Nova Linux, Cuba's State Sponsored Distro

Many governments have tried to abandon Windows. It is not only expensive, but due to its closed source nature can compromise national security. So far, there have been some successes. Pardus Linux has especially formed into a complete, easy to use, Windows replacement for Turkey; and Ubuntu Kylin is one of the most popular OS’s in China . Yet, there is one state sponsored Linux distro that has managed to slip under everyone’s nose. Nova Linux is a Cuban, Ubuntu based distro that has had its fair share of troubles through the years, but ultimately, seems to be doing pretty good. So, I, an American that doesn’t speak a lick of Spanish, gave it a whirl, and will explain some of the little quirks and benefits of this pretty cool, unique distro.

Instillation

First off, being honest, I used the Ligero version of Nova, so I don’t know if the experience is different on Escritorio. However, I found the installer quite abysmal for a new user. It is a TUI based installer that can be compared to Void Linux or Slackware. It’s not too hard, but can and will easily scare away new users. The installer even continued to use Spanish despite English being selected as the Keyboard layout and system language. But on the plus side, it was pretty quick, only taking around 20 minutes for the whole process.

Resource Usage

Nova, including the Ligero desktop, was extremely lightweight. My VM had 2 CPU cores available, and a little less than 4GB of RAM. In terms of RAM, Nova hovered around 250-260MB on idle with Xorg running, and around 190-200 when booted into the TUI. The CPU usage is also impressive, with both CPU cores sporadically jumping to 0.5-0.7% usage, never surpassing 1% until an app is opened. It isn’t bad at all.

Desktop

Again, I only used the Ligero version, so I can’t speak on what Escritorio looks or acts like, but I have done a little digging in the desktop on Ligero. While Distrowatch claims that the Ligero version uses Nova’s own custom baked desktop called “Guano”, it appears to be nothing more than a themed LXDE. Apart from using the custom Nova GTK theme (which is pretty great by the way), there is nothing of note. It looks good, acts like what you would expect, and tries to be beginner friendly. You can even see a picture below.

ThemedLXDE

History

Nova began in Cuba’s capitol, Havana, where it started as a Gentoo based distro. Then, in its second ever release, it transitioned to an Ubuntu base. However, it has been shut down and discontinued before. Many people considered Nova discontinued, because throughout 2016-2018 there was no news on a new version, and it wasn’t until 2018 that version 6 came out. And perhaps more frightening, in 2018, Nova’s repositories were shut down completely, and didn’t come back for several months. So if you would like to use Nova as a long-term workstation or server, be sure to take this into consideration.

Conclusion

Nova, while being a state sponsored Linux distro, seems to have a lot of potential. Although I wouldn’t recommend it to most people, if you are a Spanish speaker, and would like a relatively lightweight distro, Nova is not a bad option. And while it is not the best Linux distro in my opinion, it is still nice to see more adoption of Linux, even if it’s in Cuba.

Written on June 6, 2022