Cuba: The Release of Nova the Open-Source Operating System

Through a project developed at the University of Information and Technology Sciences of Havana [es] (UCI for its initials in Spanish), the government of Cuba released its own version of the open-source Linux operating system and hopes to move 50% of government computers away from Microsoft Windows to this new system called Nova Baire in the next five years. It was unveiled at the Informática 2009 International Convention and Fair.

“Tux Guevara” illustration by Brunocb and used under a Creative Commons license

Nova Baire was developed partly because of how difficult it is to obtain software legally on the island, but also, as ZeroZen of the Latin American technology site FayerWayer [es] writes, “Cuba sees a potential threat from MS (Microsoft) software because U.S. security agencies can obtain their access codes.”

The development of the system is also said to be in line with the government's ideology. Penúltimos Días [es] publishes a quote by Héctor Rodríguez, the dean of the Department of Open-Source Software at UCI who said:

“El movimiento del software libre es más cercano a la ideología del pueblo cubano, sobre todo por la independencia y soberanía. El software privativo puede tener agujeros negros y códigos maliciosos que uno no conoce.”

“The Open-Source software movement is the closest to the ideology of the Cuban people, above all because of independence and sovereignty. Private software may have black holes and malicious codes that one does not know.”

The software has its own website [es] where users can download Nova Baire and discuss related issues in the forum [es]. One blogger, TBS of Bloggers Cuba [es] has already had the opportunity to give Nova Baire a test-run and writes a brief review:

Ya tuvimos la oportunidad de probarlo por acá en una máquina virtual y nuestra primera impresión fue bastante buena. Hace todo lo que por defecto la mayoría de las demás distribuciones de Linux para usuarios: realizar trabajos de oficina, reproducir archivos de música y video, navegar por Internet y mensajería instantánea, ver fotografías y utilizar otras múltiples aplicaciones para un mejor desempeño laboral o de ocio.

Como ya dije es una distribución enfocada al usuario final, a mi consideración bastante amigable e intuitiva. Según el nivel de estabilidad y rendimiento que demuestre podría ser la ideal para ser utilizada en el proceso de migración que realiza el país hacia Software Libre de usuarios provenientes y acostumbrados a sistemas como Microsoft Windows.

We have already had the opportunity to try it on a virtual machine and our first impression was really good. It does everything that the majority of Linux distributions does for its users: office works, play music and video files, navigate the internet and instant messaging, look at photographs, and use multiple applications for work and leisure.

The distribution is focused on the final users, and in my opinion, it is very user-friendly and intuitive. According to the level of stability and performance, it could be ideal for use during the country's process of migration towards Open-Source Software by users accustomed to other systems like Microsoft Windows.

There is also a YouTube video that shows a screenshot of Nova Baire in operation.


  • In the video it looks like Nova updates automatically from some database. Any word on whether this is built into Cuba’s intranet?

    • ja_eh

      well, the repository comes from which points to the cuban intranet.

      so, yes, it seems like those packages are being maintained by cuba internally.

      what stumbles me is that google is the default search in the firefox that gets visible in the last seconds, unfortunately they dont even try to use the browser, would have been the really interesting part for me personally.

      downloading a copy of nova and the red star os currently, looking forward to running them in a vm :D too bad i wont be able to surf the kwangmyong even with the red star though ;)

  • Alberto Bolton

    Wow, this actually looks pretty user friendly. Sure it looks like windows XP as a Linux distro but that’s probably what they were aiming for anyways.

  • Alexandru Fira (Alex Afinarul)

    Please tell me where to get Nova Linux. I would like to test it.
    Alex, Linux Mint and Macpup Foxy user.

  • Dave

    Good for them! They should standardize their whole IT system on open source tools and open standards.

    And US should remove the travel ban to Cuba! That’s just EVIL!

  • Chad

    Nova,wonderful! I like it!

    I hope it can stay compliant with most of current applications.

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