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GNewSense 3 logo with lettering, blue.svg
GNew Sense 4.0 desktop.png
gNewSense 4.0
DeveloperCurrent: Matt Lee[1]
former: Sam Geeraerts, K.Goetz, Brian Brazil and Paul O'Malley
OS familyLinux (Unix-like)
Working statediscontinued[2]
Initial releaseNovember 2, 2006; 16 years ago (2006-11-02)
Latest release4.0[3] / 2 May 2016; 6 years ago (2016-05-02)
Latest preview4.0 Alpha 1[4] / 2 December 2014; 8 years ago (2014-12-02)[4]
Update methodlong term support
Package managerapt (standard), Synaptic (Gtk+ frontend), dpkg (low-level system)
Platformsamd64, i386, Loongson
Kernel typeMonolithic (Linux)
user interface

gNewSense was a Linux distribution, active from 2006 to 2016. It was based on Debian, and developed with sponsorship from the Free Software Foundation. Its goal was user-friendliness, but with all proprietary (e.g. binary blobs) and non-free software removed. The Free Software Foundation considered gNewSense to be composed entirely of free software.[5][6]

gNewSense took a relatively strict stance against proprietary software. For example, any documentation that gave instructions on installing proprietary software was excluded.[7]

gNewSense's last release was made in 2016 and it has not had a supported version since 2018. DistroWatch classifies gNewSense as "discontinued".[2]


The project was launched by Brian Brazil and Paul O'Malley in 2006. gNewSense was originally based on Ubuntu. With the 1.0 release, the Free Software Foundation provided assistance to gNewSense.[8]

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.[2][9][10][11]

There have been several indications that it may be restarted, including a website announcement in 2019, but the project has remained inactive, with no releases since 2016. DistroWatch returned it to "dormant" status again in 2019 and "discontinued" by 2022.[1][2]

As of 13 April 2021, the home page of the project's website displayed a blank page with a meme labelling the Free Software Foundation a cult. After a short time, the website then redirected to the home page of the PureOS website.[12]

However, as of June 2021, it now redirects to the FSF's list of Free/Libre distros.[13]

Technical aspects[edit]

A stylized graphic of a tree
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.[14]

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.[15]

Besides standard system tools and other small applications, gNewSense comes installed with the following software: the LibreOffice productivity suite,[16] the GNOME Web internet browser, 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.[17]


The Live CD can be used to run the operating system and to install onto disk. CD images are available for download.[18]


gNewSense has made four major releases:

Version Code name Release date Supported until Based on Supported architectures
Old version, no longer maintained: 1.0 DeltaD 2006-11-02 Old version, no longer maintained: 2008-05-01 Ubuntu 6.06 "Dapper Drake"
Old version, no longer maintained: 2.0 DeltaH 2008-04-30 Old version, no longer maintained: 2014-01-03 Ubuntu 8.04 "Hardy Heron"
Old version, no longer maintained: 3.0[10][11][19] Parkes 2013-08-06 Old version, no longer maintained: 2015-12-31[20] Debian 6.0 "Squeeze" i386, amd64, Lemote Yeeloong
Old version, no longer maintained: 4.0[16] Ucclia 2016-05-02 Old version, no longer maintained: 2018-05-31[21] Debian 7 "Wheezy" i386, amd64, Lemote Yeeloong
Old version
Older version, still maintained
Latest version
Latest preview version
Future release

In 2016, gNewSense announced that the next version of gNewSense would be 5.0.[22][23]

Comparison with other distributions[edit]

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[24] 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.[25][26] 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.[27]

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[28] (though Debian's democratic project management has seen this stance become a source of recurrent controversy[29][30]). 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.[31] 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.[32] 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.[27]


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.[33]

By 1 May 2008, 3D graphics and application support had also been removed[34] because of licensing issues[35] with Mesa 3D. After January 13, 2009, those issues had been resolved and 3D support became standard starting with the 2.2 release.[36]


In reviewing gNewSense 3.0 in August 2013, Jesse Smith of DistroWatch noted that many of the applications provided, including 3, Debian's de-blobbed 2.6.32 Linux kernel (based on Linux-libre tools[37]), Iceweasel 3.5 and GNOME 2.30 were quite out of date. Smith concluded this review with the following words:[33]

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 hand, a great match with my desktop system.

Richard Stallman, founder and former president of the Free Software Foundation, said he used gNewSense in January 2010[38] and he was still using it in April 2014.[39] Since then Stallman has switched to Trisquel.[40]

Serdar Yegulalp reviewed gNewSense for InfoWorld.[41] He is said:

The base of gNewSense is the Debian distribution, which already excludes proprietary binary blobs and unfree software but provides access to them via repositories. But gNewSense goes further: It doesn't even include access to such software in its repositories. Its documentation also includes only material that's compatible with the GNU Free Documentation License.

In the post on Network World of gNewSense 3.1 in February 2014, Bryan Lunduke reviewed this Linux distribution with following words:[42]

In fact, the stock installation of gNewSense – thanks, in large part, to using older and lighter versions of popular software – is incredibly fast and astoundingly un-taxing on your hardware. The whole system, when logged in with no additional software running, uses roughly 105MB of RAM. So this plucky little distro will perform well on even modest hardware.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Lee, Matt. "Next Steps for gNewSense". Archived from the original on 12 August 2019.
  2. ^ a b c d " gNewSense". Archived from the original on 14 October 2022. Retrieved 8 December 2022.
  3. ^ "[gNewSense-users] gNewSense 4.0 released". 2 May 2016. Archived from the original on 1 August 2020. Retrieved 2 May 2016.
  4. ^ a b "Ucclia alpha 1". gNewSense-dev mailing list. Archived from the original on 10 December 2014. Retrieved 7 December 2014.
  5. ^ "List of Free GNU/Linux Distributions - GNU Project - Free Software Foundation". Archived from the original on 14 December 2014. Retrieved 23 June 2013.
  6. ^ Lee, Matt (2019). "gNewSense". Archived from the original on 12 August 2019. Retrieved 5 October 2019. Hello, I'm Matt Lee, I've recently taken over maintaining gNewSense from Sam [..] I'm Matt Lee: former FSF campaigns manager, [..] I have a vision for desktop GNU/Linux that is unfulfilled.
  7. ^ "Community guidelines – gNewSense GNU/Linux". 30 April 2010. Archived from the original on 2 September 2011. Retrieved 2 July 2011.
  8. ^ "gNewSense 1.0 released – Free Software Foundation". Archived from the original on 9 November 2020. Retrieved 2 July 2011.
  9. ^ Goetz, K. (12 October 2011). "News". gNewSense. Archived from the original on 5 February 2012. Retrieved 22 January 2012.
  10. ^ a b "FAQ – gNewSense GNU/Linux". gNewSense. Archived from the original on 8 May 2015. Retrieved 19 July 2014.
  11. ^ a b Sneddon, Joey (8 August 2013). "gNewSense 3 Released, Is No Longer Based on Ubuntu". OMG Ubuntu. Archived from the original on 11 August 2013. Retrieved 10 August 2013.
  12. ^ "gNewSense". gNewSense. Archived from the original on 13 April 2021. Retrieved 13 April 2021.
  13. ^ "gNewSense". Archived from the original on 28 February 2012. Retrieved 1 July 2021.
  14. ^ Introduction to the Desktop Environment Archived 2014-07-27 at the Wayback Machine
  15. ^ Using the Live CD Archived 2016-03-03 at the Wayback Machine
  16. ^ a b Larabel, Michael (6 May 2016). "FSF-Approved gNewSense 4 GNU/Linux Distribution Released - Phoronix". Archived from the original on 31 March 2019. Retrieved 31 March 2019.
  17. ^ Using gNewSense Archived 2014-07-27 at the Wayback Machine
  18. ^ "Download - gNewSense GNU/Linux". Archived from the original on 6 December 2017. Retrieved 26 May 2015.
  19. ^ Freedom and gNewSense 3.0 Archived 12 June 2018 at the Wayback Machine, DistroWatch Weekly
  20. ^ "Re: [Gnewsense-dev] Likely EoL date for gNewSense 3.1". Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 12 August 2019.
  21. ^ "Release of gNewSense 4 (beta) codenamed Ucclia | Trisquel GNU/Linux - Run free!". Archived from the original on 1 December 2017. Retrieved 23 November 2017.
  22. ^ "[Gnewsense-dev] gNewSense 5". Archived from the original on 21 September 2019. Retrieved 12 August 2019.
  23. ^ "gNewSense 5 Hopes To Be A Speedier Release Of The FSF-Approved Linux OS - Phoronix". Archived from the original on 12 June 2018. Retrieved 11 June 2018.
  24. ^ "gNewSense Official Website | Main / PressRelease20070122". 22 January 2007. Archived from the original on 22 February 2012. Retrieved 2 July 2011.
  25. ^ "gNewSense MainRepo (old)". Archived from the original on 3 July 2016. Retrieved 24 August 2014.
  26. ^ "gNewSense 3.0 IceCat Compile Instructions". Archived from the original on 2 April 2015. Retrieved 24 August 2014.
  27. ^ a b "gNewSense 3.0 Documentation, Differences with Debian". Archived from the original on 24 February 2019. Retrieved 24 August 2014.
  28. ^ "Debian Social Contract". Archived from the original on 4 August 2019. Retrieved 12 August 2019.
  29. ^ "General Resolution: Status of the non-free section". Archived from the original on 21 April 2019. Retrieved 12 August 2019.
  30. ^ "General Resolution: Handling source-less firmware in the Linux kernel". Archived from the original on 21 April 2019. Retrieved 12 August 2019.
  31. ^ "LicenceInformationUpdate - gNewSense GNU/Linux". Archived from the original on 24 September 2015. Retrieved 7 August 2013.
  32. ^ "gNewSense FAQ". Archived from the original on 8 May 2015. Retrieved 15 March 2012.
  33. ^ a b Smith, Jesse (26 August 2013). "Freedom and gNewSense 3.0". DistroWatch. Archived from the original on 21 September 2013. Retrieved 31 August 2013.
  34. ^ "Main/Deltah – gNewSense GNU/Linux". Archived from the original on 12 December 2009. Retrieved 2 July 2011.
  35. ^ xserver-xorg: wordy SGI license may not be free Archived 2008-09-27 at the Wayback Machine
  36. ^ "3D graphics are 100% free software — Free Software Foundation — working together for free software". Archived from the original on 21 January 2009. Retrieved 2 July 2011.
  37. ^ "/gnewsense/packages-parkes/linux-2.6 : contents of debian/README.gNewSense at revision 16". Archived from the original on 16 March 2021. Retrieved 31 January 2017.
  38. ^ "An interview with Richard Stallman". 23 January 2010. Archived from the original on 17 July 2011. Retrieved 2 July 2011.
  39. ^ Vito Gentile. "GNU/Linux Meeting 2014: Richard Stallman approda a Palermo" [GNU / Linux Meeting 2014: Richard Stallman has landed in Palermo] (in Italian). Archived from the original on 5 October 2019. Retrieved 19 April 2014.
  40. ^ "How I do my Computing". Archived from the original on 10 April 2016. Retrieved 26 May 2015.
  41. ^ Yegulalp, Serdar (9 May 2016). "Free as can be: gNewSense is true GNU Linux". InfoWorld. Archived from the original on 31 May 2019. Retrieved 12 August 2019.
  42. ^ Lunduke, Bryan (19 February 2014). "gNewSense 3.1: The FSF-approved Linux distro that's stuck in 2010". Network World. Archived from the original on 12 August 2019. Retrieved 12 August 2019.

External links[edit]