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GNU is Not Unix

The Stallman Factor 610

An anonymous reader sent us linkage to a LinuxWorld story about Stallman's Position in the Linux World. Talks a lot about RMS's tacticts for getting his acronym included with the kernel's name. This has been a long-running debate, but personally I just don't care. I respect the GNU Project's involvement. But I'm not gonna spit out extra syllables and keystrokes just to appease anyone.
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The Stallman Factor

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    The GNU/Linux systems would be nowhere without the GNU part. And most folks want more than just a kernel.

    All RMS wans is credit where it is due!
    • If we start putting GNU before every program that was made with GNU software, where will that lead us? Combine that with gnome, and you've got GNU/Gvi, GNU/GMozilla, GNU/GGoddammit
    • by Golias ( 176380 ) on Thursday May 09, 2002 @01:43PM (#3491795)
      Let's just be totally frank here... a reference to Stallman's group, representing their contribution, would probably be a lot more common if "GNU" was not such an incredibly stupid name. I mean, he even expects you to pronounce it "guh-NEW" for shit's sake. Can I buy a vowel? I know that recursive acronyms seemed like a cute fad back in the 80's and 90's, but really "GNU's Not Unix!?" Was that really the best anybody could do?

      If they had called it "Freenix" or "StallmanOS" or something, it might not have occurred to Linus and his buddies to come up with a new name when they were developping the Linux kernel.

      As it is, whoever thought "the GNU System" was a cool name simply blew it. Almost nobody says "guh-NOO-LIN-ux" when discussing Linux, and almost nobody ever will. Try to get over it. Life will go on.

  • In the beginning... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Transient0 ( 175617 )
    was the command line.

    Anyone who hasn't read Neal Stephenson's essay
    In the Beginning... Was the Command Line [spack.org] should do so now. He treats this subject in his trademark enjoyable style. This essay can also be purchased as a thin little paperback. I love the car-lot analogy(although it harks back to the glory days of Be).
  • With the revolutionary ideas and coding contributions from Richard Stallman, where would Linux be today? It's long past time to give this man the credit he deserves. The list of software he is responsible for is simply astounding. It's not likely that anyone will or even can be more important to Open Source anytime in the future. Richard, many thanks.
  • Acronyms (Score:5, Funny)

    by Britney ( 264065 ) on Thursday May 09, 2002 @12:11PM (#3491082)
    getting his acronym included with the kernel's name

    RMS - so he

    1. got Root
    2. acts Mean
    3. looks Square
  • Linux is a kernel (Score:4, Insightful)

    by cperciva ( 102828 ) on Thursday May 09, 2002 @12:12PM (#3491088) Homepage
    GNU/Redhat, GNU/Mandrake, GNU/Debian, etc. are operating systems.
    • Re:Linux is a kernel (Score:5, Informative)

      by mccalli ( 323026 ) on Thursday May 09, 2002 @12:22PM (#3491169) Homepage
      GNU/Redhat, GNU/Mandrake, GNU/Debian, etc. are operating systems.

      Well now, since we're being pedantic I would point out that:

      • Linux is a kernel
      • GNU is a set of programs and libraries
      • GNU/Linux is the closest to most people's definition of 'operating system', ie. kernel + libraries + tools
      • Redhat, Mandrake, Debian et. al. are distributions of the GNU/Linux operating systems.

      And....I don't care. I call the whole lot Linux, unless I'm referring to particular features of distributions in which case it gets called Redhat, Debian or (in my case) Cobalt.


      • Re:Linux is a kernel (Score:4, Informative)

        by gorilla ( 36491 ) on Thursday May 09, 2002 @12:35PM (#3491266)
        KDE_or_GNOME/Xfree/GNU/Linux probably meets more people's definition of "operating system', as a bare console wouldn't be recognizable or terribly useful to the majority of people. You'd want a printing system too, CUPS/KDE_or_GNOME/XFree/GNU/Linux. How long do you extend it as useful packages get added to a distribution?
        • KDE_or_GNOME/Xfree/GNU/Linux probably meets more people's definition of "operating system'...How long do you extend it as useful packages get added to a distribution?

          Well for me, you've already extended it too far. The distribution I use most has none of the features you've just mentioned - no KDE, no GNOME, no printing...nothing. The reason is that it's a headless 1u server running Cobalt's distribution. No graphics there, and yet it still runs an 'operating system'.


    • by Bouncings ( 55215 ) <ken.kenkinder@com> on Thursday May 09, 2002 @12:25PM (#3491197) Homepage
      And GNU/Linus is a programmer person. GNU/RMS is a person who smells funny.
  • I see (Score:2, Flamebait)

    I respect this artist's skill, but I'm not gonna pay for a painting because I can just download this jpeg.

    I respect this musician's lyrical ability, but I'm not gonna buy their album because I can download their MP3z.

    I respect these actors, actresses, and the director who made them do their thing, but I'm not gonna pay for a movie ticket because I'm sticking it to the man with DivX.

    Stallman isn't asking you to pay jack shit, he's asking for a freaking single syllable! 4 bytes! G N U /! He doesn't want to molest your daughter, rape your wife, or take away your rights, he just wants recognition for a freaking foundation that just happens to have these high fucking ideals, ideals which you hold dearly! WTF?
    • Re:I see (Score:3, Interesting)

      by msuzio ( 3104 )
      I don't really hold his ideals dearly. GNU, BSD, whatever. I'm pretty pragmatic in my devotion to open-source. It's just code, people. No need to get all antsy about it, sheesh.
      Public domain is the best license, IMHO. Screw the hoarders who'll take it and keep their changes, that can be their bad karma :-).
    • You are aware, aren't you, that according to Stallman's philosophy, you're perfectly entitled to do all of the above, right?

      For somebody who supposedly supports 'freedom', he certainly tries hard to force everyone to do things his way.

    • Re:I see (Score:2, Insightful)


      Stallman is asking you to call your beautifully rebuilt '57 Corvette a Craftsman Corvette because you used a Craftsman socket to change the sparkplugs.

      Frankly, I think Linus put it better than anybody. "I'm doing this because it's fun...not because I got religion."

      Climb down off your pulpit and stop shouting.
      • Re:I see (Score:3, Interesting)

        Erm, nope. GNU/Linux isn't GNU/Linux because it was compiled with GCC, it's GNU/Linux because it includes the full GNU user-land with the Linux kernel. If you remove GNU from RedHat, you have an entirely different system.

        If people were taking the BSD user land, which includes a few GNU utilities but isn't GNU per-se, Stallman wouldn't be asking you to do anything. He hasn't asked for OpenBSD, FreeBSD, NetBSD, Mac OS X/NextStep, etc, to be named GNU/OpenBSD etc, which are also built using GNU tools - they do not include and rely on the full GNU user land as their non-kernel parts of the OS.

        I do wish people would read what RMS actually has to say instead of repeating the same-old "I'm going to call it GNU/Slashdot" "He's forcing everyone to give out their code for free!" etc bullshit.

    • Re:I see (Score:4, Insightful)

      by gorilla ( 36491 ) on Thursday May 09, 2002 @12:23PM (#3491184)
      Well he's asked. Most people have said no. Next issue please. Continuing to beat the issue won't make any difference to what people have decided. If he had got a kernel out on the street in 1986, when they started working on a kernel, then Linux wouldn't exist, so it's really his own fault.
    • Exactly (Score:5, Interesting)

      by megalomang ( 217790 ) on Thursday May 09, 2002 @12:29PM (#3491218)
      By seeking to include "GNU" in the GNU/Linux convention, he is only looking for recognition. For what, you might ask?

      You think he's in it for the personal fame and glory? Hell no. Or the money? RMS, I really don't think so. (Yes, ESR seems motivated by fame and money, but then again I don't have the same sort of respect for ESR that I do for RMS.) He isn't looking to call it RMS/Linux; he never called it the rcc compiler or the remacs editor. He wants people to know who provided the huge mass of software surrounding the kernel, who provided the means and methodology to enable the kernel to be developed and supported and used, and most importantly, the infrastructure and enormous amount task of coordinating the individual efforts (particularly the early efforts when risk of failure was highest) and supporting those that keep it all going.

      He wants people to recognize that the FSF provided GNU and that the FSF has a specific idealology that has provided you with a tangible benefit. He wants you to use more of their software, to modify and distribute their software, and to contribute to their cause. He realizes that the strength of FSF relies on you and others that believe in his goals and want to see them succeed.

      He carefully separates his personal agenda from his FSF agenda. If you don't believe me, look at his web page (stallman.org) and it will become 100% evident to you that he is not in it for selfish motives.

    • Re:I see (Score:4, Insightful)

      by _|()|\| ( 159991 ) on Thursday May 09, 2002 @12:31PM (#3491232)
      Stallman isn't asking you to pay jack shit, he's asking for a freaking single syllable! 4 bytes! G N U /! ... he just wants recognition for a freaking foundation

      I understand the motivation behind the GNU operating system, and that Linux was the last (but not least) major component thereof. However, I continue to call my Red Hat 7.3 box a Linux system.

      By the same token, I think it would appropriate for, say, Debian to deemphasize Linux, and simply call it a GNU system. The distinction is more ideological than technical.

      "Linux" is the popular usage. Trying to change it to "GNU/Linux" is counter productive.

    • Two syllables:
      GNU is a recursive acronym for ``GNU's Not Unix''; it is pronounced "guh-NEW"

      So, "GNU"'s also not "gnu", in spite of the hairy ox on the FSF homepage.
  • by grahamsz ( 150076 ) on Thursday May 09, 2002 @12:13PM (#3491098) Homepage Journal
    ...he can release his own GNU/Linux

    Anyway i think GNU probably get enough credit purely because the GPL is mentioned so frequently in association wiht linux.
  • One of the few... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by huckda ( 398277 )
    "Precious few are ambivalent about Richard Stallman."

    I guess I'm one of the "precious few".

    I don't care what it's called as long as it
    works like it aught to and doesn't lock up
    on me in the middle of an application or game.

  • well, at ut austin (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 09, 2002 @12:13PM (#3491104)
    there's been an ongoing debate over the name of our linux user group, siglinux. apparentliy rms was going to visit the next installfest here, and wanted the name to be changed. it's nuts. it's changed from siglinux to signulinux, to sigfree, and now back to siglinux!
  • pedantry.. but.. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Yeah, it's a bit pedantic to call it GNU/Linux all the time. BUT - Most people want a bit more than a kernel. Credit where it is due - Linux may be the kernel, but how much fun would a ton of sorce be without GCC?
  • by gowen ( 141411 ) <gwowen@gmail.com> on Thursday May 09, 2002 @12:13PM (#3491109) Homepage Journal
    None of these men evoke the same response as Stallman. Mention RMS in a Linux crowd and you'll find people who love him, hate him, and those who simply roll their eyes
    Mentioning ESR's name will get the those responses too. The only real difference is that if you call ESR and RMS whacko s to their faces, Stallman isn't likely to shoot you.
    • by gazbo ( 517111 ) on Thursday May 09, 2002 @12:28PM (#3491216)
      No, the real difference is, loathe him or despise him, RMS has done a lot for OSS. He has principles and sticks to them religiously. Just because I think he's a dick doesn't mean I can't respect him for that.

      ESR is just some sort of leeching gasbag.

      • by scrytch ( 9198 ) <chuck@myrealbox.com> on Thursday May 09, 2002 @02:31PM (#3492154)
        ESR is just some sort of leeching gasbag.

        ESR still writes code to this day. Ever browse Sourceforge's Trove? He created it. Compile a recent kernel? The piece that figures out the complex kernel configuration dependency logic is his. Then there's fetchmail. of course (not that it was really worth writing a software engineering theory paper over). He maintains the Jargon File. And he probably has more elisp contributions to emacs than RMS. Just about everywhere I go, I see something with ESR as a contributor.

        But you weren't really interested in the truth, were you?
  • by msuzio ( 3104 )
    He just needs to give it up (but he never will). No one but him likes the assinine name, and it isn't neccessary to mangle a perfectly good name just to suit an agenda.

    Maybe that's what bugs me... it seems so arbitrary to push this position. It just never seemed like anything worthy of his time, and it makes him look even more like a raving loonie than he really is (but hey, it takes raving loonies to change the world sometimes).
  • Ok, let me get this straight, Linux is just supposed to be a kernel and it is the distributions that make the OS.
    How much GNU code (as written by the org) are in the kernel? I don't think there is any or very little. Therefore, why should it have the GNU tag stuck on it? A compiler chain does NOT make the OS!

    I have never been able to figure this out.

  • The "GNU/" is silent. Get over it. ;-)
  • Maybe someone should clone BitKeeper and make it part of the GNU/Emacs OS? Eh?

    I'm still not sure what "BitKeeper" was from the article, but frankly, I don't care.

  • Extras (Score:5, Funny)

    by saintlupus ( 227599 ) on Thursday May 09, 2002 @12:17PM (#3491137) Homepage
    But I'm not gonna spit out extra syllables and keystrokes just to appease anyone.

    That's okay. You'd probably just misspell them, anyhow.

  • by jeffy124 ( 453342 ) on Thursday May 09, 2002 @12:17PM (#3491138) Homepage Journal
    GNU/I GNU/once GNU/read GNU/something GNU/saying GNU/that GNU/RMS GNU/won't GNU/rest GNU/until "GNU" GNU/is GNU/in GNU/front GNU/of GNU/every GNU/word GNU/in GNU/the GNU/English GNU/language. GNU/Doesnt GNU/he GNU/realize GNU/that GNU/too GNU/much GNU/of GNU/a GNU/thing GNU/would GNU/leave GNU/him GNU/joyless, GNU/not GNU/to GNU/mention GNU/it's GNU/just GNU/plain GNU/weird?
  • by connorbd ( 151811 ) on Thursday May 09, 2002 @12:18PM (#3491141) Homepage
    About two years ago I made a /. post [geocities.com] about Stallman's tactics that says a lot about this. The fact is that Stallman seems always to have been on the very edge of respectability, and since the rise to power of Linux he's slipped pretty much totally into the lunatic fringe.

    Philosophically, Stallman is as far on the extreme left of the software world as PETA is in animal rights or the CP-USA is in politics. While not outright advocating total software anarchy now, he certainly wouldn't object to the idea if it happened. The problem is that while I somewhat understand his desire for credit for GNU, he's gone about it the wrong way, attempting to coopt an essentially non-political project (at least to its creator) for his own agenda.

    Like it or not, Linus ain't in it for the politics; that's just a collateral benefit of having a free, high-quality kernel. Stallman is just another extremist with a useful ideal but no practical value.


    • by abe ferlman ( 205607 ) <bgtrio@ya[ ].com ['hoo' in gap]> on Thursday May 09, 2002 @12:37PM (#3491279) Homepage Journal
      Stallman is on the right wing of the techno-political world. He wants to eliminate all governmental interference in the creation and use of code, and that starts with eliminating government sponsored monopolies over ideas, otherwise known as the "intellectual property" system. Isn't "That government is best that governs least" a conservative rallying cry?

      I think the reason you think he's on the left is because he looks like a hippy and he doesn't support government subsidies for the corporate masters of programmers.

      And how can you say the author of emacs has no practical value?

      • by micromoog ( 206608 ) on Thursday May 09, 2002 @01:38PM (#3491750)
        I think both of you need a basic lesson in political science.

        Draw a diagram with four quadrants, like this:

        ^ ----
        | |1|2|
        Y ----
        | |3|4|
        | ----

        The X-axis represents "financial freedom" (this goes along with "free-as-in-beer").

        The Y-axis represents "personal freedom" (this goes along with "free-as-in-speech").

        We have four main areas:

        1 = "left-wing"
        2 = "libertarian"
        3 = "authoritarian"
        4 = "right-wing"

        So, you're both wrong. He's in quadrant 2.
        • It's not so clear to me that Stallman would appreciate being put into quadrant 2. In fact, a biography of RMS suggests he understands and has a bit of every one of the quadrants, and more that doesn't fit into any of them. Just like any sufficiently interesting human.

          One could disect each of his statements or ideas, and try to find the right place for it. But he has his own ideological system that is not a combination of the four corners of your diagram.

          The only purpose of broad labels and sterotypes is to simply something. I think Stallman has made a simple statement in the GPL that doesn't really need to be expressed in terms of stereotypes used for those who govern society.

          Perhaps the first thing to notice about the GPL is that instead of exploiting ambiguity as most writers of legal documents seem to do (a statement made by a lawyer), it is very precise and clear. There is no need to muddy Stallman's views with political stereotypes. He's a straightforward, careful, honest fellow who chooses freedom over convenience, and encourages others to do the same. If one wishes for a longer description, read his works; but applying catagories used in Washington D.C. won't help one's understanding.

          -Paul Komarek
    • by WolfWithoutAClause ( 162946 ) on Thursday May 09, 2002 @01:43PM (#3491792) Homepage
      and since the rise to power of Linux he's slipped pretty much totally into the lunatic fringe.

      No. As far as I can tell (and I remember the world before Linux), his position hasn't changed much in the last 10+ years.

      Stallman is just another extremist with a useful ideal but no practical value.

      Not quite sure how something can be a useful ideal, but at the same time of no practical value.

      If it's useful it has to be of practical value. Unless you mean politically, but I don't think that Stallman resembles that remark. He did write the GPL and GNU emacs. Without the GPL Linux would have been dead meat- the GPL is protecting Linux from Microsoft. Normally they'd buy a competing company or drop their prices, or bring out a lookalike product. None of these options are possible with the GPL.

      Of course the GPL flowed from his idealism.

      Stallman is as far on the extreme left of the software world...

      You're basically implying that Stallman is a communist.

      The difference between Stallman and communism is the difference between sex and rape. Communism is enforced collaboration. Free software is optional; of course he'd prefer it if you used it, but he's not enforcing it. The free software ideal avoids you raping him, and him raping you.

      On the other hand the software capitalism as espoused by Microsoft is more like paying a prostitute. It seems like a good idea at the time, but its always worse in the cold light of day... (in the case of Microsoft when the auditors are banging at the door, and you never really know where their software has been ;-) )

  • by adam613 ( 449819 ) on Thursday May 09, 2002 @12:18PM (#3491145)
    ...was this quote from Linus:

    "Quite frankly, I don't _want_ people using Linux for ideological reasons. I think ideology sucks. This world would be a much better place if people had less ideology, and a whole lot more. I do this because it's FUN and because others might find it useful, not because I got religion."

    Given that Linus has a rep for being a bit of an egotist, I was a bit suprised by this. There seem to be two camps of Linux users: those who use it because it's Free Software (the RMS camp), and those who use it because it does what we need to do better than Win2k.

    But this isn't a problem, per se, as long as each camp recognizes the other's right to exist. There is no need for "controversial figures" in the open-source community. There is very little need for evangelism. There IS a need for people from each camp to put their effort into developing Free Software which is as good as (or better than) commercial software. Doing so will further both causes.
    • by n-baxley ( 103975 ) <nateNO@SPAMbaxleys.org> on Thursday May 09, 2002 @12:36PM (#3491268) Homepage Journal
      I think there is a group that fits in between somehow. The group that uses it because it is free (as in beer) and because it does what they need as well as Windows. This is the typical business person, someone weighing the costs and benefits of each decision. Like it or not, that is the person that Linux, and OpenSource in general must be targeted toward. If we keep this "two camps" mentality, we will alienate the middle group and drive away potential users. We must avoid polarizing the OpenSource community.
    • by sab39 ( 10510 ) on Thursday May 09, 2002 @12:45PM (#3491337) Homepage
      This is one of the most intelligent comments on the issue I've seen in a long while. Nobody's ever asked me my position on "Free Software versus Open Source", but the answer I've had prepared for a long time in case anyone ever did was along these lines:

      Free software advocates claim that this kind of software is morally superior. Open source advocates claim that this kind of software will likely (in fact, inevitably) end up better quality and provide more benefits to both the user and the developer. I say that both of these are true, and therefore I support both. I don't feel a need to identify with one of these exclusively or even to prioritize one over the other, since both ends are achieved by the same means. My position is just to be happy that there are two important benefits from this kind of software!

      Now, if the goal of getting the most benefits from my software contradicted the goal of taking the moral high ground, I honestly can't say which I would choose. But I had a hard time even phrasing that last sentence, because it's almost inherently contradictory - the moral goal of freedom is inherently what produces the benefits that I consider important. So it's impossible to separate the two and even more impossible for them to ever contradict each other.
    • You refer to Linus' recent remarks on the kernel dev mailing list. These comments were made in the context of a discussion [zork.net] about whether or not the kernel HOWTO should quote the FSF.

      Here are some more Linus quotes, all from http://www.webreview.com/1998/04_10/developers/04_ 10_98_4.shtml [webreview.com]:


      Making Linux GPL'd was definitely the best thing I ever did.


      I'm generally a very pragmatic person: that which works, works. When it comes to software, I much prefer free software, because I have very seldom seen a program that has worked well enough for my needs, and having sources available can be a life-saver.

      So in that sense I am an avid promoter of free software, and GPL'd stuff in particular (because once it's GPL'd I know it's going to stay free, so I don't have to worry about future releases).

      However, that doesn't mean that I'm opposed to commercial software. Commercial software development has some advantages too -- the money-making aspects introduces some new incentives that aren't there for most free software. And those incentives often make for a more polished product.


      The impression I get from all of this is that Linus prefers the GPL for pragmatic reasons, not ideological reasons. I can't speak for Linus, but I don't get the impression that he has an axe to grind w.r. RMS. RMS created the GPL, for ideological reasons. Linus uses the GPL for practical reasons. It's a win-win: good for RMS and good for Linus.

      So I basically agree with the sentiments of the original poster here, but I would take exception with this statement:

      There is very little need for evangelism

      You may know RMS's story, but others still don't. I think it's fine that Linus doesn't want to walk this road. But that doesn't obviate the need for idealists. You don't have to agree with them. You don't even have to listen. But some people do listen - like Linus many years ago. And we are better off because of it.

      RMS used to be a coder. Now he is largely a politician. There's a place for code. There is also a place for politics.

      Who afraid of big bad RMS? Who's afraid of people who want other people to be silent?

    • by TRACK-YOUR-POSITION ( 553878 ) on Thursday May 09, 2002 @01:56PM (#3491884)
      An idealist is just a farsighted pragmatist. Sometimes I use Linux even when Microsoft could do the job better, just because if you don't run free software today, you might not get the chance to tomorrow. If no one is running Mozilla/Konqueror, you can bet the number of IE-only websites will increase really fast, which means demand for Windows operating systems will increase, which means Microsoft's prices will skyrocket. I don't want that to happen, so I try not to use Windows, even if I like some things about it a lot better.

      Sorry if it annoys you, but too bad: evangelism does serve a purpose! It's a prisoners dilemma, like voting. If I don't use Windows, but everyone else does, a year from now I'll need Windows too, and it will be just as monopoly priced for me as it will be for everyone who enjoyed the benefits of Windows in the short term. But if a significant number of ourselves can convince each other to use a competitor, that's in everyone's best interest.

      To understand why there is a great need for evangelism, you only need two words: Network Effects.

  • We need Stallman (Score:5, Insightful)

    by reparteeist ( 533894 ) <reparteeist@@@yahoo...com> on Thursday May 09, 2002 @12:18PM (#3491147)
    No matter how controversial, the community needs RMS. Where Linus has openly admitted Linux is not the most important part of his life, RMS remains the prophet while Linus settles down with family life. Stallman is the perfect example of a person who is unwavering in his beliefs that all software should be free - to the point where some believe he defies common sense (e.g. coders should work as waiters to pay their bills). But he is genuinely passionate about open source, and for that we can all learn something from him. I know I am not looking forward to the day RMS is unable to continue his mission with the open source movement.
    • by Soulfader ( 527299 ) <sig@NoSPam.sigspace.net> on Thursday May 09, 2002 @12:39PM (#3491298) Journal
      No matter how controversial, the community needs RMS. Where Linus has openly admitted Linux is not the most important part of his life, RMS remains the prophet while Linus settles down with family life.

      Why do we need a prophet? Are the MS Heathens out there going to hell if we don't convert them? Get over yourself, people. I suspect Linus has the right idea. Go play frisbee, dammit. =)

    • Re:We need Stallman (Score:2, Interesting)

      by six809 ( 1961 )

      I know I am not looking forward to the day RMS is unable to continue his mission with the open source movement

      That's "Free Software Movement". The Open Source Movement is concerned more with saying "This is better because it works better" (which is often the case), the Free Software Movement is concerned more with saying "This is better because you have more rights" (which is always the case). Making that distinction is what gets so many people het up about it.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 09, 2002 @12:20PM (#3491156)
    Every major free work can trace its roots to GCC (which Stallman originally wrote): Linux kernel, KDE, GNOME, XFree86. All the modern free *BSDs would be crippled without GCC as well.
    He fought for ideals that may be fashionable now - but were hardly so 20 years ago.
    He is a visionary. His work will benefit rich and poor alike, large corporations and third world nations.
    We are all in Richard Stallman's debt.
    • by sphealey ( 2855 ) on Thursday May 09, 2002 @12:30PM (#3491227)
      Every major free work can trace its roots to GCC (which Stallman originally wrote)
      So it is really 'Hopper/GNU/Linux', since Grace Hopper invented the compiler? Or 'Turing/Hopper/GNU/Linux'? 'Babbage+Boole/Turing/Hopper/GNU/Linux'? Do the inventors of the transistor, or all the Army guys who worked on analog computers get their names in there also? Kernighan and Ritchie?

      Where does it end, and why there? Please be as precise in your answer as Mr. Stallman prefers to be in his.


      • RMS wrote GCC. From scratch. By himself. GDB too. That's not the same as what Hopper did (which was paid research). It's not easy to appreciate what RMS went through to do this, especially given when it was done (mid 1980s).

        Linus Torvalds wrote a kernel by himself, with very little usefulness (but heaps of promise) in the early 1990s. He was able to use the tools created by Stallman.

        John Carmack (think Commander Keen, Wolfenstien, Doom, and Quake) claimed that he wouldn't have been a programmer had it not been for the tools created by Stallman. Once after Carmack won a large jackpot in Vegas (I don't know how often he does this =-), he donated the whole thing (>$10,000 I believe) to the Free Software Foundation (i.e. Stallman's group).

        In the battle of the lisp machines, Stallman was afraid the highly-non-free side was going to win. To provide balance, he recreated their features and donated his code to the more free alternative company. He did this in real-time, by himself, unapid. His output equalled the output of a collection of commercial programmers hired from Stallman's lab (and others).

        So GCC starts at Stallman. Free Software starts at Stallman. GNU starts at Stallman. The Open Source definition came about because of Stallman's work (and to some degree because of his contrariness and Tim O'Reilly's stupid decision not to invite RMS to his west coast summit that settled on the Open Source name). Stallman is where GCC started. Not Hopper, not Lovelace or Babbage, not Boole or Aristotle.

        We're talking about running code that is still in widespread use after nearly 20 years, not paid research that was eventually perfected by others to resemble what we today think of as a compiler. Stallman is *the* person who started all of this, by himself, on his own time, taking part time jobs to survive until sufficient donations came in (for instance, the MacArthur Genius Award).

        Stallman did this because of his ideology. Linus Torvalds' comments about the world being better with less ideology really seem stupid in this context, don't they? Torvalds' comments about only idiots or freaks or something choosing Free tools over superior proprietary tools really says something about Torvald's view of Stallman, doesn't it? Does Torvalds recognize that quality Free Software would not exist if everyone thought like that? Of course Torvalds has a right to his own opinions, but I wish he'd keep his mouth shut instead of revealing how shallow he is.

        -Paul Komarek
  • by Myshkin ( 34701 ) on Thursday May 09, 2002 @12:22PM (#3491165)
    I wonder if stallman would be satisfied if we just added a silent g and called it lignux
  • Confusion (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    this article confuses me. It sounds like Stallman is being accused of causing problems because he would only speak at a conference if the name was changed to include GNU-Linux in the title. That seems to be entirely his prerogative. Since that decision will likely cause hurt feelings in some people, the author seems to be vilifying Stallman.

    Of course, Stallman being Stallman,
    a) His speech will cause problems with some people
    b) His not giving a speech with cause problems with some people.

    whether or not the name is changed.

    The author seems to be accusing him of using his influence to advance his political goals. Well, no shit. The man is RMS for Christ's sake! the whole reason the GPL and it's concepts exist is because of this man using his influence (GCC and emacs and others) for political purposes. He's as much a politician as a programmer and pretty damn good at both.

  • by idonotexist ( 450877 ) on Thursday May 09, 2002 @12:24PM (#3491190)
    Gnu/RMS Gnu/is Gnu/a Gnu/victim Gnu/of Gnu/his Gnu/own Gnu/success. Gnu/With Gnu/widespread Gnu/use Gnu/of Gnu/Linux, Gnu/there Gnu/is Gnu/less Gnu/likelihood Gnu/of Gnu/the Gnu/use Gnu/of Gnu/this Gnu/acronym. Gnu/Certainly Gnu/packages Gnu/must Gnu/utilize Gnu/unique Gnu/labelling Gnu/or Gnu/product Gnu/names Gnu/to Gnu/quickly Gnu/show Gnu/uniqueness Gnu/compared Gnu/with Gnu/other Gnu/products. Gnu/If Gnu/not, Gnu/a Gnu/consumer Gnu/or Gnu/user Gnu/may Gnu/be Gnu/easily Gnu/confused Gnu/and Gnu/cannot Gnu/readily Gnu/identify Gnu/product Gnu/differences.

    Certainly it is annonying for all products to have a like name, isn't it?
  • by Somnus ( 46089 ) on Thursday May 09, 2002 @12:26PM (#3491207)
    ... for not really giving a f*&# what others think about him at the end of the day. He knows what's real: the code; everything else is an affectation. I agree that the world would be a better place if people spent more time acting and less time bitching. At the very least, one's own life is better that way.

    Of course, Bitkeeper is a relatively minor issue. If, fortune forbid, the Linux project were to face a substantial crisis in of some sort, hopefully he'll have the balls to act the same way.

  • by Caractacus Potts ( 74726 ) on Thursday May 09, 2002 @12:28PM (#3491214)

    I used to be in the camp that thought the GNU acronym deserved to get more exposure than it does in Linux, but after saying "guh-new" a few too many times, I gave up. IANA marketing dweeb, but "GNU" is a phonetic nightmare that I wouldn't attach to anything, and don't get me started on Ogg Vorbis. I consider it a shame that RMS's contribution can't be as evident in the name as Linus's is, but he should have spent more time thinking of a better acronym.

    Initials of RMS. Who think's his parents might have been engineers?

  • Lost my love (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 09, 2002 @12:30PM (#3491225)
    I lost my love for him several years ago while attending a Free Software Conference that a local lug put on (Utah State). The lug was giving away prizes to people attending the conference while waiting for him to show up as the guest speaker. When he arrived he stormed in the door and stated that he would leave immediately if the lug did not stop giving away free linux books as prizes. He gave a 20 minutes spill about how the books should not be read or even given away because the content was copyrighted.

    Free software is good. However, some people can take it to extemes and just piss everyone off.

    I will be damned if I call anything GNU/Linux or use that damn editor emacs.

  • by Seth Finkelstein ( 90154 ) on Thursday May 09, 2002 @12:31PM (#3491234) Homepage Journal
    One aspect which seems to be overlooked by commentators: A person generally doesn't do well by sitting back and waiting for recognition to be given to them. People seem to have a role to they assign Stallman. I think roughly the concept is that they think he should be their imagined idea of an absent-minded professor - quirky but harmless, amusing but not grating, and notably self-effacing.

    Hard-driving people tend not to be like that!

    They promote their causes, their organizations, even themselves.

    Because if they don't do it, they tend to get run-over by others who are doing it.

    Stallman is the CEO of a foundation. Compare him to other CEO's of foundations, and see how he ranks then. But it's not an easy job.

    Sig: What Happened To The Censorware Project (censorware.org) [sethf.com]

  • by dkleinsc ( 563838 ) on Thursday May 09, 2002 @12:32PM (#3491244) Homepage
    As someone who counts himself among those who have little opinion of Stallman, I can say this much:

    No one will deny RMS' dedication to the cause of Free software, nor his contribution to the *nix world. When we have defeated the evil demons of closed formats and binary-only distrobutions, the FSF will be rightly honored as a group that started the revolution. Furthermore, GNU software has a well-earned reputation for being the most stable in existance.

    That said, putting GNU/ before everything smacks to me as the sort of brand-naming that goes on in the commercial software world. It's the equivalent of saying, "It's not Acrobat, it's Adobe Acrobat." Surely we are able to give credit where credit is due without putting the name of an organization on it.

    You could say that RMS is stubborn and unwilling to change, but that is precisely what made it possible for him to do what he did.
  • by gdeciantis ( 570658 ) on Thursday May 09, 2002 @12:34PM (#3491258)
    Stallman made a speach at my school a few years back to a room full of crowded CS students. He was introduced by a Religion professor. Now being a Religion professor, he made a few blunders about the IT world, to which he received some laughter. The professor then blurted out "Well, at least I have social skills!" This received a good reception to the open minded students. At this point Stallman turned to me and said "I don't get it." I explained to him that software developers tend to not have good social skills. He didn't look impressed. Then he approached the stage with his long hair, long beard, and wearing what looked like a poncho.
  • I'm kinda torn... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Meat Blaster ( 578650 ) on Thursday May 09, 2002 @12:34PM (#3491260)
    The contribution of GNU and the Free Software Foundation to Linux is immeasurable. Linux wouldn't be what it is today if it wasn't for the generous work of Richard Stallman and the other hackers who toiled to bring so many of the bread-and-butter utilities to the public. I guess I'd go so far to say that Linux wouldn't -be- today. You have to admit that they got rather ripped off in the name recognition department as far as Linux goes, considering that 'all Linus did' is drop a kernel into a ready-to-go system.

    But on the other hand, I think it's beating a dead horse to constantly request that people call Linux GNU/Linux. Linux has name recognition now, and many already identify it with the Free Software movement, so why confuse matters? GNU certainly can stand on its own two feet, and they're coming out with a proper GNU system of their own aren't they?

    I think it really is time for RMS to move past this, because it's only holding him back from adding to GNU's identity. If people get hung up on things like this, won't they be distracted from what really matters: the message of the GPL?

  • HURD (Score:4, Insightful)

    by bcrowell ( 177657 ) on Thursday May 09, 2002 @12:37PM (#3491276) Homepage
    When HURD is ready to be released, they can call the resulting OS anything they like. It's pretty pathetic for Stallman to be upset that Linux brought a GPL'd OS to the world 10 years before it would otherwise have been available.

    Open source means never having to say thank you. Perl could be embedded in your toaster or your TV, and you wouldn't know it, and Larry Wall wouldn't get any thanks, and I don't think he really cares.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    The beard is so evil. It makes him look like a pirate:

    "Y'AAAR! Avast ye two-timin' land-lubbers! I'm Red-Beard Stallman, the evil GNU pirate! Me thinks ye be leavin' me outa yer popularity contest, so I've come ta steal yer Linux booty! Y'AAAAR!"
  • by bill.sheehan ( 93856 ) on Thursday May 09, 2002 @12:41PM (#3491311) Homepage
    It's all a moot point, because any day now Linux is going to be trampled under the hooves of the GNU HURD [gnu.org]. Yes, it's true, Linux is faltering. GNU HURD, the only software to be named by a pair of mutually recursive acronyms (according to Brother Thomas) is looming on the horizon. It's been 12 years in the making and they're already up to version 0.2!!! Fear the rolling thunder of the GNU HURD!

    Sarcastic? Moi?

  • GNU's contribution to Linux recognized, properly recognizing all of the equally deserving contributors to the platform in this fashion seems a trifle silly.

    In fact, since some Linux distributions come bundled with none-free software, I would argue it is almost missleading to call it GNU/Linux unilaterely.

    In fact, personally I could see calling it FreeOS or OSLibre as being more on the mark.

    Politics is such a tiresome burden on technology at times.
  • Yes, if you're generous you can help people out and give them stuff for free but you shouldn't do it and expect something in return. I believe that this was mentioned in the Bible.

    Yes it's unfair but that's how it is. Ask the ones who dedicate there life to helping people, very rarely do they receive something in return from the people they help and they even receive less recognition than most people.
  • Yes, RMS did a great many things. We thank him, *I* thank him.

    But he does seem to put himself on a pedestal, and expects to be treated accordingly.

    There comes a point when a man no longer deserves a "get out of jail free card."

    Is Stallman there? I don't know. That's for you to decide.

  • I don't see the problem people have with the whole GNU prefixing. "GNU/Linux" is a more accurate description of your OS, as the Linux kernel itself is only a small portion of your computer's functionality. A better description would be the distro you use, like "Redhat 7.3", which then implies Linux, GNU, GNOME, and others.

    For me, I tend to say I use KDE. Most of my productivity is in the KDE environment, and so it is the best distro-neutral description I can think of. Saying I use "Linux" is simply too vague, and tells the person nothing. After all, my 486 firewall-box runs Linux also, as does my Sharp Zaurus, yet these are all completely different beasts.
  • I mean, when you install Acrobat 5, it install msvcp600.dll, so It must have been created with MSVC++.

    According to RMS, Acrobat should be called MS/Acrobat.

  • GNU/LInux (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dh003i ( 203189 ) <dh003i AT gmail DOT com> on Thursday May 09, 2002 @12:53PM (#3491400) Homepage Journal
    I really don't see the big deal, since everyone knows Linux is covered under the GPL and that much of the software in Linux dist's was made by the FSF.

    But is it really that much to ask for, that in official things, high ranking members of the community call it GNU/Linux?

    Linux would be nowhere without the FSF / GNU. Most of the apps in Linux were made by the FSF. The license that protects Linux from corporate raiders was pioneered by Stallman.

    I'll admit, I don't say GNU/Linux regularly. In normal-day life, I simply say Linux. And I don't think that Stallman's asking that we always refer to it as GNU/Linux, even in casual talk -- just in formal discussions or conferences, etc.

    When I introduce myself to one of my friend's friend's, I say, "Hi, I'm Dave." My e-mail tag says "--Dave H." But neither of those situations are formal. When I'm on a job interview, I say, "Hello, I am David Heinrich".

    We recognize that there is a time to be casual and a time to be formal when speaking of ourself, clothing ourselves, and so on and so forth. Why can't we recognize that for software too?

    Really, people are trying to write this guy out of the history of GNU/Linux, because they think he's that radical that scares everyone away from their cause. But without him -- or without someone strongly maintaining the ideals of Free Software -- it all falls apart.

    I don't agree with everyone Stallman says. Anyone who agrees with everything someone else says (i.e., a religious person who goes to church) is a complete fucking moron. But just because I don't agree with him on everything -- even alot of things -- doesn't mean I don't respect the man and his ideals.

    Stallman represents the idealist any movement must have. And he's not some wacky guy saying stuff and doing nothing. He does things to bring his ideals closer to reality. Linus and others like him represent the pragmatic wings of the movement; the idea should be to bring what is possibly in reality closer to what ideals demand.
  • Take a look at the GNU icon, it looks like an ox with a blanket. In fact, it looks quite a bit like "Peanut's" "Linus".

    So you see, GNU is already crediting Linus with spreading the GNU GPL, so Linus should do the same. :)

  • by Yohahn ( 8680 ) on Thursday May 09, 2002 @01:09PM (#3491502)
    One of the biggest problems with the extreamism that exists in any set of belifs is that those in the moderate view never get the attention.

    If there was a group of free software developers who wanted to convert people to the "free" religion, but didn't want to force, they would work passivly.

    They would build good software, easy to use. They would let people use it.. promote ease of use in expanding it with new modules and the like. They would make it profitable, for people have to eat. They would show the advantage/functionality of "free".

    They would believe no less than the ones wishing to "force" the beliefs. Their efforts would pay off, but they would never be recognized as paying off.

    The press likes controversy, and so they would focus on the conflict. The "moderates" sympathizing with the "extreamists" would make comments and those opposing the "extreamists" would accuse the moderates of being being "extream" in their views.

    With the lack of attention on "moderates", the conflict would continue, ripping a group of people who were having a poisitive influnce, apart. Even the "moderates" would begin to question themselves, as even they read the media and are not immune to its effects.

    This, is what I think is happening.

    Control the conflict
    give exposure to the moderates
    stay smarter than the situation
    stay humble

    and things will work out for the best

    (one can be extream in views, but moderate in expressing their views. Humbleness is they key)
  • by Dr. Awktagon ( 233360 ) on Thursday May 09, 2002 @01:19PM (#3491593) Homepage

    There was a time that I thought everything Stallman said was golden (actually there was a time before that when I thought everything he said was junk, but after high school I realized using proprietary software really did mean giving up freedom).

    There was a time that if Stallman said: "If you believe in Free Software, you need to take of all your clothes and run through the streets screaming my name." I probably would've done it, assuming that he probably thought logically through every consequence and it was a good idea.

    But the GNU/Linux thing is just really disappointing. It's embarrasing. It makes me feel silly to quote Stallman or refer people to the FSF.

    I know people make fun of other things Stallman says, but usually they are making fun of what they WISH he said, rather than what he actually said. Like when people made fun of Al Gore for saying he invented the internet when he never actually said that. People like to find holes in armor, I suppose.

    The GNU/Linux position is impossible. Why call it GNU when there are so many other components. And I get the feeling Stallman doesn't want to back down because, well, he doesn't want to back down, not because of any rational reason. Like a spoiled boy who can't admit he's wrong and yells his position a little louder hoping that he'll convince himself.

    Stallman should drop the GNU/Linux thing. Devote more time to preaching about Freedom. Why doesn't the FSF use some of its cash hoard to buy some advertising or something? Why not splatter "Free Software means Freedom" all over magazines and web pages?

    Oh well. I hope the FSF and Stallman don't become marginalized because of this, because their moral clarity on Free software and information freedom is vital.

    Hackers will never be called crackers, and Linux will never be called GNU/Linux by every Linux vendor. It will never happen, and more importantly, it doesn't NEED to happen! The FSF should use their own means to advertise themselves, and not highjack other people's choice of names.

  • by Permission Denied ( 551645 ) on Thursday May 09, 2002 @01:44PM (#3491804) Journal
    Stallman's tactics are counter-productive to our movement. He does not understand the basics of how humans work. Some people say that we need someone who will hold their beliefs without comprimise, and I'll tend to agree. However, Stallman not only holds an uncomprimising attitude, but his proselytizing tactics are unsound.

    We need someone who understands the art of marketing - the art of diplomacy, rhetoric, whatever you want to call it. Part of this includes choosing good names for projects and concepts. "GNU/Linux" is a horrible name. "Free Software" is even worse. His insistance on spreading the MIT-centric idea of what the word "hacker" is supposed to mean is incredibly counter-productive. Changing the way people think involves changing the way they speak, but attempting to redefine new words does not work, especially in the most critical first stages of a movement.

    "Hacker" means criminal to everyone outside our movement and associating yourself with this word is not the way to spread your ideology. The operating system that runs Slashdot and Google is known as "Linux" to everyone outside our movement, and changing that only spreads confusion.

    The one that really bothers me is "Free Software." Here, the capitalization makes the difference between respected projects such as GCC and the crap shareware you'll find on tucows.com. I completely understand the whole "gratuit" vs. "libre" thing, being an amateur linguist and having read most of the FSF's philosophy. I can understand that "Free" and "free" are supposed to mean different things, but I don't like it.

    What if I'm talking to someone? Much business is done over the telephone or through face-to-face meetings, not through email. With email/usenet/etc. it's easy to spot the difference between "Free" and "free", but what if I want to tell my boss that the new proxy server I installed is "Free"? Do I say:

    (a) "It's Free software, as in free-with-a-capital-eff.", or
    (b) "It's Open Source."

    (A) will lead only to confusion because my boss doesn't care about the tiny differences between copylefted and Free-but-copyrighted software. Don't fool yourself into thinking that (a) will lead to a discussion about the nature of Free software; the business world is not academia, and has little patience for discussions which (seemingly or in reality) do not affect the bottom line.

    Look at DivX versus DivX ;-). Look it up on Google if you don't know the difference between the two (hint, the punctuation makes all the difference). Now that DivX ;-) has become popular and DivX is dead, the DivX ;-) people are trying very hard to break away from their old name. What was initially a bad pun has become the bane of this company attempting to sell their codec. Don't look at this example from a Free software standpoint; the example is just meant to show how a bad name can hinder the acceptance of a codec/idea.

    We (computer professionals or hackers if you insist) linguistically think much differently from most people. To me, puncuation and capitalization are as important as words. Compare:

    (c) "DivX" to
    (d) "DivX ;-)", and
    (e) "find name copying and print" to
    (f) "find / -name COPYING\* -print"

    You and I know that (e) is gibberish and (f) is correct/useful, but Joe Schmoe only knows that (e) is "easier" than (f). Joe Schmoe has to "remember" (f) in its entirety in order to use it; he has difficulty deconstructing it into its component pieces and then reconstructing the pieces together again the next time the command must be used. Those of us linguistically gifted (all good programmers) do this instinctually, so we have little difficulty figuring out "DivX" versus "DivX ;-)" and "Free" versus "free". Most people don't have the time or patience to do this.

    This has nothing to do with ideas; it's all about marketing. Microsoft has some of the best marketing people, so we would do well to take an example from Redmond. Why did Microsoft change Windows NT 5.0 to Windows 2000? Joe Schmoe thinks like this:

    "Oh, 5.0, but I'm already running 98, so is that an upgrade?"
    "Oh, they came out with Windows 2000, and I'm only running 98."

    "Oh, I can get IE for free, so it doesn't mean anything that Netscape is now free software."
    "Oh, Netscape is now Open Source, so I'll download it because it gives me more freedom than IE."

    In this case, Microsoft was deliberately trying to create confusion to increase the acceptance of NT 5.0. We have no interest in deliberately creating confusion (right?), so we should have a name for our software that immediately and succintly distinguishes it from gratis-but-encumbered software. Go to tucows.com and you'll see that most people (most people run windows) interact with gratis-but-encumbered software much more often than Free software.

    Let's look at Microsoft's marketing strategy with NT 5.0 versus 2000 again. Syllabically, we have:

    win-dows en-tee five-point-oh
    win-dows two thou-sand

    The renaming cut out three syllables. Coincidence?

    Also, look at the components of the words:

    NT 5.0

    The first is a simple year (easy to remember), while the second is an obscure acronym combined with an obscure version number.

    When my mother first took some computer classes, she came back home to ask me what version of Windows her PC was running. I replied "Windows 3.1." (I cut my teeth programming with Borland C++ 3.0 on MS-DOS 5.0/Windows 3.1.)

    She said, "No, that's not right. What version of Windows is my PC running?"

    Me: "3.1."

    Mom: "No, that's not a version of Windows."

    Me: "Yes it is."

    Mom: "Then what version of Windows is the PC at work running?"

    Me: "Some are Windows 98 and some are NT 4.0."

    Mom: "???"

    Me: "Microsoft's versioning schemes divulged with the release of 'Chicago', aka. Windows 95. Whereas versions of Windows prior to Windows 95 were simply given a version number, Windows 95 and later were given a common name which refers to the year of intended release in addition to a normal version number. Thus, Windows 95 is in actuality Windows 4.0 and Windows 98 is Windows 4.5. Windows NT, on the other hand, is a completely separate product line. Windows NT 3.5 was the contemporary of Windows 95 and Windows NT 4.0 is the contemporary of Windows 98."

    Mom: "So what version of Windows is my PC running?"

    Me: "Umm...Windows 93."

    The point of this who's-on-second? People want brevity and clarity, not philosophy or linguo-technical mumbo-jumbo.

    In short, we need a name for our movement that:

    1. Is unambiguous.
    2. Is short.
    3. Does not rely on any lingual "tricks", such as capitalization, the nouning of an adjective, or recursive acronyms.

  • by FreeUser ( 11483 ) on Thursday May 09, 2002 @02:08PM (#3491990)
    Before the flames fly, hear me out.

    1) The author of the article is correct when he points out that the FSF and RMS are making a tactical error in trying to emphesize the GNU prefix to GNU/Linux (though I respect their wishes and use it as a show of respect for their contribution), in that it distracts discussion away from the freedom RMS is trying to promote with the distraction and misconception that RMS is out to stroke his ego.

    But then again, does it? I'm not so sure, now that I write this. After all, we are discussing the FSF and the freedoms it represents ... something we might not be doing (and either be unaware of, or taking for granted) otherwise.

    2) RMS is right to place the value of freedom above that of short term 'shortcuts,' and Linus' aversion to idealogy notwithstanding, there have been some harsh reminders of the dangers in trusting one's data (such as the entire cananonical kernel source tree) to a proprietary application in a proprietary format. I personally saw several hundred hours of Blender work become worthless overnight when NaN ceased operations, and while that value might one day rise again from zero of NaN stages a comeback and somehow manages to resurrect their Blender product, it will never really be safe as long as it is beholden to a single product.

    RMS has been accused of fanatacism for years for vocally warning everyone about the dangers of trusting their data to proprietary products and formats, and has stressed that the safety in storing ones data in an open format far outweights what inconvinience involved in using a less polished free alternative.

    He is right. Our data is worth far more than the hardware upon which it resides, and the software used to access it.

    Linus is wrong. If the folks at Bitkeeper, who I believe are as well meaning and kind as the folks at NaN were, find themselves in Chapter 11, or worse, projects which rely on that product have an unpleasant migration ahead, at best.

    Subversion, CVS, arch, or other open repositories may not be as simple to use, but there exists absolutely no danger of their going away because of fiscal hard times or an unexpected economic downturn. Proprietary products do not offer this kind of insurance, and that makes trusing one's valuable data to them risky at best, often reckless, and sometimes downright suicidal (in a metaphorical sense).

    3) RMS lacks tact and diplomacy. He is a talented coder and a valuable "Big Thinker," but he does make the classic mistake of equating one thing (e.g. his message of the 4 basic freedoms the GPL offers and the FSF stands for) with another (the IMHO legitimate desire to have the FSF's contribution to the GNU+Linux operating system, which is well over half the code of what arguably constitutes the core operating system).

    Yes, if people are kind they will do him the favor of calling the entire system GNU/Linux in recognition of their contribution and as a favor to a man who has given us so very much, but Linus is absolutely right to eschew doctrine and idealogy as an end in themselves, and is perfectly within his rights to call the kernel Linux and not GNU/Linux. Those who bundle the various OS parts together (e.g. Debian GNU/Linux, Source Mage GNU/Linux, Gentoo GNU/Linux, Mandrake Linux, Red Hat Linux, Suse, etc.) have the right to call their product whatever they like.

    Calling the system GNU/Linux rather than just Linux is a request we are all free to honor, or reject, as we see fit. Personally, with all that RMS has given us, I figure typing an extra 4 characters every time I type the name, or saying one syllable every time I speak it, is the very least I can do in return.

    And in the end that is what it is all about, freedom. Freedom to agree, or freedom to disagree, and freedom to argue (quietly or loudly, depending on one's style) one's perspective in opposition to another's. Which is why I hold a number of mutually acrimonious, well known free software/open source personalities in high regard for their contributions to free software and, hence, to freedom, even when I disagree with some of them on some issues.
  • by DunbarTheInept ( 764 ) on Thursday May 09, 2002 @02:42PM (#3492216) Homepage
    Okay, RMS's GNU project deserves a heck of a lot of credit for everything it's done that is in Linux (highest on that list would be the gcc compiler, in my opinion), but why the hell does he keep insisting that this credit absolutely must be in the form of a transformation of the name Linux into a horribly unpronouncable mess? What the hell has gotten into him that makes him think "GNU/Linux" is a useable name? It's not. Besides, the name of a thing shouldn't be a bibliography of all the places it took pieces from.

    I used to respect the guy a lot, but the longer he keeps up with this utterly stupid campaign to harp on the name and lambast people for preferring a usable name, the less I respect him. RMS needs to get back to evangelising stuff that actually matters.

  • by bkuhn ( 41121 ) on Thursday May 09, 2002 @02:54PM (#3492271) Homepage
    This article misrepresents some of RMS' personal positions as positions of FSF as a whole. It is indeed correct that RMS will not speak to groups that call the whole GNU/Linux operating system by the name of "Linux" [gnu.org].

    However, this 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 [tuxedo.org].) 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 [gnu.org]. 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.

    I think that point gets to the center of the problem with Barr's article. It seems to suggest that every position that RMS takes is automatically FSF policy. Of course, as our president and founder, many of RMS' personal positions match FSF policy exactly. But, most of them don't; RMS' personal website [stallman.org] is full of personal positions that aren't FSF policy.

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

    P.S. Finally, there is a factual error in the article. the GPL is the "General Public License". The G stands for General, not GNU. I usually say "GNU GPL" to make that clear.

  • by Ryan Amos ( 16972 ) on Thursday May 09, 2002 @03:35PM (#3492513)
    I attend the University of Texas and am a member of SigLinux (per mentioned in the article.) I was also one of the more vocal ones for leaving the name as it is. I figure I might as well post my thoughts on the subject here..

    Yes, GNU has done great things for Linux. gcc, the userland, etc. But others have also done great things, such as apache, xfree86, samba, etc. If we want to be fair, and call it GNU/Linux, we can't stop there. We'd have to call it GNU/XFree86/perl/PHP/mySQL/apache/Linux. Yes, GNU has made extensive contributions to Linux. But to call it GNU/Linux makes it seem like others have not.

    Personally, I don't agree with a lot of things RMS says, but I chalk them up to ideological differences and agree to disagree with a lot of GNUbies. But this issue is less ideological and more egotistical. The OS is called Linux not out of the worship we have for Linus (legend has it he first called it Freeix, but the person who ran the ftp site hated that name and just called it Linux,) it's because we've always called it Linux. The name is not about taking credit for things, it's about giving people an easy reference.

    RMS contends that "Linux" refers to only the kernel. I don't know about you, but I say "Linux" when I mean the entire system and "the kernel" when I mean the kernel. I don't mean to take credit/fame/glory/whatever away from anyone, it's just easier and a lot less confusing. People also don't call Windows "Microsoft Windows," they just call it "Windows."

    Calling the entire system "Linux" is not incorrect or wrong, but calling it "GNU/Linux" can get confusing, especially when talking about different distros. I've known less experienced Linux types ask if I've used the GNU Linux distro, not knowing that it was just what some people call the entire system. But I won't say that "GNU/Linux" is wrong, because it's not, but it's all just geeky semantics anyway.

    My whole argument for not changing the name of SIGLinux was because we are NOT a GNU/Linux user group, we're a Linux user group. Should a version of Linux without GNU tools exist, that would fall under our area of expertise. Changing our name just to pet Stallman's ego and represent our group as holding a certain belief (where in actuality, there are some VERY widely differing opinions on the issue in SIGLinux) would misrepresent us, as we don't all buy into the GNU philosophy.

    Anyway, this is a lot longer than I originally intended. So I'll stop. I'm actually looking for replies, I have enough karma already. So reply! ;)

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