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RMS Replies to "The Stallman Factor"

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  • by 00_NOP (559413) on Tuesday May 21, 2002 @09:00AM (#3557557) Homepage
    But he has revolutionised the world of computing.

    He has a fair point - and if you don't want to have the argument, don't invite him to speak.
  • Personally... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Copperhead (187748) <talbrech&speakeasy,net> on Tuesday May 21, 2002 @09:02AM (#3557563) Homepage
    I think RMS has a point. While I'm sure everyone knows this, it's important to repeat. RMS (and the rest of the GNU team) wrote all the GNU applications... that is, all the applications that we're used to running on the Linux Kernel. The kernel really makes up a small (though important) part of the distribution as a whole.

    Of course, RMS' argument becomes even more valid when we talk about distributions. We call them Mandrake Linux and Red Hat Linux and Gentoo Linux and SUSE Linux, even though the Linux kernel has nothing to do with their distinctions. The difference lies in the tools, packaging, installation, etc., most of which are GNU tools.

    RMS is in a lose-lose situation. Either he's going to confuse people, or piss them off.

    • Re:Personally... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Rinikusu (28164) on Tuesday May 21, 2002 @09:16AM (#3557649)
      So what? He wrote the applications, big deal. Without Linus, we'd still be waiting for THE HURD and still be running Xenix or something. (well, there's always BSD). I see GNU tools on BSD, why isn't he demanding BSD being called GNU/BSD? Because Linux has more marketshare and more eyes. His fragile little ego has been shattered into a million itty bitty peices, poor poor Richard.

      Richard: YOU chose the license. You did NOT make any instructions regarding the use of your tools in the creation of an operating system regarding it's NAMING CONVENTION. Suck it up. If Linus doesn't want to call it GNU/Linux, then deal with it. Remember your line about not speaking at a function? Why? Because they don't have a *right* to you. You don't have a *right* to Linux, only to the *software* that you wrote that runs on Linux.

      • Re:Personally... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Dwonis (52652) on Tuesday May 21, 2002 @10:23AM (#3558119)
        Without GNU, Linux wouldn't even have compiled, and assuming another compiler was used, the kernel would never have gained any popularity, since it would have been useless in the real world.

        Personally, I write "GNU/Linux" in order to distinguish it (the generic Linux-based GNU OS), from "Linux" (the kernel), "GNU/Hurd" (the generic HURD-based GNU OS), and Linux-based non-GNU systems (IIRC, there are a few). Even if you don't like RMS, the name he proposes is useful in its own sense.

        As a side note, "BSD" stands for Berkeley System Distribution, which somewhat implies the use of other people's software. "Linux" doesn't.

        • by King Babar (19862) on Tuesday May 21, 2002 @12:12PM (#3558981) Homepage
          Personally, I write "GNU/Linux" in order to distinguish it (the generic Linux-based GNU OS), from "Linux" (the kernel), "GNU/Hurd" (the generic HURD-based GNU OS), and Linux-based non-GNU systems (IIRC, there are a few).

          You make an important point here about when and why we would choose to use a compound name for something that "looks like" one object. More specific names are not used merely because they exist, but because their use helps distinguish or disambiguate among alternatives.

          The irony here is that one reason why GNU/Linux probably sounds wrong is precisely because there isn't much need to distinguish that variant from the others, since they are essentially not as well known. It is precisely because the GNU toolset is by far the most common one to be used with Linux that it will be tough to get anybody to use the term GNU/Linux. Now, if using Linux with a BSD-derived (or Solaris-derived or whatever) toolset became more popular, then you'd have a chance for ambiguity, and very possibly you'd use a compound term of some kind.

          An additional problem, though, is that GNU/Linux will always seem clunky because it does not follow usual conventions for compounding. In particular, if you show this to the average person the street, I'd expect a number of them to think that whatever it was you were talking about was *either* GNU *or* Linux. Stallman clearly doesn't mean this, however. The problem is that the term you could use ("GNU Linux") emphatically makes GNU the "adjective" (specifier if you're that kind of person) that modifies the meaning of whatever Linux is. I don't think that is what the FSF would like people to think, either. But I'm pretty sure that BSD Linux and GNU Linux (for example) are the terms people would use to make the distinction between two systems with the obvious (to a hacker) properties. Fighting that is going to be very tough.

          An additional real problem with the GNU/Linux formulation is that it suffers from what I'll call the "hyphenation problem". We all know married couples who, instead of keeping separate names or having one take the name of the other, choose to hyphenate their names. So far, so good. But we also know that this solution to solving an identity problem really only works for one generation. If Montgomery-Smith marries Johnson-Laird, then things go down hill pretty fast if they want to hyphenate. A similar problem happens with any system that relies on Linux, a GNU toolset, XFree86, and some substantial bundle of applications and desktop stuff (like KDE or Gnome). At one level, you could see how mentioning them all could be useful in a few contexts, but in practice, nobody is going to do this. In this particular case, people probably choose to mention only that which cannot be assumed as background. So if you mention "Gnome", it's not very likely (yet) that you're running on anything other than XFree86. It's possible that you could be using BSD rather than Linux. The tools used to compile the thing and/or the shell used are very possibly not relevent in context. So, here, you can predict that people will talk about Linux Gnome or BSD Gnome or something similar *if* they choose to mention the kernel at all.

          To wrap this up, I think the big problem is that even if you agreed with RMS on principle, you'd be fighting the language and its speakers. In the end, I don't see how this is going to work out happily for anybody with a specific agenda that conflicts with how natural languages work.

      • Re:Personally... (Score:3, Informative)

        by RichN (12819)
        I see GNU tools on BSD, why isn't he demanding BSD being called GNU/BSD?

        Because the GNU tools are add-ons. BSD (Berkeley Software Distribution) is a complete operating system. If you prefer the GNU tools over the Berkeley tools, you can use them. However, they aren't necessary.

        GNU/Linux needs the GNU tools to be useful.

      • And along those same lines, when you optimize code you use the 80/20 or whatever rule, that bascially states most of your execution time will be spent in 20% of your code, well the kernel is a big part of that 20%. Even though the Linux kernel is only a small piece of source code compared to the other tools, much more time is spent in that code than, gcc, emacs, ls, grep, etc... So it is the most important piece and that's why we call it Linux. Everytime a packet arrives the network stack is exercised; Every interrupt for a hardware device, the handler is used; Every time you type, move a mouse or view something on the screen; Allocate memory, get the point, the kernel is the most important piece, and is also the hardest part to write, deal with it.

      • Lack of respect... (Score:3, Insightful)

        by ClarkEvans (102211)
        By calling it Linux and not GNU/Linux the community shows a lack of respect. And respect is the currency of our profession.
    • Re:Personally... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by bgarcia (33222) on Tuesday May 21, 2002 @09:27AM (#3557730) Homepage Journal
      I think RMS has a point.
      I think he does to. I think he has a great message, great ideas, and has done more than anyone to further his ideals.

      But why he attempts to advertise the GNU project by insisting that everyone use the term GNU/Linux when talking about a linux-based operating system escapes me.

      This (in itself) does NOTHING to promote software freedom. All it does is piss people off.

      Yes, these "linux" systems would be nowhere if it wasn't for the GNU project. Yes, I would love for the GNU project (and its ideals of freedom) to get more recognition and to get its message out to more people.

      But insisting that everyone use the name GNU/Linux is not going to bring this about. Instead, it causes more people to think of Stallman as a kook. And that's a shame, because he really does have a great message that everyone should hear.

      • Re:Personally... (Score:3, Interesting)

        by earthpig (227603)
        i just read the stallman response.
        every time i read something from him i get the same respone. he first comes out as abrasive irritating and i say to myself 'shut the fuck up'. but the further i read the more i agree with his postion. why this dual reaction? maybe because both are true.
        i think he is taking the GNU/Linux a little far. but i tend to agree with his overall position.

        my feelings on the first part of his response is that his position could be better furthered 'education'the people at the talks. it feels to me with this point he is missing the opportunity to 'sread the word'.

        that's just my 2 cents worth
      • Re:Personally... (Score:4, Insightful)

        by rycamor (194164) on Tuesday May 21, 2002 @11:41AM (#3558698)
        I'm sorry, but I have been trying for years to see why his "point" is so great.

        After trying as hard as possible to "be on his side", I can only conclude that he is embracing a logical inconsistency. For a mind that understands computers so well, his grasp of a philosophy and its logical application is somewhat limited.

        Freedom: what exactly does this overloaded word mean? The closest we have come to freedom is the Libertarianish phrase "non-initiation of force". In other words, the closest we can get to allowing everyone freedom is to restrict individuals from forcing others except when needed to prevent those others from forcing others (see a neat recursion principle there?). If we don't take this approach to freedom (more properly called liberty), then we have some real problems. Any other approach to freedom begs the question "whose freedom comes first?".

        Rights: another overloaded word. If we take freedom as an overlying principle, then "my rights end where yours begin". Any other definition of rights again begs the question "whose rights come first?". Whenever rights take precedence over freedom, these rights become sort of a distributable priviledge system within the government, which of course encourages all sorts of corruption.

        Thus, if we take the above logically, then the only way for a society to have anything approaching freedom or individual choice is to (1) allow any party to freely sell or buy products or services with any other party, and (2) to allow any party to freely give and receive from any other party. Once you start applying force here, someone's freedom is being taken away.

        However, RMS's insistence on "free" software doesn't take this into account at all. He would use his definition of freedom to FORCE organizations and individuals to release software under his guidelines. Meaning, if I understand him properly, that any business who freely makes a contract with any customer to deliver an application without source, is wrong. To RMS, it doesn't matter whether Microsoft's customers freely enter into the contract with Microsoft, and that Microsoft does not apply any force in the matter which requires you to buy this software (I'm sure they would if they could, but at the moment you are free to refuse the software). No--to RMS, his concept of freedom of software is more important than freedom of the individual! See the freedom[0] - freedom[3] array at

        So the logical inconsistency surfaces: freedom is important, so we must enforce upon people that they release source, and allow freely redistributable copies of any piece of software being sold. Note: I am not against the idea of having free software at all, but at the idea that this should be enforced upon me and others.

        If you truly hold freedom dear, then you can't complain if people actually use this freedom to make choices that you disagree with. It is only when these choices inhibit your own freedom that you can complain. I fail to see how RMS's freedom or anyone's freedom is restricted because software is released in binary form without source. If you agree to buy it, then what's the problem. By the same token, if you freely agree to give away software, and someone freely agrees to use it, then again, what's the problem?

        Yes, I am aware that many proprietary software businesses would like to restrict our freedoms. And I agree with RMS that a corporation should not have any control over exactly how I use the software once it is on my computer. That is another issue. But, the solution is not to require some arbitrary method of software release, which would require the use of police force against these companies to enact. It makes me laugh that this whole concept is even considered a "principle". It is just someone's preference about how they would like things done. Preference needs a lot more weight to be considered a principle.
    • Re:Personally... (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 21, 2002 @09:33AM (#3557772)
      Why do so many people agree RMS' growing insanity?

      He claims he wants the GNU project to "have it's due". Well, fine. The GPL requires this "due" to be part of every piece of GPL'd source--it's the license, it's right there, and it GIVES CREDIT to the GNU project and it's authors. No one has stripped the GPL headers off of GPL code--it's all right there, giving CREDIT WHERE IT IS DUE.

      So why is RMS griping? Why the continual whine for "GNU/Linux"? What about other GPL-ed projects that use GNU code...why is he not crusading to have GNU/ appended to those? Is it only because Linux itself (the kernel) is a "big name" with "big prestige"? Please RMS, grow the hell up. Spend less time whining about "GNU/Linux" and more time working on HURD--then you can call it whatever the heck you want. Linux is NOT your project.

      RMS is once again changing the rules on a whim. GPL'd code by NATURE provides the recognition to the original authors. It does NOT command people to prepend "GNU/" to everything. RMS is changing the rules, just like he did with TrollTech ("Ok've gone GPL, but now you must apologise..."). Why does RMS feel that people can't call their projects whatever they like? Last I checked, Linux is Linus Torvald's brainchild. He started the project, he wrote the code, and HE GETS TO NAME IT WHATEVER HE WANTS.

      As for RMS browbeating a user's group...all I can say is "Bra-VO really showed those amateurs, newbies and hobbyists a thing-or-two. How DARE they name their user's group without your permission?!" And that's my point. RMS goes out of his way to be an ass towards a group of people that are ostensibly FANS of his...they wanted him to speak. He responded with stupid dogma about the name of their user's group. Way to go RMS, way to win converts. Sheesh.
  • by march (215947) on Tuesday May 21, 2002 @09:02AM (#3557564) Homepage
    There is much marketing that has to be done for (GNU/)Linux to "make it".

    RMS can stand on any soapbox he chooses, but the term "linux" will remain a much more catchy phrase than the term(s) GNU/Linux.

    Our goal, and I assume RMS's goal too, is to make the free, OSS project we call "linux" work. You have to make concessions sometimes to achieve your goals.

    But I do understand where he's coming from...
  • by docbofh (246777) on Tuesday May 21, 2002 @09:02AM (#3557565) Homepage
    RMS would have every right to insist on GNU/Linux if the FSF had actually adopted Linux as part of the GNU project. Because of their pride and insistence on the Hurd, they rejected linux. It is fitting therefore that Linux users do not start tagging Linux as GNU/Linux now that RMS has changed his mind.
    • RMS would have every right to insist on GNU/Linux if the FSF had actually adopted Linux as part of the GNU project.

      How on earth does that follow? If I write a novel, and you bind it, don't I have the right to be a bit miffed if you run around calling it docbofh's book? Whether or not I adopt your binding technique for the official version has nothing to do with it.

      Mind you, Blancolioni/Docbofh's book is a bit of a mouthful. But that just goes to show that RMS is better at picking names than I am.
      • by docbofh (246777) on Tuesday May 21, 2002 @09:26AM (#3557725) Homepage
        Once upon a time, a bunch of Linux developers went up to the FSF and said: "Hey guys! That GNU stuff you've written is waaaay cool, but we see you're missing a kernel for it. How about using Linux? It's Free, GPL'd and all."

        And the GNU folks did turn upon the Linux gurus and said "Linux is monolithic. Uuurgggghhhh. We think we can make a better microkernel. Linux shall NOT be an integral part of the GNU project."

        So we have a precedence: Linux uses GNU, but GNU (in its purest sense) does not use Linux. In which case, the name Linux/GNU would be justified, but very definitely NOT GNU/Linux.

        Yes, Linux has benefited greatly from GNU, but it's very arrogant of RMS to now say "Oh yes, we didn't want to ruin the good name of GNU by including Linux, but now Linux has turned out to be much bigger and better than we thought, so we want to cash in." He can't have it both ways- if Linux is good enough to be labelled GNU it should be the GNU kernel, otherwise leave it alone.

      • Wouldn't a better analogy be if you wrote a novel, and the person who created the book binding machines insisted that his name go on the cover of the book in front of yours, as it was his tools that made your book possible for distribution?

        Or if the developer of the word processing program insisted that their name go before the books name, as they created the tools you used to craft the book itself.

        Or your fourth grade English teacher insisting her name go up before yours because she taught you how to create sentences?

    • by Hobart (32767) on Tuesday May 21, 2002 @10:33AM (#3558189) Homepage Journal

      Debian was officially, for at least a year, the FSF-endorsed kernel for the GNU system ... ch4.html []

    • I think we all should respect RMS for his strong ethical principles. America was also born by brave men, who literally risked their lives to guarantee the future freedom of the American people. This freedom is fundamental for the capitalism that the western world is based on. I would like to question whether we see a similar pattern within the software world. I only know that just like software projects, the economic system of the world is also awefully complex. To facillitate incremental development in complex systems, freedom seems to me like a fundamental requirement.

      We need brave figures like the people in the FSF and those who support their work, and people should really visit the GNU homepages to learn about all the software they've produced. Sure, your typical linux distro typically include other software than GNU's, but without the GNU project we would not have had any freedom at all. Think about it. Where would we have been without GCC and glibc? Soon, the FSF have been fighting for 20 years to give computer users the freedom that most of us recognize is necessary for a software community to thrive. Linux have been around since 1991, and it has helped spreading free software - but people don't really recognize the root of all this software. That sad pretty sad, isn't it? By forgetting our past, we risk loosing what now have because we no longer understand how we got here in the first place. On the other hand, Linux enabled a new user experience and helped spread open source ideas. But it's questionable wether the users really understand the very roots of the system they're using. RMS wants to fix this, not to boost his ego, but to im rove the sitation for the users - and for the world - by educating us. Of course, I wouldn't mind other people as well could stand up (risking attacks on their personality) for free software so we could hear other stories and viewpoints.

      I respect the work of Debian developers (creating quality packages are a huge job!), also the work of the FSF and finally I also love the work that goes into the Linux kernel. To credit all developers, I always to my system as a Debian GNU/Linux system (at least on my homepage).

      Well, that's my insights for today. Does it make any sense to any of you out there?
  • Community Editing (Score:2, Informative)

    by BoBaBrain (215786)
    In other words:

    Ryan Amos writes "RMS has replied to the article 'The Stallman Factor', as posted on Slashdot [] about a week ago. Specifically, his reply deals with the University of Texas' SIGLinux naming fiasco and with Bitkeeper. As always with RMS, this is an interesting read."
  • by Lazy Jones (8403) on Tuesday May 21, 2002 @09:04AM (#3557573) Homepage Journal
    Copyright 2002 Richard Stallman
    Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article are permitted without royalty in any medium provided this notice is preserved.

    These look like BSDish terms to me :-)

  • Personally, I call it "Debian".

  • by inkfox (580440) on Tuesday May 21, 2002 @09:09AM (#3557599) Homepage
    Even if you don't fully agree with RMS - though I'll admit I do a lot - it's good to have the people with the extreme views about. Having someone with that rigid a mindset means it's tougher to "sneak one by." Public relations departments and lawyers will play all manner of game to try and get something extra for a company without giving anything back, just by reframing something's appearance.

    Without RMS' type around, GPL wouldn't exist in the first place. And even if someone else had invented GLP, we'd likely see GPL having been circumvented by a hundred and one different iffy technologies; compiled to intermediate pseudo machine codes, source distributed in human-unreadable shrouded form, sold at high cost, and so on. Having someone with such conviction and with an eagle eye point out every danger, no matter how small, means that nothing gets missed. And if businesses and individuals are afraid to deal with someone who gives off the air of a raving, screaming fanatic, others will carry on the real work once the points are raised.

    I support the extreme view of free software for the same reason that a large portion of my charity giving goes to PeTA. Same deal. They overstate most every case, but at least they provide visibility so people can make more informed decisions and spring to action when the events call for it.

    • by kafka93 (243640) on Tuesday May 21, 2002 @09:24AM (#3557702)
      Absolutely. We need more people who are less lukewarm, one way or the other. When Barr mentions that "You cannot force people to share your beliefs, especially a community that values freedom as much as the Linux crowd.", he is entirely missing the point -- the Linux crowd often does *not* value freedom in any meaningful sense; it professes the desire for freedom right up to the point at which 'freedom' means something other than 'freedom to use other people's work for free' or 'freedom at the expense of convenience'.

      Just as, to use your example, there are 'vegetarians' who eat chicken and fish, or people who give money to save cute fluffy animals while wearing leather jackets, there are countless Linux users who will, time and again, sacrifice their freedom for the sake of a 'better' technical product, or who will steal free software for their closed-source products. We absolutely need people who are passionate about their beliefs -- if only so that those beliefs are clear and in the open so that they can be questioned. I don't believe RMS is afraid of debate; he's more than able to support his philosophical stance because, unlike most of us, he has one. And that's an important thing.
  • Veiled threat? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by dillon_rinker (17944) on Tuesday May 21, 2002 @09:09AM (#3557608) Homepage
    From the article:

    The presence of these binary-only programs in "source" files of Linux creates a secondary problem: it calls into question whether Linux binaries can legally be redistributed at all. The GPL requires "complete corresponding source code," and a sequence of integers is not the source code

    Reading between the lines, most Linux distros are not free (speech). Most Linux distros violate the GPL. Most Linux distros are in violation of the FSF's license. Most Linux distros could be hauled into court by the FSF...but they're not. I think that speaks volumes of Stallman.

    I am reminded of the writing of Jonathan Edwards. Non-free code is as loathsome to Stallman as a poisonous spider, and he dangles it over an open flame. But RMS is a gracious genius,and does not drop the spider into the fire.

    I think he's right on the money, though, when he says that we must be very careful or we'll lose our new-found freedom. Legislation could easily place large economic burdens on free software development (liability, for example) that would not outlaw it but would make it disappear. The corporate world can afford to buy laws; we can't. We have to work to retain our freedom.
    • No the FSF can't (Score:5, Insightful)

      by dmaxwell (43234) on Tuesday May 21, 2002 @09:18AM (#3557662)
      The FSF does not AFAIK own any copyrights on the Linux kernel itself. Just because something is GPLed doesn't mean that RMS has Godlike powers to dictate terms over it. The FSF is protective of the GNU tools which they do own the copyrights on and they can indeed haul people into court over those. Making something GPL doesn't make it a part of the GNU project.
  • He whines for the entire article about stuff about Linux that he doesn't like -- the name, the use of Bitkeeper, the "non-free" parts of the kernel... if he's so down on Linux, then why doesn't he get the FSF in gear and finish up the HURD? Then he can wander off into his fantasy world and leave us alone.

    Oh, I also found it amusing that he complained of the "silly excuses and straw men," and yet failed to address the two most important reasons (IMHO) not to say "GNU/Linux": that (1) the operating system isn't all GNU, and by his logic everyone should get a mention, and (2) it sounds incredibly stupid.

    • "if he's so down on Linux, then why doesn't he get the FSF in gear and finish up the HURD"

      Oh that's a good idea. Since we the community have all sold out to non-free software, why not just go the whole way and ignore it completely.
      Go whining back to the FSF, and ask the people who write the entire GNU project to write another operating system for you, you ask? Why? Because you think linux should be non-idealogical, and you're not prepared to put in any work yourself to keep it free?

      If "share and share alike" is the mantra of the free-software community, where does that leave people who take the gift of GNU and try to twist it into something proprietry for selling?

      S.T.F.U. about hurd -- if you're going to use GNU tools, then share some of your own stuff by working to keep linux free. Otherwise you may as well go and use Novell or Microsoft software, and stop fooling yourself about how worthy your O/S is.

  • by orb (9170)
    Even if Stallman is completely off the wall here, even if he is completely unjustified and wanting people to call their systems GNU/Linux, even if he is just asserting his ego and trying to catch some publicity for GNU software and the FSF - I have a proposal.

    Why not simply do it out of deference to Stallman for the huge huge contribution that the GNU project (and Stallman in particular) has made. If anyone deserves the right to make a wacky, imposing request on our community, isn't it RMS?

    In the past I've been somewhat neutral on the issue. I think GNU deserves credit for creating the system I use every day. At the same time, I don't have a real problem referring to a system by it's OS only (linux) or by it's distro. (redhat, debian, etc..) However, the more I hear RMS the more I think maybe we should give him what he wants (even if it may seem a bit unreasonable) as a token of appreciation.

  • by dmiller (581) <> on Tuesday May 21, 2002 @09:12AM (#3557624) Homepage
    "the GNU Project starts developing an operating system, and years later Linus Torvalds adds one important piece"

    Stallman convieniently ignores the contributions made by X11, the BSD people and the many others who have worked to create the operating system I conveniently call "Linux".

    This mad grasp for recognition cheapens all the other good work that the FSF and the GNU project have done.

    • Stallman convieniently ignores the contributions made by X11

      X is not part of the operating system.

      You can choose not to install X and still have a useful, working system.

      • X is not part of the operating system.

        You can choose not to install X and still have a useful, working system.

        Absolutely right.

        Not only that, but for a long time the BSD license wasn't compatible with the GPL, so no BSD code entered the GNU project, or Linux kernel, for quite some time. That changed in later years and, IIRC, some of the excellent BSD networking code subsequently made its way into the Linux kernel. The vast majority of the Linux kernel was, however, written from scratch and not taken from any project. All of the GNU utilities were originally written from scratch, though now that the BSD license is compatible with the GPL some BSD code may have made it into other GNU projects as well.

        The GNU software, including all of the file utilities, bin utilities, compilers, assemblers, etc., ie. about 90% of what makes a basic UNIX operating systems (the kernel being the other 10%), we have because of the GNU project and, frankly, because of (here, much maligned) Richard Stallman. All he is asking is that we respect and recognize that contribution by typing an additional 4 letters when we talk about the entire operating system (GNU/Linux) and say one extra syllable.

        Are we such ungrateful wretches that we can't even be bothered to honor as simple a request as that?
  • Distorted Facts (Score:3, Interesting)

    by gmack (197796) <{ten.erifrenni} {ta} {kcamg}> on Tuesday May 21, 2002 @09:12AM (#3557625) Homepage Journal
    His whole rant about Bitkeeper is just wrong. According to Linus himself you DO NOT need bitkeeper to track kernel changes. Lnus has made every effort to make life easy for non bitkeeper users, in fact, several top level contributers don't bother with it and send the old style patches.

  • by kafka93 (243640) on Tuesday May 21, 2002 @09:13AM (#3557627)
    You can believe that RMS is pedantic about the entire GNU/Linux thing - even though the point he's arguing is a very fair one, since credit should go where it's due. You can question his politics, his sense of humour, or the wisdom of his tastes in facial hair. But it's ludicrous to equate Microsoft's "coersion" with the refusal to speak at an event that wilfully tweaks its nose at the FSF.

    Now, RMS' views on the naming of GNU/Linux are well-known, and often derired. But it *is* an important point that too much emphasis is given to the kernel, and that too many people believe Linus Torvalds was somehow responsible for the entire system. Who can blame RMS for feeling a little bitter about it - if not for his sake, then for that of all the other GNU developers whose work and effort is often trivialised? How many of us would enjoy seeing our efforts appropriated by others without due credit being given, and particularly without our beliefs - central to our reasons for developing the software in the first place - being given proper consideration?

    Far from being derided, RMS should be given respect and encouragement. It takes a certain stubbornness to stand up for what you believe in, yes, but it also takes courage and self-sacrifice. Too many people play lip-service to "free software", using it where it serves them and then forgetting about it it's convenient for them to do so. Too many people do, indeed, believe that short-term technical merit is more important than long-term freedom -- which is itself often a means towards long-term technical prowess. Give RMS his dues - he's trying to help all of us, and getting a lot of grief for it. How many of us have spent our time dealing with abuse for the sake a true moral goal, rather than personal satisfaction?
  • by _bug_ (112702) on Tuesday May 21, 2002 @09:16AM (#3557653) Journal
    Stallman should have simply gone and given a speech on this very topic to the SIGLINUX people. Instead he turned down yet another opportunity to spread his own views.

    I think he needs to learn that in some cases, you need to accept what is so that you can bring the change you want later.
    • by bkuhn (41121) on Tuesday May 21, 2002 @10:41AM (#3558231) Homepage
      [ Here's a shortened version of a comment I posted when Barr's article was originally slashdotted, that is pertinent here.

      "Change your name before I come" is RMS' personal requirement when accepting a speaking engagement. Actually, other FSF speakers often speak to groups that call themselves "Linux" groups. We ask only that the advertising and press material about our particular speech call the system, GNU/Linux.

      Of course, when I and other FSF speakers make a speech, one of the items on our agenda is to ask such groups, as a favor to the GNU project, to change their name and/or documents to say "GNU/Linux" consistently. While it is RMS' personal demand that the name change occur as a term to accept the engagement, the FSF does not, as an organization, demand such name changes. We simply request them.

      Comparing it to Microsoft's tactics is out of proportion. FSF firmly stands for free speech rights. We assert your right to call the operating system anything you like; we request as a favor that you call it GNU/Linux.

      RMS is a highly sought-after speaker. As it turns out, since he is not (nor never has been) paid a salary by the FSF, he collects speaker fees to help pay for his living expenses. As with any speaker, it's his prerogative to set the terms of his speaking engagements. Indeed, every speaker has his or her own set of requirements. (AAMOF, ESR's are available online [].) Personally, I have a rule that there must be vegetarian restaurants that someone can take me to in the towns I visit. Of course, FSF doesn't take a position on vegetarianism, but it's a personal need of mine that I can't ignore---even when I am speaking on behalf of FSF.

      While RMS won't come to speak for your group if it's called a "Linux" group, I'd be happy to come, as would many of the other FSF speakers []. While I am there, I am, of course, going to ask you to change the name of the group. But, please note the key point here: just because RMS sets a personal rule doesn't mean it is ipso facto FSF policy.

      While it is RMS' personal demand that the name change occur as a term to accept the engagement, the FSF does not, as an organization, demand such name changes. We simply request them.

      Bradley M. Kuhn [mailto], Executive Director of the FSF

  • Oh no, not again! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jht (5006) on Tuesday May 21, 2002 @09:20AM (#3557670) Homepage Journal
    Most folks seem to agree with the basic premise that without the GNU toolset, there would be no Linux. But given that the HURD has been coming "real soon now" for around a decade or so, without Linux there would be no GNU system, either. Linux isn't about politics for the most part. It's about a technically superior OS that relies on being Free to help it be the best it can be. Free Software is both a technical and a political cause. Software is better when it's Free, but there are two separate reasons why it's better. Only one is the political side that the FSF stands squarely behind.

    The people who package the Linux kernel with the GNU system and all the other tools and goodness to produce a distro are free to call it whatever they want. Some call it GNU/Linux, some call it Linux. Whatever. Some use only Free code in their distro, some use non-Free, and the marketplace of users can use whatever they want. Nowadays, of course, much of the code in a distro has no direct connection to GNU anyhow (Xfree86 and KDE aren't the GNU system, and that's where a ton of code lies). But that's besides the point, I guess.

    Of course, all the BSD's use pretty much the whole GNU system as well, and you don't see him whining about calling them GNU/BSD. This is yet another reason why I think RMS is, deep down inside, just being pissy about Linus' kernel having become the kernel of choice instead of the masses' waiting for HURD.

    If RMS and the FSF want to use the name so badly, build an "official" FSF GNU/Linux distro. Heck, save time - use Debian.
    • by Alan Cox (27532)
      I have to completely disagree here. Free unix work existed before GNU and did not rely on GNU tools. There were plenty of other sources of tools than GNU, and there indeed still are. There were other x86 C compilers, (indeed Linux 8086 uses bcc) and everything else needed.

      Neither did Richard exactly invent the free software movement it goes back years before him. What he did is very important - the GPL, the community stuff, articulating the actual message.
    • Most folks seem to agree with the basic premise that without the GNU toolset, there would be no Linux

      This is NOT the point.

      The thing I finally realized reading this article by RMS is that he's not just talking about a compiler (or toolset), but rather the whole GNU system,- and that's NOT just a bunch of software, but also the politics behind it, best described by the GPL!

      Without the GNU compiler, Linux could have still existed, there _are_ other compilers/editors out there. BUT, without the GPL license it would not be what it has become. And THAT is what's important, and why GNU deserves, or rather NEEDS credit.

      I feel that RMS is not so much personally pissy about not getting credit, but rather wants more emphasis on the 'political' background that was instrumental in creating this piece of software. Torvalds did not write Linux alone, and without the GPL a lot of folks would not have contributed. It's important that people realize that.

      I strongly believe that it's not a matter that GNU DESERVES credit, but rather NEEDS the credit, in order for people to understand the significance of Free Software. Or more, how that's what enabled the creation of such a piece of software.

      Think of this: M$ would think twice before ripping out a large portion of Linux to include it into one of their closed source projects. Is this because Torvalds is such a dangerous guy, or because of the strength of the GPL?
  • by ctid (449118) on Tuesday May 21, 2002 @09:22AM (#3557685) Homepage
    A summary of this issue:

    1. Stallman is invited to speak at a user group
    2. He declines and explains why he declined, namely the issue of calling the OS Linux or GNU/Linux
    3. He gets called to task by Joe Barr for his explanation, not for declining to speak at a particular location.
    4. Stallman responds to Barr's article and cites the Bitkeeper situation as an example of the difference between people in our community who see things like him and people who are more pragmatic

      And a prediction:

    5. Furore on Slashdot

    I drew up this list because I know I'm going to get annoyed at the RMS-bashing that will surely follow. Many of the bashers won't even bother to read the article, because it is long and requires some effort to follow. I present this summary so that people understand that it is not just about RMS seeking credit. He makes a cogent and logical distinction between his point of view and (eg) Linus's point of view, and gives an example of why he thinks his own principles are important. You don't need to agree with him, but simply insulting him is unacceptable if our community is to continue to move forward.

  • by rknop (240417) on Tuesday May 21, 2002 @09:22AM (#3557688) Homepage

    Sure, many of the tools and core libraries we're running on top of our Linux kernels are GNU based.

    But look at anybody running Linux today. What's the first thing you see on their screen? An X sesson; maybe it's running Gnome or KDE, but there's an X session there enabling your desktop. XFree86 is a seriously nontrivial bit of code. So why should the kernel, or the system libraries and tools, be annoited over X? If we're gonna call it GNU/Linux, we also need to call it GNU/XFree86/Linux, to be fair.

    Of course it doesn't stop there. You go ad absurdum.

    Let's face it. It's a giant collaborative effort. Each individual piece is a giant collaborative effort, indeed, but no one of those pieces lives without any of the others.

    Why do we call it Linux? Because that was the cruical bit that allowed it finally to stand alone. Many of us were running lots of GNU tools on Solaris and other OSes before Linux (because we liked them better than the default versions). But that OS was still called Solaris, not GNU/Solaris. The true phase change came about when we could ditch Solaris alltogether because of this new Linux kernel thing. That is historically why we call it Linux. Is it completely fair? No. But that's what it's called.

    While RMS's arguments are right, I think that they are very unwise. He would get a lot more mileage out of just embracing the name "Linux", and then trying to help ensure that it stands for what he wants it to stand for. I'm with him on the worries about nonfree software in the Linux kernel; that's the kind of politics that I'm not ready to turn a blind eye to. But his spitting and fussing over the naming makes him look like a spoiled kid in the sandbox who wants everybody to remember "even if you play with it, this toy is MINE!!!" instead of somebody who is trying to push forward the important arguments.

    RMS: stick to your guns (or your gnus) with what's important. A name is not important. If it's not too late, embrace and extend the name Linux.


    • But look at anybody running Linux today. What's the first thing you see on their screen? An X sesson...

      Not on a server. You know, all those HTTP and Samba servers out there? The initial footholds for (GNU/)Linux in many companies? And there are even a few people out there running personal machines without X.

      (Really, you can get stuff done without it. Way back when - 10 or 15 years ago, when Linux was just a gleam in Linus's eye but GNU was already on the march - we had these things called "terminals"...)

      Dammit, I'm really peeved that so many people in this thread keep getting this wrong.



  • by dhanav (313625) on Tuesday May 21, 2002 @09:25AM (#3557709) Journal
    I think equating RMS to M$ for him refusing to speak to a group of users with whom he disagrees is very wrong.
    We may not disagree with his ideas on totally free systems and his desire to use only free software. It may also not be possible for most of us professionals to use totally free software all the time, but we must also take care to respect RMS's views and his freedom to speak or rather refuse to speak and his right to have and preech his ideas.
  • by phunhippy (86447) <> on Tuesday May 21, 2002 @09:28AM (#3557734) Journal
    So hes complaining(possibly rightly, thats a whole other issue) that its not called GNU/Linux and declines to speak to groups not using that...

    But the article he writes in response is posted on a site called and not

    I find that amusing..

  • by Outland Traveller (12138) on Tuesday May 21, 2002 @09:35AM (#3557790)
    I think the best point RMS makes is his insistance that social issues, such as licensing, use of proprietary tools, be weighed as or more heavily as technical issues.

    I agree with him that it is a shame that the kernel is managed with bitkeeper, instead of an open source alternative. If the GNU project has done one thing well, it is that he has proven beyond a doubt that that free software can be superior to proprietary software.

    There's no reason CVS can't be improved, or alternative efforts such as subversion put on the fast track. By choosing bitkeeper over these alternatives, Linux kernel development is missing an important opportunity to focus talent into these free tools. Some would argue that this is socially irresponsible, and I agree.

    If the GNU project has done a second thing well, it is that GNU has shown that free software is better for society than proprietary software. At least some of world *will* be a better place if more software is free. A vision like RMS's takes great effort to realize in our world. Along with reaping the benefits of others work comes the responsibility to give back to future generations. Linux kernel developers, as a high-profile group, bear an even greater social responsibility than others.

    Many developers conveniently ignore social issues to absolve themselves of responsibility. All I can say that social responsibility is a good and important, and selfishness and shortsightedness is not. People should strive to be their best, all the time.

    The naming issue is the more minor one at stake here... Obviously it is easier to say "Linux" than "GNU/Linux", and it's not clear this particular battle is worth fighting if there are better alternatives. I agree with RMS that the GNU project should get front page credit along with Linux for their mutual success, but I hope for everyone's sake that there can be open negotiation on how this credit can happen in other ways than the nomenclature "GNU/Linux".

    Massive karma points for anyone who can mediate a solution to this one.
    • There's no reason CVS can't be improved, or alternative efforts such as subversion put on the fast track. By choosing bitkeeper over these alternatives, Linux kernel development is missing an important opportunity to focus talent into these free tools. Some would argue that this is socially irresponsible, and I agree.

      In other words, you would like the technical aspects of kernel development to be dictated by political concerns, rather than technical ones. That's the kind of thinking that suits RMS and PHBs, not kernel developers.

      He's already stated that he will use a free alternative which is as good as BitKeeper. Should Linus have to put the kernel on hold and develop such a thing, just to please RMS?

  • by nagora (177841) on Tuesday May 21, 2002 @09:46AM (#3557849)
    "Just consider: the GNU Project starts developing an operating system, and years later Linus Torvalds adds one important piece.

    Ie, the actual operating system!

    Stallman's claims are that he doesn't get enough credit. How many people DON'T know of his involvement and what he did? There may be some small tribes in the Amazon, I suppose.

    The next one is that the system should be called GNU/Linux because of all the work he did on, wait for it, programs that run on it. Well, woop-de-fuck. The programs in question were reverse-engineered from the Unix utilities that many of them share their names with. Should the writers and designers of the original utilities not get credit? Should we call the system "Unix/GNU/Luinx"? Get real.

    Stallman claims that Linux is "The system is a variant of GNU, and the GNU Project is its principal developer,". Always lie big, or don't lie at all, eh? Linux is a varient of Unix and GNU is a supplier of application programs for it.

    Linux is the kernel. Redhat is a distribution, GNU is a software house. How hard are these to understand?

    The most hateful thing about RMS is that, when he's off the subject of his ego, he is right most of the time. Linus' dismissal of concerns about Bitkeeper is foolish and there is a broader issue at stake when non-free software is used. But these issues are clouded by RMS' ability to talk utter shite about giving GNU more credit when it is already a living legend!

    The cause of free software would be greatly helped if Stallman would just fuck off. We need rational argument, not rabid ego-stroking.


    • They did not add the OS, they added the kernel. Big difference. Remove all of the GNU tools and what can you do with the kernel?? What shell would you use??

      If the FSF had really been like M$, they would have sold the GNU tools to pay for HURD development and released the Hurd as "Linux XP".

      The kernel != the OS. If God makes the body, and the Devil makes the feet, do we worship the devil for creating man?? If GOD makes the body and the devil the brain??

      Linux the kernel would not have been born without the FSF. Their history of internet development, their principles of shared source, and their guiding principles have kept Linux on track. Without the FSF Linux would probably be lockedaway in a room at IBM even had it managed to get finished.

      To Stallman this becomes bigger than it needs to be because Linus has no moral center when it comes to the world of Proprietary software. This is most likely because he never lived in a world where software was free.

      The environmentalist looks at a subdivision and says "I wonder if anybody remembers when this was all just open land..." Stallman remembers when it was all just information, free and open.

      "Linux is the kernel. Redhat is a distribution, GNU is a software house. How hard are these to understand?"

      The stupidity of this statement lies in the fact that you have incorrectly id'ed the kernel as the OS. I assume that you consider yourself technically literate, so why do you confuse the kernel with the OS?? So continue to lionize Torvalds while demonizing Stallman if you must, but time will tell who was the true champion of the cause.

      And for all of the "GNU couldn't exist without Linux" people out there, without "gcc" Linux couldn't compile. How much success could Torvalds had without a C compiler?? Glibc, BASH, etc... So all the GNU did was produce the necessary tools, and this distracted them from creating a next generation kernel. Meanwhile some guy does a this-generation Monolithic kernel faster (of course) and he's the great hero of the day.

      There are two sides to every story, but don't even know one of them.

      • They did not add the OS, they added the kernel. Big difference.

        Nope, no difference. The idea that the kernel is not the OS is a myth passed around in recent years without any explanation; it's just assumed that if you say it loud and often it will become true. It doesn't.

        The origin of this myth seems to be the idea that in a sea of API's, the ones exported by the kernel are just nothing special, the whole ensemble is the OS. This is certainly MS's argument in court.

        Of course, it doen't hold water. The OS is the kernel for the simple reason that if you remove it nothing else works. The kernel sits astride the OS/User barrier and controls all access across it in a way no other API does. What other part of what you call the OS can you say that of?

        What is it that you say distinguishes a non-kernel OS component from a non-kernel, non-OS component, the touch of the magic finger of RMS?

        Remove all of the GNU tools and what can you do with the kernel??

        Bad news for you on this one. I program in Forth on my Linux machine at home and I don't need any GNU tools to do so. I don't link to any libraries and I only access even IO through the kernel. I wrote the Forth compiler myself using NASM and ald for debugging; neither are GNU tools.

        In 25 years of programming I've never written a C or C++ program, although of course I have compiled them. I use Perl (not GNU), Forth (not GNU), and PHP (not GNU) for almost all my work now. Not because I'm avoiding GNU tools (I sometimes use Sed) but I just don't need them. Even programs like "uniq", "chmod" and "ls" have started to be replaced by my own Forth version on my system, just for the practice.

        If GNU is part of the OS how could this possibly be? How can I write fully functioning programs without using GNU components, and why is it I can't do that with the kernel missing? It's almost as if the GNU stuff was just a bunch of apps!

        What shell would you use??


        A Linux system always includes GNU tools, just as it always includes TeX (not GNU), which I use for all my document production now, from letters to setting my Forth code and comment blocks neatly onto pages for listing. Does this mean that it's now Knuth/GNU/Linux?

        If the FSF had really been like M$, they would have sold the GNU tools to pay for HURD development and released the Hurd as "Linux XP".

        Lack of money was not the problem for Hurd, it was lack of talent in the sense that no talent on Earth would have been enough to take it out of the realm of myth in any realistic timescale.

        The kernel != the OS. If God makes the body, and the Devil makes the feet, do we worship the devil for creating man?? If GOD makes the body and the devil the brain??

        This is the first time I've seen fantasy beings invoked as an argument in CS! I'll ignore it and hope you've sobered up by the time you read this.

        Linux the kernel would not have been born without the FSF.

        This is true. But then it's true that GNU would not have existed without Unix and Bell Labs. So we're up to "BellLabs/Knuth/GNU/Linux" now. That's progress: everyone's getting their due credit.

        Without the FSF Linux would probably be lockedaway in a room at IBM even had it managed to get finished.

        True. But it assumes that nothing else would have taken its place. Like BSD, for example. GNU was used, but it didn't have to be.

        To Stallman this becomes bigger than it needs to be because Linus has no moral center when it comes to the world of Proprietary software.

        This is also almost true. I think that actually it becomes bigger to RMS because he's lost all sense of proportion on the subject, but Linus is definitely ethically adrift.

        The stupidity of this statement lies in the fact that you have incorrectly id'ed the kernel as the OS.

        There is no evidence that I have seen, other than what passes for it in MS's court cases, that there is anything outside of the kernel which is part of the OS. Simply waving at some programs and saying "that's OS" and others and saying "that's an application" is not good enough. In fact it is bullshit.

        I assume that you consider yourself technically literate, so why do you confuse the kernel with the OS??

        I am clearly more technically literate than yourself and less prone to be blinded by buzzwords that have no meaning.

        So continue to lionize Torvalds while demonizing Stallman if you must,

        It's becoming increasingly clear that both are arseholes of the highest order. Clearly, being an arsehole doesn't get in the way of technical ability.

        but time will tell who was the true champion of the cause.

        Well, Stallman is of course. At least he was but his incredible ability to annoy those who would otherwise support him, apparently to feed his ego, is undermining that cause. Fatally if he continues in this way.

        And for all of the "GNU couldn't exist without Linux" people out there,

        All two of them...

        without "gcc" Linux couldn't compile.

        Circular logic. Linux is written for gcc, including some bugs and quirks. If gcc had not existed then it would have been written for and around some other compiler.

        So all the GNU did was produce the necessary tools, and this distracted them from creating a next generation kernel.

        You sad, sad man. Saint Stallman slaving away at these tools all day thinking "I wish I could get on with my next generation kernel, but that bastard Torvalds just won't let the pressure up for a new version of AWK".

        The fact that the majority of the GNU tools were in place when Linus started rather undermines this particular work of fiction.

        Meanwhile some guy does a this-generation Monolithic kernel faster (of course) and he's the great hero of the day.

        Of course you are using loaded language. It's not at all clear that the micro-kernel is "next-generation" as opposed to "dead-end waste of time". If we'd waited for Hurd Unix would be dead and there would be no machines running any GNU tools anywhere.

        There are two sides to every story, but don't even know one of them.

        I know many sides to this story and I've been involved in the industry long enough to have seen how stories grow and develop into myths and legends with only a passing resemblance to the original truth. The whole Hurd thing has been a fiasco from start to the present day. Have you used it? Do you actually know anyone that has? Do you know when it will be ready for running OpenOffice on?


    • Stallman's claims are that he doesn't get enough credit.

      Stallman's claim is that GNU doesn't get enough credit.

      And for people who keep saying "HuH HuH What about GNU/XFree86/Linux/Apache... OH DAMN IM SO SMART", XFree86 is part of the GNU system. The GNU system is a bunch of stuff from a bunch of different groups. Not all of it written by the GNU Project members and not all of it is copyrighted under the GPL. It's not even very hard to find RMS saying this himself [].

      Developing a whole system is a very large project. To bring it into reach, I decided to adapt and use existing pieces of free software wherever that was possible. For example, I decided at the very beginning to use TeX as the principal text formatter; a few years later, I decided to use the X Window System rather than writing another window system for GNU.

      Because of this decision, the GNU system is not the same as the collection of all GNU software. The GNU system includes programs that are not GNU software, programs that were developed by other people and projects for their own purposes, but which we can use because they are free software.

      The incredible irony is that Stallman should have just called GNU + Linux by the common name "The GNU System". He was already calling XFree86 + GCC + TeX by the name "The GNU System" and nobody complained about that. But instead Stallman recognised the huge contribution that the Linux kernel provided to the GNU system and graciously called it the GNU/Linux system instead of just the GNU system.

      I get the impression that the people who insult RMS - like you - simply don't understand what he's saying. Admittedly RMS is not a very good communicator of his ideas but ingrates like you don't make it any easier.

  • by Kiwi (5214) on Tuesday May 21, 2002 @09:46AM (#3557853) Homepage Journal
    sorry about the second posting; I just learned that Slashdot's posting code doesn't like &s

    Before I discovered the internet and the software libre there, computing was plain simply not interesting to me. I felt that software had become corporate, and that all software was only coming out of large corporations. It was a world of computing where indivual programmers could not make any kind of meaningful contribution. Computers were essentially fancy typewriters. This is the end result of a world using entirely proprietary software.

    If RMS had not started the GNU project in the 1980s, that is how things may have stayed. It was getting on the interent, and seeing that there was a large corpus of software out there for which the source code was available which made computing interesting for me again.

    I can tell you this much: Linux would not have been possible in 1991 if RMS had not laid the foundation for GNU/Linux in the 1980s. Maybe BSD would have taken Linux's place; however BSD may not have bothered fighting AT&T for the rights to their source code if RMS vision for software libre did not exist at that time.

    Without RMS, Linux would be at least five years behind where it is now. Remember that before flaming him.

    The change from libre software to proprietary software in the 1970s started slowly; when RMS sees Linux becoming proprietary in little ways, I can see why he is concerned.

    - Sam

    • You give RMS way too much credit.

      I was using free software back in 1982, primarily Ward Christensen's Modem7 but other programs as well. This continued on through my later years playing with Commodore computers... typing in programs published in Compute, Compute's Gazette, RUN and so forth. A few years later I bought Fred Fish collection floppies for my Amiga and had a wealth of additional free programs to use.

      Later in '92 I begun to use Linux. It wasn't until then, well actually probably more like six months after I started to use Linux, that I even heard of GNU or Richard Stallman. You see, I was so used to free software that I never even bothered to read the license agreement for Linux.

      So that's 10 years of my using, contributing, and being involved in a free software community without the name of Richard Stallman ever appearing.

      Now maybe it's true that Linux wouldn't have come about without gcc. Maybe it would have been different, hard to say.

      But don't think for a minute that BSD wouldn't have fought AT&T to gain redistributable rights. On this point you give RMS entirely too much credit.

      The vision of free software existed before RMS, it existed in parallel with RMS, and it exists despite RMS. RMS's vision is really quite meaningless in the whole big world of free software. Rather, if anything, it has been damaging to the cause with his anti-commercialism.

      The only reason we even talk about the GPL today is because a man by the name of Linus Torvalds made the decision to release Linux under that license. If he had not, GNU would be irrelevant. Without that kernel there would be no OS, there would be no distribution that was nearly entirely based off of GNU pieces. Without that kernel no further work would have proceeded on GNU projects. Without the popularity given to GNU from that kernel, RMS would now be a small footnote on a web page somewhere.

      It's a chicken and egg scenario. Both are dependent upon on another.

      Please don't feed the egos.
  • Stallman Is Right (Score:4, Flamebait)

    by looie (9995) <> on Tuesday May 21, 2002 @10:10AM (#3558032) Homepage
    To all the genius-level deep thinkers who are dissing RMS: put your code where your mouths are. Get every bit of GNU software off your systems. Then see what your "linux" system is worth. Sure, you can get by without gcc, gimp, gnome, ncurses, emacs, bash. But you can start by getting glibc off your systems. And after you delete it, reboot.

    Idiots. There is no "linux" without GNU. Not only does GNU software provide the bedrock on which the system rests, GNU and the FSF provides the intellectual framework on which rests the whole conception of a "free" operating system. If it wasn't for the FSF and RMS, you wouldn't have "linux," period.

    But don't worry. Nobody really expects any of you to actually DO anything in defense of free software. It's clear enough that with you folks, it's all take and no give.


    • by sl33py (308912)

      To all the genius-level deep thinkers who are dissing RMS: put your code where your mouths are. Get every bit of GNU software off your systems. Then see what your "linux" system is worth.

      I use BSD mainly. Should it be called 'GNU/BSD' if I like to use Emacs? What do I do when I use gcc in favor of cc? Do I have to call it something different when I use Berkely make, then rename it when I use gmake?

      NOBODY is disputing RMS's contribution to the cause. What is being disputed is his sense of entitlement and his attempts to brand Linux under the strictures of his definition and his definition only.

    • by Jorrit (19549)
      And what about all the non-GNU system in Linux? Like XFree for example. I wouldn't consider Linux useful without XFree. But that doesn't mean I don't have to call the OS GNU/XConsortium/Linux does it?

      Linux is just a name. What a fuss on a name...

    • Re:Stallman Is Right (Score:3, Informative)

      by blakestah (91866)
      Get every bit of GNU software off your systems. Then see what your "linux" system is worth. Sure, you can get by without gcc, gimp, gnome, ncurses, emacs, bash. But you can start by getting glibc off your systems. And after you delete it, reboot.

      Ncurses doesn't use a GNU license. It uses an MIT style license. []
    • by OWJones (11633) on Tuesday May 21, 2002 @03:57PM (#3560700)

      [ dig dig dig ]
      Oooh, I do have troll food with me. Lucky me! :)

      To all the genius-level deep thinkers who are dissing RMS: put your code where your mouths are. Get every bit of GNU software off your systems. Then see what your "linux" system is worth. Sure, you can get by without gcc, gimp, gnome, ncurses, emacs, bash. But you can start by getting glibc off your systems. And after you delete it, reboot.

      I drive a Saturn. Actually it might be a GM/Saturn. I tried to just drive a plain Saturn, but a GM rep told me the engine in my car was built by GM, and that if I wanted to just drive (*chuckle*) a plain Saturn I should try taking the engine out and using it.

      So then I coasted in a GM/Saturn. Actually maybe it's a Firestone/GM/Saturn. I tried to just coast in the plain GM/Saturn, but a Firestone rep told me that my car was actually a Firestone/GM/Saturn, and to prove it he took the wheels off my car and told me to take it for a drive.

      I was in awe of their intellectual and moral high ground.

      But don't worry. Nobody really expects any of you to actually DO anything in defense of free software. It's clear enough that with you folks, it's all take and no give.

      Ooooh, you know me so well! I'm a leech. I scavenge for free stuff and claim it as my own. In fact, I wrote the above post just so I could respond to it and satisfy my multiple personalities.

      I admire the FSF and the GNU project and RMS's foresight. I actually donate money to the FSF now and again. I just wish he (and some others) would get the bug out of their ass and let people call it what they will. I use "Linux". I happen to use GNU tools when I run "Linux". But it's just that: "Linux". In fact, I'm feeling childish enough that it bears repeating: Linux. Linux linux linux.



      PS. Linux.

  • Here's where I see an inconsistency with RMS:

    He wants all software to be free. This is a simplified statement, but let it go for now. For the sake of this argument, I'm going to look at the free beer aspect of it. Wanting software to be free implies that he writes software for the sake of writing software, not for the paycheck. This implies that a successful build is its own reward (the satisfaction of contributing free software to the world justifies the work that is put in to it). In essence, GNU/Linux is a selfless, generous act for the benfit of the world at large.

    Now considering the above, let's make some more implications: RMS wants the world to benefit from good software more than he wants to make money from it. That means personal gains is not his goal. Why, then, is it important that the OS have the acronym "GNU" in it? Shouldn't it be good enough that people are using it? If the software is free as in speech, should restrictions be placed on our speech when referring to it? "You may use this free (beer|speech) software, but only if you say 'GNU' every time you say Linux." If we're really free to do whatever we want to do with that source code, we should also be able to call it whatever we want. If I want to make a small modification to the OS and redistribute it, do I have to call it "GNU/Linux"? I should be able to rebrand it as "Rotten Cottage Cheese" if I want.

    I think RMS is focusing too much on securing a spot in history, when he should just be glad his art is appreciated. Besides, if you make your product name tough to say (newbies may not know how to pronounce it), people won't say it. If nobody mentions it by name, its popularity won't grow. If he focused this energy towards improving the OS, wouldn't that be better than harrassing the user base? LOTS of people who contributed to the OS don't get to choose the name of the OS.

  • Lignux. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by neo (4625) on Tuesday May 21, 2002 @10:23AM (#3558121)
    Stallman feels that an opererating system is more than just a kernal, and he's right. But his entire history is based on using other peoples code to shortcut building "GNU" programs. He freely admits that he has used other's code to make his own, but since they don't have organizations with acronyms, I guess they are less deserving of title space.

    Linux did the same thing. GNU assumes that anything touched by GNU is GNU, but that's hypocritical. How many additions to GNU have been made in the name of Linux? Perhaps GNU should be changing it's name.

    To Lignux.
  • by loonix_gangsta (517305) on Tuesday May 21, 2002 @11:04AM (#3558428)
    Many of you are wrongly (and sarcastically) making the point that since XFree86 is part of many distributions then instead of prepending GNU alone, you should also prepend XFree86.

    You are missing the point here. XFree86 is packaged independently in many GNU/Linux distributions, but it is not an inherent part of the system that you call Linux.

    Linux the kernel is minimally distributed with either GNU components or GNU add-ons. Further, it requires GNU packages in order for it to work. This is the distribution that should be called GNU/Linux. Try not to confuse yourselves, will you?

  • What's in a name? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Kismet (13199) <pmccombs AT acm DOT org> on Tuesday May 21, 2002 @11:15AM (#3558501) Homepage
    I bought a Daimler/Chrysler/Dodge vehicle once. Found out it had Mitsubishi pieces in it.

    During WWII Stalin said the Ilyushin IL-2 was as necessary to the army as bread an water, but everyone called these planes Sturmoviks.

    When I take a business trip, I often fly on a 757. Most people couldn't tell you it was made by Boeing.

    And whose work is the so called "Space Shuttle?"

    I once cracked open a Compaq monitor, only to find some components from Texas Instruments.

    You know that bargain tissue you can buy at the grocery store? I call it "Kleenex" even though it wasn't made by Kimberly Clark.

    People say Windows all the time without mentioning Microsoft. I sometimes use Windows.

    The "PC" was an IBM idea. Used to be IBM PC, if you remember. Now we just have PCs.

    I know a man with a legislative award for discovering cyclooxygenase 2, but I don't see his name on Vioxx or Celebrex.

    Flavored water with sugar in it is Kool Aid.

    Plywood used to be called "Prest Wood" after its brand name.

    There is no provision in the GPL to prefix your system with "GNU" if it happens to use pieces that belong to the GNU project.

    The Linux Kernel doesn't belong to the GNU project. Nor does XFree86, nor Apache, nor Perl...

    I'll take freedom over GNU/Freedom.
  • by TellarHK (159748) <> on Tuesday May 21, 2002 @11:24AM (#3558579) Homepage Journal
    And that subject pretty much sums it up. What Stallman is fighting for is brand awareness, to get the word out to people that it's the GNU project, which he holds perhaps -too- near and dear to his heart, that did in the long run make it all possible. Unfortunately, he's allowed this matter to get so tightly wound up in his psyche that he's failing to see how this can be turned to his own benefit. The GNU project tools and contributions can be turned into a "brand name" with or without forcing people to refer to it as GNU/Linux or anything else. That's a really bad precedent to set. If Microsoft were doing it with Visual Studio, we'd all be screaming and wanting to nail Bill Gates with a pie, or worse. As it is, we see ".net" being used as marketing hype in itself.

    What Stallman should do, in my not-so-humble-before-lunch opinion is start a campaign of GNU brand awareness. Put together a low-zealotry webpage explaining what GNU has contributed, without being self-congratulatory. Add a link to this page someplace in the documents for GNU project software. Ask - don't demand - that Linux distributions help and promote the GNU project's contributions. I'm sure that almost all the major distributions will bend over backward to help GNU become more recognized as long as they aren't forced. One major thing is that by trying to tack GNU onto Linux is that recognition of anything GNU does that isn't Linux-related will plummet. That's just how people work.

    What's been happening now is simply counter productive. I know more about RMS through these Linux / GNU/Linux debates than I ever did through his actions in writing software. Linux has been dubbed Linux by the media, and if -anyone- thinks they can get all the media outlets to refer to it as GNU/Linux they're sorely mistaken. Linux by itself has become a recognized word in everyday life, even my parents know it. Fighting something like that is just going to get you frustrated because it can't be changed by force.

    Take the long view, Richard. Make GNU a symbiotic lifeform with Linux in a way beyond the code, but don't try and force yourself on it like the borg. That's who we're fighting against.
  • by Rogerborg (306625) on Tuesday May 21, 2002 @11:46AM (#3558742) Homepage

    Stallman asserted two things: that the FSF uses absolutely no non-free software. He then said that the Linux kernel contained non-free (as he defines it) software, and that a long term goal is to come up with a completely free Linux kernel.

    So, he's saying that nobody involved with the FSF uses a Linux kernel at the moment, right? Right?

    I mean, given that he makes a personal attack against Linus for valuing pragmatism over ideals, and makes it clear that no compromise is acceptable, ever, then it would be breaktakingly hypocritical of him to decry Linux as non-free while at the same time actually making use of it, right?


  • win/win for RMS (Score:4, Interesting)

    by wfrp01 (82831) on Tuesday May 21, 2002 @12:19PM (#3559035) Journal
    Wether people choose to say "GNU/Linux" or just "Linux", it seems to me that RMS's campaign for the GNU/Linux name is having the desired effect. The very fact that it inflames so many passionate discussions puts GNU in the forefront of people's conciousness - whether they go along with the name or not. It's really not the name that's important. If we take RMS's words at face value, the reason he wants people to use the name is to make people conscious of the free software philosophy. The more people rail about whether the name should be GNU/Linux or Linux, the more successful RMS's campaign becomes.
  • by PhilHibbs (4537) <> on Tuesday May 21, 2002 @02:11PM (#3559859) Homepage Journal
    Couldn't they change their name to "Society Interested in Gnu/LINUX", and use the natural abbreviation "SIGLINUX"?
  • by 10Ghz (453478) on Tuesday May 21, 2002 @03:41PM (#3560562)
    ...towards projects that don't happen to be his pet-projects. I mean, he seems to be hostile towards Linux (and Linus). It seems to me that he's annoyed by the fact that Linux came along and stole the thunder that was reserved for his pet-project: HURD. Well, Stallman and FSF has no-one but themselves to blame. They have been working on HURD for as long as I can remember, and it's still unfinished!

    Another example is KDE. There used to be genuine reason for him to be annoyed, but those reasons have been corrected. KDE is GPL-compliant. Yet he seems to be rather hostile towards KDE. His biased towards Gnome (the official GNU Desktop) is rather obvious.

    It seems to me that he's negative towards software-projects that compete with official GNU-projects (Linux vs. HURD, KDE vs. Gnome). One would think that RMS would be happy when GPL-software gets more popular, but his ego seems to get in the way. He wants HIS projects to succeed, not some other projects. And if he can't beat that other project, he then insists that The Mark of GNU must be placed on that project (Linux is beating HURD, so he insists that Linux gets named GNU/Linux). I bet if KDE started to show sings of killing Gnome, RMS would insist that KDE get's renamed to GDE (GNU Desktop Environment) or something similar.

    As to the naming of Linux... I will keep on calling it "Linux", thank you very much. If I need to separate the kernel from the OS, I will talk about "The Linux Kernel". Nothing in the GPL suggests that it must be named after the GNU-project. I might have started to call it GNU/Linux, but RMS's foaming-at-the-mouth attitude has turned me away from his suggestions.

  • BitKeeper vs CVS (Score:3, Interesting)

    by hackus (159037) on Tuesday May 21, 2002 @03:54PM (#3560683) Homepage
    I can't see why the Linux kernel is not using CVS.

    Technically, could someone point out the reasons?

    Mozilla is far larger I believe than the Linux kernel, has a vast array of CVS hookups readily available for coordinating even the most complex relationships with developers.

    Has Linus ever stated exactly the technical details of why cvs is not used? I know Linux many times uses and does things according to his preference, with debatable excuses for using a particular algorithm or code for one thing, or a particular piece of software for development.

    Exactly what preferences did he use personally to apply the use of Bitkeeper over CVS?

  • by rakslice (90330) <rakslice&gmx,net> on Tuesday May 21, 2002 @11:07PM (#3563355) Homepage Journal
    Mr. Stallman lives on a planet where non-free software is predominant. But, in this light, isn't it a bit strange that he hasn't yet commited suicide to avoid futher compromising his ideological position?

    Of course not! If Mr. The Sane was not around, who would be left to make retaliatory ad hominem attacks about minor ideologial transgressions against aspiring Free Software authors who do not go out of their way to make sure that the GNU project gets the credit that (RMS feels) it deserves?

    Hey, Stallman!: Linus Torvalds does not produce a GNU/Linux distribution. What would you have him do? a) Rename his kernel? b) Jump up and down and wave his arms at distribution producers? c) Quack like a duck?

    If the credit is due to you, isn't the handwaving your job? Why should Torvalds do it for you? You imply that he has usurped your credit; however, he names no distributions... Does he steal your credit simply be existing? Or write software? Or hold a different ideological position? How dare he do those things!

    I apologize in advance for any rantishness apparent in the following. I've tried my best to avoid that; I support Free Software proper, but I'm not sure if I support Stallman's methods.

    Most seem to agree... Referring to a GNU/Linux OS without the "GNU" is not the same thing as crediting Torvalds for its production. Indeed, these two matters are unrelated. If some are misled to believe that the Linux kernel is its primary component of a distribution, simply because "Linux" appears in its name, that is their failing, not the distribution namer's, and certainly not Mr. Torvalds'.

    It's just a name, dammit! What difference does it make what the name is? "To make that name appear justified, they must see molehills as mountains and mountains as molehills." This quote from you is especially appropriate, as it as much to the name to which you refer, as to your quest to seek renaming.

    My $0.02 theory:

    Okay, you refuse to give speeches for organizations that do not call GNU/Linux distributions by names that you feel are appropriate. And if this naming issue was really about credit assigned to the GNU project, then your position would most definitely be retributive. But, as you say, it isn't, because it's not about credit at all.

    What is it about? It's about you doing whatever is in your power to ensure that messages endorsing free software are maximized, and messages endorsing non-free software are minimized. You want free advertising, plain and simple. You may feel that your ideological vision could spread over enough time without you having to pull a Daffy Duck, but that's irrelevant, because it would take longer. You're not afraid of borrowing big non-free-software's strategy and starting a public endoctrination campaign about software licensing on the back of revenues from successful products. So, you will attempt to hitch a ride on the popularity of GNU-containing OSes. Never mind that distribution creators have already followed (and promoted) your license; never mind that at best you remained indifferent to their efforts, and at worst you were actively kicking and screaming and dragging your heels over ideological differences; their distributions contain your software, so they must owe you [insert something more here] (e.g. primary credit), and you can use that to shoehorn them into changing their names to promote your vision. But why, then, does the Linux community laugh at you when you try to fly your flag on the masts of their ships? [Why? I don't know... He's on third base, and I don't give a darn!]

    Oops. I've gone and done it. I said "Linux community". Now, I was talking about the community of Linux kernel users, of course. And since there are no Non-GNU Linux OSes, that must mean that all the OSes I'm talking about are GNU-based OSes. So, I'm sure you're offended. I apologize. However, as there are Non-Linux GNU systems, it is obvious that I'm not talking about all GNU systems. This is the origin of the naming convention; it necessarily and sufficiently identifies a set of something without adding qualifications that are needed to define the set. That is all. Don't take it personally.

    If you ask me, the fact that it goes without saying -- that all Linux-based OS distributions contain GNU software -- is worth far more to the GNU project than any free advertising could be. The ideals of Free Software stand on their own merits. You need to lighten up, maybe, but you don't need to stack the deck in your favour. The ideological zealotry has scared away enough folks; don't lets start with the marketing...

Heuristics are bug ridden by definition. If they didn't have bugs, then they'd be algorithms.