Hola nova: The Cuban government Linux distro

Looking for a more revolutionary distro? A look at Nova, the Linux distro from the Cuban government.

Hola nova: The Cuban government Linux distro

I am a fan of operating systems, from Ubuntu to BeOS. A taxonomy of UNIX operating systems I had assembled for myself was the basis of Awesome-UNIX.

I take particular interest in obscure operating systems and Linux distributions. Did you know that GE Healthcare maintains a Linux distro for it's medical equipment derived from Scientific Linux? Scientific Linux, from Fermilab, is itself a derivative of Red Hat Enterprise Linux.

One interesting category of Linux distributions have been those from governments and cultural institutions. The French national police, the National Gendarmerie, maintain an Ubuntu derivative known as GendBuntu. Many of these distributions come from educational institutions and are optimized for the local language and use in education, like LliureX, a Catalan-language derivative developed by the Council of Culture, Education and Sport at the Municipality of Valencia, Spain.

Other government-sponsored distributions have...other purposes. Red Star OS is a Linux distribution sponsored by the North Korean government. Evidence has shown that the distribution watermarks media files in an effort to track the underground trade of content on USB drives there.

Enter Nova. Nova is a family of Linux distributions made by and for Cubans. It is sponsored by the Cuban government and developed at the Universidad de las Ciencias Informáticas (UCI) in Havana.

Variants of Nova exist for desktop, light-specification devices, and servers. Nova 6.0 2017 appears to be an Ubuntu derivative based on Ubuntu 18.04 LTS. The website also lists an Android build called Novadroid but there is no option to download it.

Early versions of Nova were based on Gentoo and there was a brief hiatus in the maintenance of the distribution. However development appears to be ongoing.  The Nova repos contain packages for Nova 2019 which may be based on Ubuntu 20.04 LTS but ISOs have not been published.

Unlike GendBuntu and Red Star OS, you can freely download and use Nova.

Warning: There is no reported evidence of use of watermarking or other spyware in Nova but normal precautions should be taken as you would with any operating system from a state actor. Nova uses it's own package repository, not the Ubuntu archive, so packages cannot be independently authenticated. Do not log into secure e-mail or access government secrets on Nova until it has been vetted.

The connection to nova.cu is slow.

The new apt repo for Nova is located at:


Warning: The ISOs for Nova contain expired GPG keys and references to an old broken apt mirror. Getting apt working requires some apt and GPG key-fu.

Nova uses a modified GNOME desktop, custom wallpapers, a custom theme and icon set, and the KDE Breeze cursor:

Nova Desktop comes with Firefox, Evolution, LibreOffice, and a skinned KDE Connect app called Nova Connect.

The gdm3 login page:

Nova also has a very pleasant plymouth boot animation:

The Nova installer gives some insight into the motivations for Nova:

Nova includes it's own custom GTK theme:

And custom wallpapers:

Here are the included wallpapers:

As mentioned above, getting apt working on Nova requires some work due to expired keys and old apt repo references: