Cuba launches its own Linux distro: Nova

At Cuba’s annual Conference on Communication and Technologies in Havana, the Cuban government unveiled its latest weapon against the U.S. capitalist devils (aka Microsoft): a new distribution of Linux, called Nova.

The motivation for this project is at least three-fold.  First and foremost, the Cuban government is worried about rumored back doors in Microsoft’s closed operating systems that would allow US security agencies to monitor activity over the Internet.  An open-source operating system couldn’t contain any such vulnerabilities without them being spelled out in the publicly accessible code.

Second, Windows is relatively expensive for the Cuban economy, and the US trade embargo makes it difficult to obtain legal copies or updates.  Guess how many pesos it takes to buy Linux?

Three, Cuba wants to assert its technological independence from “US hegemony”.  They don’t need no steenking license keys!

According to Hector Rodriguez, who is dean of the School of Free Software at Cuba’s University of Information Sciences, Cuban university computers have already converted to using various flavors of Linux.  Several government ministries have also made the switch — the remaining holdouts voicing concern over software compatibility.  Nevertheless, Rodriguez expects that within five years, half of all computers in Cuba will be running on Linux.

The unveiling of Nova comes only one year after Richard Stallman visited the previous conference to encourage open source adoption in the Communist island nation.  It also echoes Russia’s plan to build a nationwide operating system to replace Windows.

Will it be legal for US users to download Nova?  How different will it be from other Linux distros?  What’s the point of creating a whole new distribution instead of using existing, publicly available ones?  Does the Cuban government intend to retain control over what features it provides?

Hey wait, “No va” in Spanish means

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14 Responses to Cuba launches its own Linux distro: Nova

  1. I’m no genius regarding actual coding and programming, so what I’m about to say might be absolutely stupid. Ok, Cuba is also well known for monitoring the activity of their people online. Many cuban bloggers faced possible arrest after an attempted gathering. I’m sure Stallman wouldn’t be for building tools that might help the government see what their people is doing and therefore haltering their freedom of speech. But what if the Cuban government is also looking for an excuse to control from the OS what the people are doing? I know this can be done by blocking webpages, just like they did in China. Like I said, I’m not sure how easily this can be done on Linux.

    • That’s an interesting question. Makes me wonder whether Cuba will make all of the source to Nova available, because anyone who has all the sources could find and remove any barriers it contains. I believe it’s possible under the GPL to distribute the source to the Linux kernel, but keep the rest of the OS sources closed, if they so choose. And who’s going to make them abide by the rules of the GPL if they decide to build something completely closed based on Linux?

      • You simply cannot build something that is closed source and based on GPL software at the same time. Cuba can monitor internet activity regardless of the OS.
        Weather you are a red blood communist, an imperialist pig or just apolitical I think we should all be happy Linux is becoming more popular and used worldwide.

  2. I'm no genius regarding actual coding and programming, so what I'm about to say might be absolutely stupid. Ok, Cuba is also well known for monitoring the activity of their people online. Many cuban bloggers faced possible arrest after an attempted gathering. I'm sure Stallman wouldn't be for building tools that might help the government see what their people is doing and therefore haltering their freedom of speech. But what if the Cuban government is also looking for an excuse to control from the OS what the people are doing? I know this can be done by blocking webpages, just like they did in China. Like I said, I'm not sure how easily this can be done on Linux.

    • That's an interesting question. Makes me wonder whether Cuba will make all of the source to Nova available, because anyone who has all the sources could find and remove any barriers it contains. I believe it's possible under the GPL to distribute the source to the Linux kernel, but keep the rest of the OS sources closed, if they so choose. And who's going to make them abide by the rules of the GPL if they decide to build something completely closed based on Linux?

      • You simply cannot build something that is closed source and based on GPL software at the same time. Cuba can monitor internet activity regardless of the OS.

        Weather you are a red blood communist, an imperialist pig or just apolitical I think we should all be happy Linux is becoming more popular and used worldwide.

  3. "No va" in Spanish means, literally, "it doesn't go." We agree on that. But "Nova," a single word, is the Latin word for "new." The corresponding Spanish word is "Nuevo" or "Nueva", which means, right, "NEW." No one in a Spanish-speaking country (any Romance-language speaker) would confuse "Nova" with "No va."

  4. “No va” in Spanish means, literally, “it doesn’t go.” We agree on that. But “Nova,” a single word, is the Latin word for “new.” The corresponding Spanish word is “Nuevo” or “Nueva”, which means, right, “NEW.” No one in a Spanish-speaking country (any Romance-language speaker) would confuse “Nova” with “No va.”

  5. The question in the last paragraph is really ridiculous. It is natural that you should not be able to download Nova (at least legally) if you are from USA. There is no difference between this and Fedora's, code.google.com's or SourceForge's embargo to Cuba (and many other countries – btw, I'm not sure if SourceForge is still continues that, but I'm sure they used to block many countries). If you haven't, read GNU/GPL v2.0 or lesser GPL 2 to find why it's this way. An American is not free to distribute any code s/he wants to any person s/he wants. Read the related US laws to see the reasons (I'm not going to find these again one by one now, google them and you'll find).

    For those who say Cuba is well-kown for monitoring the activities of citizens online, remember the limited connectivity in Cuba (they must first connest to be monitored, think before posting) and don't forget to refer to Government Request Directed to Google and Youtube before blaming any country (google it, you'll find it)

    Answer to another question in the article is already given: Microsoft Windows is free (as in beer) because there is embargo. Because they can't provide it legally, they can't pay for it.

    In short, get a mirror.

    Plus, I'm sure the author of this article hasn't tried Nova. If he had tried, he would talk about – at least in one paragraph -, about appearance and bugs. His problem (look at his last sentence to understand what I mean by "problem") is politics, not Linux. Nova? Sí, va!

  6. The question in the last paragraph is really ridiculous. It is natural that you should not be able to download Nova (at least legally) if you are from USA. There is no difference between this and Fedora’s, code.google.com’s or SourceForge’s embargo to Cuba (and many other countries – btw, I’m not sure if SourceForge is still continues that, but I’m sure they used to block many countries). If you haven’t, read GNU/GPL v2.0 or lesser GPL 2 to find why it’s this way. An American is not free to distribute any code s/he wants to any person s/he wants. Read the related US laws to see the reasons (I’m not going to find these again one by one now, google them and you’ll find).

    For those who say Cuba is well-kown for monitoring the activities of citizens online, remember the limited connectivity in Cuba (they must first connest to be monitored, think before posting) and don’t forget to refer to Government Request Directed to Google and Youtube before blaming any country (google it, you’ll find it)

    Answer to another question in the article is already given: Microsoft Windows is free (as in beer) because there is embargo. Because they can’t provide it legally, they can’t pay for it.

    In short, get a mirror.

    Plus, I’m sure the author of this article hasn’t tried Nova. If he had tried, he would talk about – at least in one paragraph -, about appearance and bugs. His problem (look at his last sentence to understand what I mean by “problem”) is politics, not Linux. Nova? Sí, va!

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