I’m a new gNewSense user, but I am not new to GNU/Linux. In 1995, working in the Operations Center at Georgia State University, I read about the Linux kernel on a usenet newsgroup. At the time I was an operator on MVS and Unisys mainframes, and was interested in moving on to Unix, which seemed like a much more interesting environment. Excited that a free Unix-like OS existed, I spent a few days of lunch breaks downloading fifty HD disks of one of the early distributions. I remember it as SLS, but one of my coworkers, who borrowed the disks to install GNU/Linux on one of his own PCs, insists that it was Slackware. I’m inclined to take his word for it.
I’ve been using GNU/Linux ever since. I’ve tried Debian and its various derivatives, several Red Hat based distributions, and even dabbled in Suse. In general I prefer Debian-like systems, but my goal has always been to use the most consistently free distribution I could manage.
I had an Acer Aspire One netbook loaded with Windows 7 that had been essentially abandoned by my wife, and decided to shop for an appropriate GNU/Linux distribution to put it back in service. I’ve recently changed careers from IT to journalism, and made a committment to myself to systematically build my tool set based on free software. In the spirit of mobile journalism, this laptop is going to be my primary computer.
Two days ago I downloaded gNewSense 3.1 with GNOME desktop for i386, and followed the instructions for creating a live USB. It was a quick and easy process. I then changed the boot order on the netbook, and booted into gNewSense.
My first concern when putting a distribution on a laptop is that the wireless work. It worked like a charm. My second concern is that the out-of-the-box system not be cluttered with things I don’t use. I always customize my environment, but I don’t want to have to do a complete renovation. I’d rather be spending my time adding software I need, than removing software I don’t need.
Every kind of software I use regularly seemed to work, so I backed up the Windows personal folders, and installed gNewSense onto the hard drive of the netbook. At this point the only additional thing I’ve added is GNU Emacs. A web browser and an extensible editor covers at least 90% of what I do with a computer. The other 10% mostly consists of presentation slides and work with spreadsheets, both of which are covered by OpenOffice.
All in all my first impression of gNewSense is very positive. I’m certain that I’ll run into snags along the way, particularly when I start configuring the system to serve as a station for mobile journalism. But it meets my criteria of free and uncluttered and everything I’ve tested works. I’ll continue to post updates as I use and modify the system with additional free software.