ubuntu 6.06 "Dapper Drake" N/A
Old version, no longer supported: 2.0 DeltaH 2008-04-30 Old version, no longer supported: 2014-01-03 Ubuntu 8.04 "Hardy Heron" N/A
Current stable version: 3[9][10] Parkes 2013-08-06 Current stable version: 2015-12-31[15] Debian 6.0 "Squeeze" i386, amd64, Lemote Yeeloong
Future release: 4 Ucclia TBA Future release:  ? Debian 7 "Wheezy" i386, amd64, Lemote Yeeloong
Old version
Older version, still supported
Latest version
Latest preview version
Future release

Comparison with other distributions

Non-free software repositories are not provided by the gNewSense project, and most non-free documentation and artwork have been removed. While it was based on Ubuntu, the "Universe" package repository was enabled by default. In order to avoid trademark problems that stem from the modification of Mozilla Firefox, gNewSense 1.1 rebranded it as "BurningDog". BurningDog likewise does not offer to install non-free plugins[16] for various web media, such as Adobe Flash. gNewSense 2.0 abandoned BurningDog and adopted the Epiphany web browser (later renamed simply "Web"), a component of GNOME, as its default browser application, and came with recommendations and instructions to optionally compile and run GNU IceCat.[17][18] gNewSense 3.0 retains Web as the default browser, but also comes with a modified version of Debian's Iceweasel that does not offer to access proprietary add-ons.[19]

Debian is another Linux distribution known for strict licensing requirements and adherence to free software principles. While both Debian and gNewSense rigorously exclude non-free software and binary blobs from their official releases, Debian maintains and hosts unofficial repositories of non-free software and firmware binaries, and Debian free software sometimes depends upon or suggests the optional installation of proprietary software, under the theory that users' own informed discretion about the use of such software should be paramount, as expressed in Clause 5 of the Debian Social Contract[20] (though Debian's democratic project management has seen this stance become a source of recurrent controversy[21][22]). gNewSense, by contrast, does not provide any packages which depend on or suggest the use of non-free software, firmware, extensions, or plugins, nor does the gNewSense Project provide convenience-access to proprietary software for any reason, seeing this as an abrogation of the commitment to the development of free software solutions. Similar to Debian, gNewSense policies do not allow including documentation that are licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License with invariant sections.[23] This includes many manuals and documentation released by the GNU Project themselves.

While gNewSense was initially forked from Ubuntu (itself originally a fork of Debian) as a result of founding developer Paul O'Malley's prior work with Ubuntu, as of gNewSense 3.0 the distribution has tracked Debian as the base for its software distribution. In part this has been because the Debian Project does carefully disaggregate the free software in its official distribution from the proprietary software it provides courtesy access to.[24] Indeed, many of the packages, including Debian-particular packages (such as Iceweasel and Icedove) ported to gNewSense are simply modified in such a way that they no longer provide such courtesy access to non-free software options.[19]


Since gNewSense's repositories contain only free software, support for hardware which requires firmware and for which no free firmware exists (such as some wireless network cards) is not available.[25]

By May 1, 2008, 3D graphics and application support had also been removed[26] because of licensing issues[27] with Mesa 3D. After January 13, 2009, those issues had been resolved and 3D support became standard starting with the 2.2 release.[28]


In reviewing gNewSense 3.0 in August 2013, Jesse Smith of DistroWatch noted that many of the applications provided, including 3, the 2.6.32 Linux-libre kernel, Iceweasel 3.5 and GNOME 2.30 were quite out of date. Smith concluded this review with the following words:[25]

Generally speaking, I was happy with gNewSense 3.0. Being based on Debian, the distribution can be counted on to provide both stability and amazing performance. The distribution is lean, fast and uncluttered. The flip side to this is gNewSense's system installer and default package management tools are geared more toward experienced users and will probably provide a steep learning curve to novice Linux users. Not much is automated and there is a minimum of hand holding. The main feature of gNewSense, the lack of proprietary software, is also a double-edged blade. On the one hand, it means the entire operating system can be audited, modified and redistributed. This is great from the perspective of software freedom. The fact that the distribution can play most multimedia formats and handled Flash content fairly well is a testament of the power of free and open source software. The one problem I ran into with gNewSense's software policy was with regards to my wireless network card. Most distributions ship with the non-free Intel firmware, but gNewSense doesn't include it and this means the distribution isn't a good fit with my laptop. It is, on the other hard [sic], a great match with my desktop system.

Richard Stallman (founder and president of the Free Software Foundation) said he used gNewSense in January 2010[29] and he was still using it in April 2014.[30] Since then Stallman has switched to Trisquel.[31]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 " gNewSense". Retrieved 2012-09-13. 
  2. "[gNewSense-users] gNewSense 3.1 released". 2014-02-09. Retrieved 2014-02-10. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 Ucclia alpha 1 gNewSense-dev mailing list
  4. "List of Free GNU/Linux Distributions - GNU Project - Free Software Foundation". Retrieved 26 May 2015.  line feed character in |title= at position 37 (help)
  5. "List of Free GNU/Linux Distributions - GNU Project - Free Software Foundation". Retrieved 2013-06-23. 
  6. "Community guidelines – gNewSense GNU/Linux". 2010-04-30. Retrieved 2011-07-02. 
  7. "gNewSense 1.0 released – Free Software Foundation". Retrieved 2011-07-02. 
  8. Goetz, K. (12 October 2011). "News". gNewSense. Retrieved 22 January 2012. 
  9. 9.0 9.1 "FAQ – gNewSense GNU/Linux". gNewSense. Retrieved 2014-07-19. 
  10. 10.0 10.1 Sneddon, Joey (8 August 2013). "gNewSense 3 Released, Is No Longer Based on Ubuntu". OMG Ubuntu. Retrieved 10 August 2013. 
  11. Introduction to the Desktop Environment
  12. Using the Live CD
  13. Using gNewSense
  14. "Download - gNewSense GNU/Linux". Retrieved 26 May 2015. 
  15. [1] gNewSense-dev mailing list
  16. "gNewSense Official Website | Main / PressRelease20070122". 2007-01-22. Retrieved 2011-07-02. 
  17. "gNewSense MainRepo (old)". Retrieved 2014-08-24. 
  18. "gNewSense 3.0 IceCat Compile Instructions". Retrieved 2014-08-24. 
  19. 19.0 19.1 "gNewSense 3.0 Documentation, Differences with Debian". Retrieved 2014-08-24. 
  20. "Debian Social Contract". 
  21. "2004: Debian General Resolution: Status of the non-free section". 
  22. "2006: Debian General Resolution: Handling source-less firmware in the Linux kernel". 
  23. "LicenceInformationUpdate - gNewSense GNU/Linux". Retrieved 2013-08-07. 
  24. "gNewSense FAQ". 
  25. 25.0 25.1 Smith, Jesse (26 August 2013). "Freedom and gNewSense 3.0". DistroWatch. Retrieved 31 August 2013. 
  26. "Main/Deltah – gNewSense GNU/Linux". Retrieved 2011-07-02. 
  27. xserver-xorg: wordy SGI license may not be free
  28. "3D graphics are 100% free software — Free Software Foundation — working together for free software". Retrieved 2011-07-02. 
  29. "An interview with Richard Stallman". 2010-01-23. Retrieved 2011-07-02. 
  30. Vito Gentile. "GNU/Linux Meeting 2014: Richard Stallman approda a Palermo" (in italiano). Retrieved 2014-04-19. 
  31. "How I do my Computing". Retrieved 26 May 2015. 

External links

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