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Installing gNewSense Ucclia (version 4.0) on a Thinkpad X61s Laptop

customised gNewSense 3 with Gnome 2 desktop on X61s gNewSense 4 with Gnome 3 desktop on X61s, follow link for full resolution

gNewSense is a GNU/Linux distribution that is sponsored by the Free Software Foundation and developed mainly by Sam Geeraerts. gNewSense is free in the sense that the kernel has no binary blobs or proprietary firmware present. Version 4 is based on Debian Wheezy and a default install will come with the Gnome 3 desktop environment. KDE and XFCE4 desktop environments are available in the gNewSense repository for those that prefer those. The range of software available is sufficient for all my use cases and the operating system is responsive on my dual core laptop with 3Gb of RAM and a Crucial 64Gb ssd hard drive.

This page describes setting up gNewSense version 4 on my Thinkpad X61s laptop (type 7667-CG7 manufactured in March 2008). This particular model of Thinkpad comes with an Atheros wifi card for which there is a fully free wifi driver available in the kernel. The wonderfully named Ministry of Freedom can provide later Thinkpads with a fully free bios (libreboot) in various configurations should you wish to pay rather more than I paid for my little Thinkpad. What you get is a more modern machine that is fully configured on arrival and that has open and free drivers for all supported hardware.

This page is much shorter than the page for gNewSense 3.1 because the version 4 release follows Debian Wheezy very closely and the repositories provide reasonably up to date packages.

Obtaining the iso, copying to a USB stick, running a live session, and then installing

Installing software

The procedure for updating, upgrading and installing software is identical to Debian Wheezy. From the command line you can use apt-cache search packagename to find packages and then as root use apt-get install packagename to install the software and its dependencies. Synaptic is installed by default if you prefer a graphical tool to find and install software. The gNewSense repositories contain just about all the software that is available in the Debian main repositories - a huge selection.

I edited the /etc/apt/sources.list.d/gnewsense.list file and commented out all the entries as I was getting an error message about duplicate entries when updating. My /etc/apt/sources.list file looks like this...

keith@illy:~$ cat /etc/apt/sources.list
# commented out all entries in the file at /etc/apt/sources.list.d/gnewsense.list
# sources.list below generates no warnings
deb http://gb.archive.gnewsense.org/gnewsense/ ucclia main
deb-src http://gb.archive.gnewsense.org/gnewsense/ ucclia main
deb http://archive.gnewsense.org/gnewsense-three/gnewsense ucclia-security main
deb-src http://archive.gnewsense.org/gnewsense-three/gnewsense ucclia-security main

A default install of gNewSense 4.0 comes with a fair range of software. I add my usual suspects; audacity, lame, vlc, ffmpeg, r-base (2.15.1 in repository), gnuplot, texlive (2012 in repository which is fine for my purposes), lftp, wget, rsync, curl, htop, xsane, rdesktop (remina is installed but has problems with my remote desktop set up).

I install RStudio to provide an IDE for R. RStudio is released under an affero-GPL licence and the source is available (I once built it under Slackware - very time consuming as RStudio uses a fair range of build tools and requires webkit (an overnight compile on the X61s). gNewSense is based on Debian Wheezy so I used an older version (0.98) of RStudio Desktop downloaded from their legacy page. The RStudio .deb requires libjpeg62 to be installed as a dependency.


I sometimes think that I must be the only person that actually likes Gnome Shell. I use it mostly with the default settings provided in the version 3.8 installed with gNewSense 4.0. A few minor tweaks...

Keith Burnett, Last update: Saturday December 3rd 2016