Gobuntu

This weekend I upgraded my machine to Gobuntu, the entirely-free-software (but see below) version of Ubuntu 7.10 Gutsy Gibbon. Since I’m specifically named as the use case (!) it seemed like the right thing to do. First, the good news: it all seems to be working fine. Since I was doing a clean install (again, see below), and because my laptop has an AMD Turion chip in it, I went for the 64-bit version. (Thanks to Dave Morley for taking the time to tell me whether the 64-bit version was worth it.) Everything works; no problems at all. Good work, the Gobuntu team. I have a few extra things worth mentioning, though. First, like Mark Pilgrim, I’m disappointed that the issue with Firefox’s non-free logos wasn’t resolved before release. Apparently the solution will be to replace Firefox with Epiphany, the Gnome browser which is based on Gecko, the Firefox rendering engine. At that point people will hopefully be able to move to the unbranded “Firefox”, which seems to be called “Iceweasel” or something similar; I don’t really like using Epiphany, because I want lots of Firefox extensions that aren’t available for it. This seems like a good solution in general, though, and it’s what I assumed would be the case in Gobuntu; I’m slightly surprised that it wasn’t. Second, there doesn’t seem to be an upgrade path from Feisty, the last version of Ubuntu, to Gobuntu Gutsy. That’s really annoying. Now, possibly there is such an upgrade path; possibly just upgrading to ordinary gutsy and then installing the gobuntu-desktop package would work. However, I couldn’t find anything, anywhere, to say that that was the case; does that package remove all the dubiously-free stuff that Gobuntu doesn’t contain? I don’t know. Gobuntu’s very new, so it’s entirely understandable that there’s not a lot of documentation yet (I had to hunt around rather a lot to find the official Gobuntu page so that I could link to it!), but it was pretty disappointing that it wasn’t clear how to install it. (I eventually decided to go with a clean install, because then I could be sure that I wasn’t running anything non-free, and because I wanted to take the opportunity to move to 64-bit, and because I liked the idea of being sure that I hadn’t made configuration decisions three years ago that were adversely affecting me now). Third, and not a complaint, there’s no live CD for Gobuntu yet. I personally think that’s fine; again, Gobuntu’s new, and at least initially it’s probably not destined for “ordinary” users; having people like me use it for this release should shake any obvious bugs out of it ready for the next release. My ideal eventual goal is that people install Gobuntu by default, but we’re a way away from that yet. All the hardware on my laptop that I care about works fine (the wireless card doesn’t work, but then I wasn’t using it anyway, and the video card doesn’t do 3d acceleration, but I can live without that for now). This leads on partially to… Fourth, also not a complaint, Gobuntu allows you to install non-free software once you have it itself installed. There was something of a furore about this on the Gobuntu mailing list, but I can’t think why. The distribution is, at the moment at least, destined for people who want to ensure that they’re using entirely Free software, and are prepared to deal with limitations (like no wireless) to make that so. I personally am not going to install any non-free software, even if it’s offered. The idea that Gobuntu should not allow non-free installations from the Ubuntu archive implies that the plan is to somehow trick people into running Gobuntu without realising it, so that they must be forced to stay on the straight-and-narrow path of free-software-only. I don’t need forcing; I choose it. Let’s have some faith in people. All in all, I found it to be pretty successful. My experience hasn’t got any worse since Feisty (and I get the advantage of improvements made in gutsy), but now I have a warm comforting satisfied feeling that I know that my machine is entirely Free. Thanks for that warm feeling, Gobuntu and Ubuntu communities: I like it.

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