The latest release, 2.1, was just announced on Distrowatch. Based on Ubuntu, it strips out all the proprietary bits, including codecs and drivers, and forces the end user to initially use the open and free equivalents if they exist. If they don't then you're stuck without features such as 3D acceleration, DVD playback, QuickTime movies, etc.
Rather than reflexively kick gNewSense to the curb, I downloaded the live ISO and booted it on europa to see what did and didn't work. What follows are some very brief notes.
- Booting - gNewSense has one of the simplest, if not the lamest, boot prompts I've run across in a long time. The initial splash artwork is the name of the distribution in large ragged green letters on black, with a boot prompt sitting beneath it. And that's where it'll stay unless you either press F1 or Enter to start the boot process. No timeout. That caught me off-guard; I'm so used now for a live CD to automatically timeout and boot I can't remember the last time I had to specifically boot the CD. What a nuisiance
- Video - The desktop came up in 1280 x 1024 resolution. Surprisingly enough System -> Preferences -> Screen Resolution allowed me to select 1600 x 1200, something that every Gnome-based distribution since May of 2007 hasn't been able to do. Mandriva can select that resolution, but only with the Drax configuration tools. All other distributions required I install the AMD/ATI package fglrx. As for 3D acceleration there is none, at least not for my card. Even if by some miracle I had 3D acceleration I couldn't use it because the geniuses behind gNewSense recompiled the X packages to remove GLX support. Why? Because the "non-free SGI Free B license" isn't free enough. What a nuisance.
- Web-browser. What??? No "Ice Weasel"??? I was able to use the bundled "Web Browser" to view many sites and to file this blog post Unfortunately it was missing features I've come to rely on with Firefox, such as automatic spell check and plug-ins. I can only assume that the reason for the "Web Browser" is, like for GLX, Firefox just isn't free enough to suit them. Not even Ice Weasel!
Another problem with the Web Browser: it becomes confused with Ajax-based forms such as Blogger. Even though I saved the majority of this post (Save Now) but did not publish it, Web Browser popped up the following dialog.
That, along with no Flash, makes for a very dull experience. What a nuisance.
- Keyboard. While writing this post I discovered that the double quote (") is found via shift 2, not shift ('). That's right folks, the shift 2 and shift (') are swapped. At least it didn't take long for me to figure out. What a royal nuisance.
- Appearance Preferences. Remember how GLX was removed from X? The visual effects tab is still available on the Appearance Preferences dialog. What a nuisance.
- Multi-media. Ubuntu is proud of its ability to support multimedia, and as a consequence provides an Examples folder on the desktop. So does gNewSense. Unfortunately the slim pickings that Ubuntu provides has been dumbed down even further with gNewSense. Instead of the nice little Ogg movie about Ubuntu we're given a horrible recording of Stallman singing. What an utter nuisance.
If you're the kind of geek who likes to program while wearing their hairshirt, then gNewSense is probably the distribution for you. But if you're the regular kind of geek who wants to get on with a task and not fight the OS, then all gNewSense will ever be for you is a big big nuisance.