Graduating from Ubuntu: Page 2

A survey of alternate Linux distributions for those users seeking to broaden their horizons.


You Can't Detect What You Can't See: Illuminating the Entire Kill Chain

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This distribution even goes so far as to remove recommendations and links for non-free software within its default Iceweasel browser. This means if you end up on a website requiring Flash, you will not receive a prompt to install it from Adobe.com. This cleaned up version of Debian also includes a removal of proprietary blobs from of the Linux kernel itself.

These changes bring up issues of compatibility. On the plus side, I'm happy to report the lack of proprietary code means you're encouraged to use natively supported wireless devices instead of hacked together solutions through NDISWrapper. This means you can purchase FSF approved hardware from vendors like ThinkPenguin.com, instead of settling for incompatible hardware from your local big box store. You can also find a working database of supported hardware at h-node.

If the idea of using this distribution over those based on Debian sounds compelling, why do some people still choose other distributions over gNewSense? It's simple: the choice in what kind of software folks run on their systems. The issue here is that if I want to use Steam on my gNewSense box, this isn't supported by the community as Steam. And the games they offer aren't considered to be Free Software according to the FSF. On Debian no one is going to have a problem with Steam, and Valve even went so far as to give Debian developers, free Steam keys.

Are you someone who should consider gNewSense? If you listen to Ogg Vorbis over MP3s and make hardware purchases based on whether it's supported by Free Software, then yes, you should check it out.

Summary: Putting it all together

As we revisit the Ubuntu alternatives I've mentioned above, the best way to sum up each of them is as follows.

Arch – You are someone who isn't concerned about the FSF stance on proprietary code in your distribution, however you want a bleeding edge experience that you control from the ground up. This is a teaching distribution of Linux.

Debian – Stability above all else is what matters to you. You still want the option to use proprietary software if needed, however not at the risk of putting your Linux installation into an unstable state. This is a Linux distribution for long-term use, without the hassle of constant upgrades.

gNewSense – FSF above all else, backed by the ease of use of the Debian packaging system. Freedom from proprietary code is the name of the game with this distribution. Respecting your freedom by keeping you away from all things proprietary.

Which one is right for you? If you still don't know, I suggest trying each distribution and to see which one really speaks to you personally. Who knows, you may discover you enjoy the lightweight stability of Debian, or even the bleeding edge DIY experience offered by Arch.

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

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Tags: open source, Linux, Ubuntu, Debian, Arch Linux

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