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[gNewSense-users] The difference between Debian and gNewSense?

From: Dave Crossland
Subject: [gNewSense-users] The difference between Debian and gNewSense?
Date: Fri, 3 Nov 2006 14:18:55 +0000


I was recently advocating Free Software in my local Freecycle [0]
forum and was asked,

So what are the versions that are 100% free then?

This is what I wrote:

-- 8< --

The Debian GNU/Linux system is 100% free, and has a "social contract"
that is a formal commitment to this:

However, The Debian project shares non-free software that can be used
in the Debian system, but that software is not part of the official
system and is not essential.

Debian GNU/Linux can run on almost all kinds of computers, and aims to
be a 'perfect' system that has no bugs. Bugs are the unexpected
aspects of software - like crashes. This means it does not have the
latest versions of many things, and because the progress of Free
Software is rapid, people who value features over reliability don't
like it. People who like reliability love it though :-)

Ubuntu is based on Debian, and includes the latest versions of popular
Free Software, and some non-free software that makes more computer
hardware work. Ubuntu feel its better to have more computers work,
even though those computers will not run 100% Free Software.

Because of this, it is hard to recommend either Ubuntu or Debian.

I personally do recommend Ubuntu, because most people do not yet feel
strongly about the importance of ethical and sustainable software. If
a version of GNU+Linux works well on their computer, and they hear the
GNU project's message about ethics and sustainability as they relate
to software, they are much more likely to value software freedom.

But the GNU Project itself cannot recommend such versions. They
maintain a list at

and actually a significant event happened yesterday!

A new version, based on Ubuntu, that is 100% Free Software, has been released:

-- 8< --

While writing this, I wondered if there a difference between Debian
and gNewSense?

Since gNewSense uses Ubuntu repositories, it is trivial to enable
restricted and multiverse, and apt-get non-free software.

I believe this is the same as Debian, which does not include contrib
or non-free by default, and they must be enabled to apt-get non-free

Also, I wonder if by being a derivative of Ubuntu rather than Debian,
there is an association with Canonical's proprietary web applications.
Such an association may lead gNewSense users to use those proprietary
systems. I believe Debian uses Free web applications to organise

However, I have experienced practical benefits of Ubuntu over Debian -
in terms of hardware detection, and in terms of prettyness (As Mark
Shuttleworth is fond of saying, "Pretty Is A Feature" [1]) - and so
can understand why creating a 100% downstream of Ubuntu is worthwhile.

But I figure its only a matter of time until Debian sorts this out.
When it does, will there be a difference between Debian and gNewSense?



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