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GNU is Not Unix

Feature:Free Linux 630

Tom Christiansen, the Perl deity who once kick/banned me from #perl for asking a question about socket programming (not that I'm bitter *grin*) has written a feature called "Free Linux, Support the Demon Penguin" where he argues with the FSF and RMSs stance that Linux should be referred to as GNU/Linux because it is mostly GNU. Tom includes some numbers that you might find revealing. This one is worth a read.
The following was written by the Author of the Perl Cookbook, and Slashdot Reader Tom Christiansen

Free Linux! Support the Demon Penguin.

The Demon Penguin, first seen on a T-shirt at the Linux World conference, is the mascot of the movement to create a an FSF-free Linux by replacing all FSF-owned software in Linux distributions with replacement programs from the BSD distributions.

The Linux kernel, while GPL'd, is certainly not to be replaced, nor is anything else that was *not* written directly by the FSF, whether it's GPL'd or not. As for the compiler, perhaps egcs is a better technical solution. A mere GPL does not GNUware make. Only software that the FSF claims is theirs should be replaced.

The point is *not* that we do not like the FSF's software, or that we do not like the GPL -- well, at least not all of us. Rather, it's because we cannot abide anyone usurping responsibility for the intellectual works of others. In the case of the FSF, such an inconsistent act is oxymoronic at best, and hypocritical at worst.

Let's use real data, not the hyperbolic rhetoric so common to the FSF. Here's a code analysis of a SuSE installation. Note that FSF ownership does not even quite reach 10%, yet rms and his followers would have it called "GNU/Linux". Their claim has no honest justification. Witness the numbers, and judge for yourself:

Code Contribution Distribution for S.u.S.E. 5.2

Package Name: suse5.2.codd
Package Size: +514659722 bytes.

  1. uncredited: 82733250 (16.075%)
  2. free software foundation, inc: 51254116 (9.958%)
  3. sun microsystems, inc: 38243234 (7.43%)
  4. the regents of the university of california: 23581801 (4.582%)
  5. x consortium: 18163125 (3.529%)
  6. thomas g. lane: 8464917 (1.644%)
  7. the university of washington: 7832780 (1.521%)
  8. digital equipment corporation: 7206660 (1.4%)
  9. snns group, ipvr, univ: 4366722 (0.848%)
  10. aladdin enterprises: 4108079 (0.798%)
  11. silicon graphics, inc: 3680070 (0.715%)
  12. robert nation: 2465545 (0.479%)
  13. maorong zou: 2438025 (0.473%)

Even if it is 10%, that's not enough to rename Linux to the repugnant "GNU/Linux". And it's not 10%. On a fully loaded server system, it's much less. Attached you will find an `ls` of /usr/man/man1 and /usr/man/man8 from a well-loaded RedHat Linux server system. Let the FSF indicate which commands were written by the FSF themselves, so that their claim of GNU/Linux might have some legitimacy. Until the FSF can prove actual authorship for > 50% of these, they have no business with this deceptive "GNU/Linux" moniker.

Let us give credit where it is due: to all those hundreds and hundreds of selfless volunteers all over the world who have made all Linux what it is today. The bogus term "GNU/Linux" confuses the public about what free operating systems like Linux and BSD are all about, and, perhaps more dangerous to us in the long run, dishonors the innumerable contributors by ignoring their massive efforts.

So please, everyone: let Linux remain Linux, nothing more -- but nothing less! When rms and his minions abandon this misguided and deceptive battle, we too can relent, but until then, support the Demon Penguin!

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Feature:Free Linux

Comments Filter:
  • "GNU/Linux" ?

    Methinks the adjectives chosen say more about their authors than they say about the moniker "GNU/Linux" itself.
  • by Dj ( 224 )

    That'll make a nice acronym....

  • Go ahead and take all GNU stuff from your system, without replacing it. You will be left with a system without such inessential things as ls, cat, mv, cp, et. al., and, libc.
    If you want a useful system with no GNU software, you _have_ to replace all these.


  • You still have to make the distinction between application programs and system programs. System programs are those that are there not to get any "real" work done, but rather to tend to the system itself. For example, the shell essentially does no other work than launching programs. GNU has written most of the essential system programs in Linux distributions. Stuff like ls, cp, mv, rm, ln, mkdir, rmdir, chmod, chown, touch, df, du, cat, etc. They wrote shells, gawk and a sed. And a C development environment. As a previous poster very accurately remarked, think Unix V7. What the FSF provided is the _essentials_ of a Unix system, save for the kernel. That is, all the system programs needed for the very basic functionality, and the development tools to write applications with. If you have that, then you have a working system that you can write apps on.


  • As a matter of fact, RMS has nowhere claimed the FSF wrote most of the software included in a Linux distribution. There was an article about RMS a few days ago where he was quoted as guessing it was more like 30%.
    Also, the FSF has willingly adopted non-FSF packages for the GNU system. This includes BSD and X code.


  • Ok. Can you show me some _actual quote_ from RMS where he actually claims that _he himself_ has written some code he hasn't? The key words here are _actual quote_. If you just blurt out "Oh, he's saying all the time that blah", without showing me an actual instance of him saying that, you lose.


  • The idea of the copyleft, as embodied in the GPL, is to protect free software from being used in proprietary projects. The only legal means to do this is copyright.

    If the legal system didn't allow people to copyright ideas, this would not be an issue.


  • "GNU software" is software written or collected by the FSF in its goal to build a free clone of Unix. This includes quite a bit of software the FSF didn't write (for example, from X and BSD)


  • I was replying to a guy that said that he could get a usable system removing all the GNU stuff from a Linux distro, _without replacing it_.

    Read before you post. Unless you're such a deep thinker that you have a priori knowledge of what other people have posted.


  • I question the methods for determining what part of the OS is GNU. The claim attempting to be refuted is that GNU software makes up a large part of operating system. This does not include apps such as GS or TeX whos importance to source line count ratio is not nearly as high as it is for say, grep, bash, etc. Some large packages, such as XFree86, may arguably be considered part of the OS, but for the most part the OS is made up of very important and very small programs. (Well, plus that little kernel thingy that Linus and friends wrote).


  • While I'm personally against the GNU/Linux name for purely phonetic reasons, I think there are some issues to be resolved before I'd explicitly support the Demon Linux movement.

    1) FSF is the largest single contributer of code to Linux. Why must they represent over half the code before they get credit? If they did have over 50%, I'd think it would be more 'fair' to drop Linux and just call it GNU.

    2) The number of lines of code does not reflect the actual value of the code. Specifically, things like gcc are worth far more than its LOC value since it begets almost all the other code. Besides, I thought a good programmer was one that did much with few lines of code. This chart _could_ mean that the FSF represents 70% of the core functionality with only 10% of the code.

    3) The whole purpose of the FSF is to help the community and is thus a very altruistic organization. Now oddly enough, this group of people has a human as their leader and even more strange is that this human appears to be less than perfect. I can understand not being completly enamoured with the FSF's leader but does that really force us to actively attack the organization he happens to run? Why are we trying to snub a group of people who are trying to help?

    4) There are no compeling technical reasons for replacing all the work that the FSF has contributed to Linux. Their code is, above all, free code. Also of importance, I find a great deal of their code to be valuable. Now, if I have complete control of my own code (they gave it to me) and no one can take that right from me, it makes no sense for me to rewrite it from scratch. Instead, when I've got a problem, It would be much more effective for me to work with the existing code. Of couse this obvious as it is the foundation of Open Source software. But what this does mean is that Demon Linux is a purely political movement not based on reason but emotions.
  • Look, this is really not that complex.

    Linux is GPLed because Linus wanted to contribute back to the community. Get it? Both RMS and Linus are part of the SAME community so they solved a problem together that they could not have solved apart. This IS the goal RMS was striving for. We, the people, help each other out. The whole beauty of this is that RMS didn't have to personally organize and code a Unix kernel by himself.

    Just because Linus' kernel was picked over the Hurd doesn't mean that we somehow cleverly defeated RMS and kept him from world dominiation. We helped him gain the world! And, in the process, we helped ourselves.
  • by bmetz ( 523 )
    I'm glad someone prominent decided to speak up on this. I've always felt that the term
    GNU/Linux was pretty scummy, and its quite obvious
    from all the argument over it that it's certainly
    not very catchy. Credit where credit is due is
    one thing, but credits in the product's name is
  • Go do a DejaNews search on Tom and his rants about Richard Stallman and the "GPV". For example, his "GPL Documentation == unspeakable evil" thread (he says it is a "creeping poison").

    Based on his postings, I would say he is a person with a lot of hatred towards Richard Stallman, the FSF, the GPL, anything "GNU". I highly suggest that you read up on his history before supporting anything that Tom Christiansen does. You want want to help him anyway, but you should at least understand where he is coming from first.
  • Is that you, Tom? John?
  • There's a lot more than "questioning" going on with Tom. Review his posts, note his liberal use of vitriol and pejoritaves, then get back with me. There is certainly nothing wrong with questioning Stallman, but he takes it a few levels beyond that.
  • What's not true? I didn't say anything about the Perl documentation.
  • by Trepidity ( 597 )
    Umm, what are you going to do for a compiler, if you want a completely FSF-free distro? egcs certainly won't do, since it's merely some enhancements to gcc. The core of the compiler is still FSF code, so if you use it, you still have tons of FSF code in a crucial part of your system.

    Write your own compiler? That seems a bit much to do merely to spite the FSF.
  • Agreed. Linus is down at around 0.02%, so obviously it would be ludicrous to name the entire OS after something that is less than 0.1% of the total code (even counting everybody other than Linus that's contributed to the Linux kernel).

    Since the FSF is the single largest author of the OS, it makes sense to call it the GNU OS. In fact, it is the same GNU OS that the FSF has been working on for quite a few years now, except that the still-not-finished HURD kernel was replaced by the Linux kernel. As such, it's the GNU OS with the Linux kernel, or GNU/Linux for short. If anything should be dropped, it should be the "Linux" portion, since that's just a temporary replacement until HURD is done, not GNU, which is the OS that is here to stay.
  • Tom's big objection was that if you GPL documentation, then you GPL code examples in that documentation. If those examples are GPL'd, then you can't use them if you want to release you work under, say, the BSD license.

    That means, the GPL license PREVENTS you from doing as you wish with your code. That means, the GNU GPL does not promote freedom, because it restricts people's actions - namely in the act of releasing code under a different license.

    Actually, that's incorrect. You can release your own code under the BSD license, even if you have previously released it under the GPL. You are free to do whatever you want with your code, including releasing it in separate instances under different licenses, even mutually incompatible ones. The GPL does not prevent you from re-releasing your code, documentation, or anything else, at a later time under whatever license you wish (even a non-Free Software one).
  • The problem is that he tries to prove that it shouldn't be called GNU/Linux by showing percentages of code contributions. However, his percentages show that the FSF contributed more code than all the Linux kernel people combined. That sorta counteracts his point. If we are to choose a name by percent of code contributed, then it should be the GNU OS, since the FSF is the single largest contributor.
  • Ok, go ahead, make an FSF-free distribution. It'll take you years, but it's possible. Write your own compiler from scratch (egcs will not do, since it's heavily based on gcc), use a bunch of BSD utilities, and by 2005 or so it might be stable. Let us know when it's done.
  • I think it depends on what you call "Linux". If you mean the entire contents of a distribution, it's obvious that GNU software is a minority. But if you mean the "core Unix" (think Unix V7, guy), the GNU software is almost everything except the kernel.
    The question of where the OS ends and the applications begin is a tricky one. Just ask Microsoft and the Department of Justice, which are currently squabbling over exactly that question :-).

    -- Eric
  • depending upon the type of licenses chosen by the contributors. It would also be a big expenditure of time rewriting all those tools! :)

    This "Free Linux" idea, purveyed by this Tom Slick guy, sounds like a commercial ploy to me. It may be one of those attacks on the freeness of Linux and any other GNUly appointed system. After all, Linux is already free!

    The FSF or Free Software Foundation is basically THE FREE SOFTWARE FOUNDATION of Linux; take away the foundation and the building discorporates.

    Stallman is interested in Linux remaining free (see FSF definition of free). The GPL is the protection afforded to free software against being coopted by non-free (proprietary) entities. Stallman is sometimes referred to as the prophet. Ok, so maybe he acts like one sometimes. He has a vision and wants to make sure it doesn't get lost in growing commercialization of Linux. You may not like what the so called prophet has to say but it's got to be said.

    GNU/Linux as a name? I could care less. It doesn't matter much to me as long as it remains free - truly free.
  • what he was counting as OS code; Not stuff purchased separately.

    It _is_ rather a good question -- how much of the bundled tools are actually part of the OS? After all, Unix relies heavily on non-kernel stuff to make it what it is...
    Hell, if it ain't kernel, it's userspace -- and of all the bundled userspace stuff, most of it's not from GNU.
  • Little thought experiment:

    If I removed ls, cp, mv, rm, ln, bash and the like and put a new GUI with no shell on top, would it still be linux, or would it be My/Linux?

    I'd still think of it as linux, just with some very different stuff on top.
  • Posted by FascDot Killed My Previous Use:

    They're not calling it GNU/Linux because it was produced by the FSF. They are calling it that because much of the software is released under the GNU Public License.

    In any case, it makes no sense to ask "who created this tool" because the point is that EVERYONE can contribute to existing code.

    It would be a lot less misleading to partition by license rather than original programmer. If you do that I believe you will find much justification for calling it GNU/Linux.
  • Posted by Nick Carraway:

    The FSF is the single largest contributing organization in that S.u.S.E. distribution, according to his numbers. And let's not forget which compiler and binutils generated the code that makes up the remaining 90%. EGCS? I don't think so.

    Have fun rewriting GCC, binutils, emacs and all the rest, boys. It's sure a lot easier than thinking of something original, isn't it? Oh, and lest you think I'm some huge RMS fan, I'm not. He's goofy and he makes us all look like dorks by association. Still, I won't begrudge the man his props...
  • Posted by mrcl:

    Whenever I use gcc or gdb, or gmake or countless other important apps in linux, I know that the FSF is behind them. Its right there in the name. I appreciate what they have done, and I wouldn't want to have to rewrite their code.

    I think that they are getting plenty of credit, and they don't need any more.

    Whenever you use linux, you are using the kernel, which Linus wrote, and so it should remain named linux.

    The name stays as "linux", and we leave in the FSF code.

  • Posted by Art Pepper:

    >This rant is just stupid.

    Agreed. B-O-R-I-N-G.

    RMS is controversial. You agree with his point of view or not. All of these "discussions" about GNU/Linux vs Linux are the same thing over and over again. I will never be resolved.

    It is one thing for informed people to disagree. But I read replies from people who obviously don't know anything of the history of free software/open source.

    That's all. Back to work!
  • Posted by FascDot Killed My Previous Use:

  • Posted by Alf Alpha:

    How about:

    Gnulix -- gah-new-licks


    Gnulinux -- gah-NEW-lin-ucks

    I think either one would be pretty rockin'

    Or you could go the other way with

    Lingnu -- Lin-gah-new


    Linignu -- Lin-eh-gah-new

    or even

    Linugnux -- Lin-ah-gah-nucks
  • Posted by !ErrorBookmarkNotDefined:

    >> And it's not 10%

    Gosh, you're right.

    It's 9.958% on that link you gave us.

    Good point, Tom. That's not 10%.

    You nailed that one, boy.

    I can't imagine how FSF can have any comeback to that one.

    Computers are useless. They can only give answers.
  • Posted by !ErrorBookmarkNotDefined:

    Me fragment the community? Am I the one posting nonsense like:

    9.958% is not 10%

    No. Look in the mirror, pal . . .
    Oh, wait, you're an AC. Guess you don't have a face, eh?

    In any event, Tom's little missive actually convinced me to give RMS' arguments another look. Tom was so absurd, so prone to hair splitting that I actually think RMS has a point now.

    Oh, one last gob of spit in your face. If you don't want to use an OS because of its name (witness ol' Tommy, ever the fount of reason: "rename Linux to the repugnant 'GNU/Linux'"), then, well, you got real problems.

    Computers are useless. They can only give answers.
  • Linux is a good enough name, so I think I'll stick with it....

    RMS himself has claimed in a recent interview that about 30% of the code in a basic Linux distribution is from the FSF (although he may have meant that it's under the GPL; one problem in this discussion is that the distinction is not always clear). 30% may be a plurality, sure, but it would have nothing to run on if it weren't for the kernel -- and the kernel couldn't be built without gcc.

    So? Linux is obviously a complex product and the distro people deserve whatever money and egoboo they make. FSF software is a central part of any distro. That doesn't mean we're all morally obligated to do whatever RMS says -- or indeed to pay any attention to him at all -- but on the other hand RMS has earned the right to try to make his case for the moral necessity of the GPL -- which he is doing, and taking advantage of the sudden industry interest in Linux to evangelize as much as possible.

    Our movement -- and I don't care what you call it, we all know what it is -- includes revivalist RMS, PR specialist ESR, politician BP, executives at Red Hat, SuSE, Caldera, and VA, and thousands of hackers and hundreds of thousands of testers, advocates, and kibitzers. That's just the way it is; millions of people doing their own thing on Planet Linux for their own reasons, and none of us has the authority to exile anybody else from the movement.

    I personally think this effort -- to replace FSF software purely out of spite, or out of disgust with the press attention paid to RMS, or out of fear that clueless business executives may shy away from Linux because of RMS' mystical advocacy of his particular brand of freedom (or the misunderstanding of the GPL apparent in the rantings of some of its more immature supporters, whose mouths are substantially bigger than their brains) -- this effort is fundamentally misguided.

    We're not about "reading anybody out" of the movement. (Some people, like Bruce Perens, periodically read themselves out, then back in again. That's their privilege.) We're about producing high-quality software with a completely open and cooperative development model. If we don't do that, we might as well spend our time and resources collecting baseball cards or playing golf.

    So instead of reinventing the FSF's wheel, let's go on to making GNOME reliable, getting KDE 2 out the door, expanding The Gimp's capabilities, bulletproofing our NFS routines, writing USB drivers, perfecting LessTif and WINE, or other things that need doing. Wasting development time just because we're ticked off at what someone says is silly, bordering on the childish. We're supposed to be grownups.

    Craig []

  • > The compiler in particular would have been torn apart long ago by proprietary interests if it had been covered by anything other than GPL.

    One point that I don't understand about the whole license debate -- GPL vs the freer BSD/X/Artistic etc. -- is that GPL people keep repeating this sort of thing as though they have lost something they were entitled to if somebody takes the available source, makes some secret improvements, and makes money selling it -- which is prohibited by the GPL but allowed (one way or another) by most of the others.

    If you have some freely-available source, and so does somebody else, and that somebody else makes changes to it without giving them to you, what precisely have you lost? Can you no longer make the same use of the source you always could? What exactly have they deprived you of? How have they "torn apart" the program?

    And if this could happen so easily and inevitably, why is all the FreeBSD stuff still doing so well?


  • I like it, it has the string "gnu" embedded in it.

    Of course the One True Name is... GNULIX!


  • It makes me sad to see all of this animosity over a mere label. I accept "Linux" and "GNU/Linux" to be equivalent terms, and don't feel offended by either. Call it "Lavendar FistCheese(tm)" for all I care. Let's have a holy-war against holy-wars for a change.
  • No, no, it is a sign that like him we must think not of the things of the body, but of the face and head!
  • The fulfillment of RMS's dream is not a FSF-copyrighted kernel (Hurd) but a copylefted-kernel (Linux). That FSF does not hold the copyright is irrelevant. That linux is GPL'd is.
  • I wrote: That linux is GPL'd is [what matters].
  • by pohl ( 872 )
    Thank you Caleb, for putting it in terms that anyone should be able to understand. Anyone who, after reading your post, persists in their nomenclature-jihad (from either side!) simply isn't up to the task of understanding.
  • That's a good point (about gift-giving), and it should hold equally well for Linus -- who should have no qualms with me, from this point forward, refering to GNU/Linux as "Tux". Although I still like "Lavendar FistCheese(tm)".
  • Hi, Brett. I think you're being disingenuous here. The GPL does not prevent money-grubbing programmers from making money from their own labor. Nay, it doesn't even prevent them from making money from GPL'd software! I say, as respectfully as I can muster, that you're talking straight out of your ass.
  • In response to infidel LetterJ, I'd like to initiate a project to recreate those parts of the English language that came from Latin, French, Norse or Spanish. Then we'll be free at last!
  • But for a large number of applications, it is next to impossible to make enough money writing (or supporting, customizing, or whatever) GPL'd software to support themselves.

    I agree there with you there, but what you're saying is only trivially true insofar as there's no such thing as a one-size-fits-all license. All you are saying is that there are some problem-domains where the GPL would be a poor choice of licenses. That's a far cry from Brett's claim.

    A license is just a tool. You're saying that a hammer isn't very useful when you need to drive a screw. Brett may grok this, but he's obviously holding a grudge against the hammer anyway.

  • You want to replace all the GNU tools because you think RMS has too much of an ego? This is not just a waste of time but destructive.

    One of the GOOD things about Linux is that, even though there are lots of distributions, there is a lot of commonality in the toolsets people use. If common utilities start behaving differently on different distributions then the FUD mongers will suddenly be right about splintering and infighting.

    Grow up.
  • >Nobody complains when Caldera, Redhat, Slackware, Debian, Suse, or any of the other dists put their name or spin on linux. "Open linux", "Turbo linux", "Debian Linux" '

    Those names clarify a variant, they don't (intend to) claim credit for the whole thing.

    >If people want to call it GNU/Linux then let them.

    That is not the issue. It's people getting on my case if *I* don't.

  • According to the review from ArsTechnica:

    "The retail version of SuSE 6.0 comes with enough software on the included five-CD set that even those of you with cable modems will feel lucky."

    Since the kernel and GNU utilities are the same size no matter how much extra crap is thrown in, won't their percentage go down as bloat goes up? 300 Meg is ~9% of five CD's, while 45% of one CD (like Redhat). And I'm sure a lot of that "uncredited author" code that's #1 is the crap that SUSE throws in on the 4th or 5th CD's.

    While I agree that GNU/Linux is a crappy name, I have real problems with this methodology of proving it.
  • Agreed, agreed, and agreed again. If RMS' numbers lie, Tom's are no more honest. I mean, seriously -- GCC. Compiler technology is some of the most difficult stuff in computer science, and the free software movement is built (literally) wiht GCC. Good luck, Tom, and shut up until you have TCC for us, and Temacs as well.

    Please do tell us -- what is your gripe with RMS? So he wants credit for his vision and his excellent work. I'm more than happy to give it to him.

  • Here's the real question -- could Linux have reached critical mass without the GNU utilities?

    That is still the wrong question. Could Linux have reached critical mass without Intel CPUs? Since Linus wrote the first version on an Intel chip should we call it Intel/Linux?

    How about ING/Linux (ING = ING's not GNU)?

    The real question is -- why change the name when it already had a name?
  • in 1948th place with 0.002% of the code. That is a very interesting chart.

    The answer to this is simple. I'll come up with my LYING distribution

    (Linux, Yes, Isn't Named GNU)
  • Here's some favorite companies and there breakdown

    #2 Sun Microsystems 7.43% (and a little tiny bit mislabeled as Sun Microsystem)
    #587 Apple Computer 0.017% (curious)
    #2270 Microsoft Corporation 0.001% (Thanks Uncle Bill)
    #3483 IBM 0.001% (what about the Apache/NT patch?)

    nothing from AOL, but there is a rather large personal contribution from an AOL address.
    ^~~^~^^~~^~^~^~^^~^^~^~^~~^^^~^^~~^~~~^~ ~^~
  • Yep sure enough I misposted above. He actually shows up about four times. I suppose my number involves some of his earlier code left around.

    And I think you are right, they don't fear Linux as much as they fear the GPL's hungry nature. Linus's origional copyright wasn't GPL but he changed it to GPL becuase "it worked better" whatever that means.

    I like the GPL, it is enough of a marker. I'd hate to have to name every application I release under the GPL as GNU/Nosepicker, etc...
    ^~~^~^^~~^~^~^~^^~^^~^~^~~^^^~^^~~^~~~^~~^ ~
  • Do a search of the above subject on slashdot and you'll see this is one of the most contested ideas dating back to Bits and Chips.

    But I'll agree with it. The GPL would not be able to protect my code if it allowed others freedom to use of it or allowed me freedom to use anothers GPLed code. But it does protect it, in some very strange public limbo where alls fair as long as it stays in that state (of GPL). The GPL may not be freedom but it is fair! And that is more than any other Liscence out there.

    The GPL is in itself an owner of the code, not the writer or the person who adds to it. But at least it is free as in it won't ever *have* to cost you money. And it is free speach. But it is not freedom.
    ^~~^~^^~~^~^~^~^^~^^~^~^~~^^^~^^~~^~~~^~ ~^~
  • by On Lawn ( 1073 )
    Yep, I counted four entries if you include a cooperative contribution, after I posted it. The entry I found (I don't know why it was the only one I found) seems to be some of his oldest legacy code. Way to go Linus! It would be interesting historicaly if people had said what version of the program they were contributing to.

    I searched for a few names I knew and didn't pull up anything.
    ^~~^~^^~~^~^~^~^^~^^~^~^~~^^^~^^~~^~~~^ ~~^~
  • The FSF has still contributed the largest single share. And I suspect that if one looks at the core -- /bin, /usr/bin, libc, and such -- the fraction is much higher.

    More to the point, though, the FSF provided the real impetus behind the free (speech, as opposed to beer) software movement, and devised the framework (GPL) in which free software could be created and be guaranteed to remain free. Whether someone else would have had the same insight is anyone's guess, but it's certainly not obvious that that would have happened. This, to me, is more important than any piece of software, other than gcc, libc, and to a lesser extent emacs.

    Finally, the Demon Penguin gang really shouldn't talk about using egcs if their intent is to produce an FSF-free Linux distribution. egcs is quite directly based on gcc, even if it has diverged. The egcs team quite openly acknowledges that fact through the name (Experimental GNU Compiler Suite).

    GNU/Linux may be an awkward name, and names may not always be fair, and Richard Stallman may be very annoying, but that does not make his point invalid. Eric Raymond, who is no particular friend of the FSF's position (he's generally regarded as a, if not the, leader in what I refer to as the "pragmatic" camp of the free source movement), took pains to acknowledge that fact at Linux World.
  • by kfort ( 1132 )
    you idiot. completely independant of fsf
  • We have Red Hat Linux, and S.u.S.E., and Stampede, etc.

    Why doesn't Stallman release his own distro (with only FSF software) and call it Official GNU/Linux (tm)?

    Let the marketplace decide the preferred distro/name.

  • RMS claimed that nearly half the code on a Linux distribution was GNU code. Ergo, using his own stats is the way to defeat him.
  • He made the comments about a single install from a single distribution with a specific set of options. Probably had the box setup as a programming box.

  • Things that I like ...

    That Richard Stallman doesn't like:

    O'Reilly Books
    Tom Christiansen

    That Tom Christiansen doesn't like:

    GPLed Documentation
    Richard Stallman

    But I can like all of these things, and so can you :-)

    Mike Greaves
  • That you, pots?
  • Where can I get one of those t-shirts?
  • You beat me to it. For example, gcc is a VERY big part of Linux (or, GNU/Linux, if you must). Without gcc, where would we be? I doubt Linux would've gotten as far as it has without gcc. RMS also wrote the initial Emacs and also wrote gdb. I view those as VERY significant contributions, and that doesn't include the other software that the FSF has donated.

    Seriously, Tom---what's your gripe with the FSF? RMS wants his ego stroked, he wants people to appreciate his contributions. If no one ever told Linus "thanks" and "good job", he may have stopped working on the kernel long ago.

    ESR points out in the good ol' C&B paper that ego is a big part of free software development. RMS wants a piece of that, he wants appreciation.

    I, for one, greatly appreciate RMS's contributions, and I recognize them. I still don't call it GNU/Linux, my habits are otherwise, but when I explain Linux to someone, I explain how the FSF contributed greatly with all of the classic UNIX utilities (sed, awk, grep, etc.) as well as a pretty darn good C/C++ compiler, debugger, and GNU make.

    I think it'll take Tom quite a while to write all of that himself. We can have Tom/Linux with Tom CC, tdb (Tom's debugger), and Tom Make. Have fun, Tom, come back in ten years when you've finished those and we'll see what else you can waste your time on.
  • Besides, do we really want to call it Unrecognized/Linux?

    No, we want to call it Linux. You know the name of the kernel. You never see "Sun Microsystems/Solaris", or "AT&T/Unix", or "IBM/OS/2" There is no reason to recognize a software contributor in the name of the OS, if you're going to do that you might as well call it "GNU/Linus Torvalds/Sun Microsystems/University of California/Washington University/Donald Becker/Alan Cox/AT&T/Aladdin Enterprises/X Consortiom/XFree/Red Hat Labs/Cygnus/I'm sorry about people I forgot/Linux." That's rediculous. I have no problem with "RedHat Linux" or "SuSE Linux" because when you get down to it they decided what goes in the OS, they created the OS, they can call it whatever the heck they want. Debian can call it "GNU/Linux" if they want, but FSF should expect me to.

  • The only way Tom is ever really going to happy
    is when we have, eg,

    all the way up to

    and, of course,

    But seriously, haven't we got enough *real*
    problems to solve?
  • Sure, the FSF doesn't have so much of the code.

    I think the FSF would reply that they started the whole idea, and kept it going during the long dark times of the 80's.

    It's probably fair to say that if the FSF had never written a line of code, Linux would not exist, whereas if one of the other contributers (except Linus, obviously) had not written their code, someone else would have filled their place.

    Of course that's not to say that those 'other' coders have contributed less to the body of code. It's simply a comment on how the Open Source tradition has been built, and who laid the foundations.

    That said, I don't think the GNU/Linux thing makes any sense at all. The FSF should be credited, but not like that.

    Also, while this GNU/Linux thing is indeed a very public and a very petty squabble, I think RMS and the FSF are going to be an increasingly important counterweight to what is happening with ESR et al. at the other end of the scale.

    I see RMS as a constant against which measurements can be made :-)
  • Hmm.. From what I remember of Free PC software, it was almost all free beer and no free speech (i.e. all binaries, no code).

    The point is that the FSF built foundations. Writing a C compiler is hard. Lots of people who later wrote free code in C would not have done so if GCC hadn't been available. Also, if the FSF hadn't written GCC, I don't think anyone else would have done. It's a massive task that requires deep committment and competence. If zlib didn't exist someone would get fed up and write it. If gcc didn't exist, people would have bought more proprietary compilers.

  • Please don't call people idiots, and please use whole sentences. It makes you look smarter.

    Anyway, last I checked *BSD systems use gcc. So, BSD did not create a C compiler. Also, the roots of BSD are in an academic organisation that paid people nice yearly salaries to work on code full time.

    The fact remains that the kind of people who churn out jolly jelpful things like majordomo and xv and so forth are simply not in the same business as the people who created gcc.

    And, many (most?) of those that created jolly helpful things like xv would not have been able to do so without gcc or another excellent 100% free c compiler.

    Imagine if Perl was commercial. What would be the point in anyone creating Majordomo if you had to go out and buy Perl to run it? Instead, whoever wrote Majordomo would more likely have spent the money on a commercial listserver.

    It is the fact that the _foundation_ software is free that has promoted the massive amount of software apps and utils built on those foundations. And it is the early, idealist groups like the FSF that built much of the foundations.

  • No, you are all missing the point of the thread.

    Tom wanted a BSD/Artistic style license. FSF wants a GNU style license.

    Tom objects to the viral nature of the GPL.

    Tom's big objection was that if you GPL documentation, then you GPL code examples in that documentation. If those examples are GPL'd, then you can't use them if you want to release you work under, say, the BSD license.

    That means, the GPL license PREVENTS you from doing as you wish with your code. That means, the GNU GPL does not promote freedom, because it restricts people's actions - namely in the act of releasing code under a different license.

    It's not the only view point, but Tom is certainly not outrageous in his concerns.

    It all becomes more interesting if you think of the GPL as applying to IDEAS within the documentation. Suppose the canonical Perl documentation is GPL's and it explains what a closure is in Perl. Does that mean you can't use closures unless you GPL the code with closures in?

    This then becomes a debate on whether the GPL covers the _text_ (ASCII) of the documentation, or the sense of the documentation. At this point it becomes obvious to me that the GPL is not defined in such a way that it applies usefully to documentation.

    With source code, the ASCII of the code is inextricably linked to the function the code performs. This is simply not true of documentation.

    It's an important an interesting problem, that no one except Tom seemed to care about or understand, much.

  • Yes, but the license covering documentation is:

    1. Still viral in nature (requires that derived documentation retains the same license)
    2. Appears to have been designed on for documentation explaining the function and use of programs, which is not at all the same as documentation explaining, say, the finer points of socket programming in Perl.

    So, the issue remains that:
    1. The FSF has an unhealthy (in Tom's opion) fondness for viral licenses.

    2. Neither the FSF nor anyone else is really thinking hard about copyright concerns for documentation that includes significant bodies of source code.

    You say:
    "Perhaps that is also why copyright covers expressions of ideas rather than ideas themselves."

    However, I think you will find that the distinction between an idea and its expression is so subtle, complex and disputed as to make your sentence (and, I dare say are large amount of copyright law) rather unhelpful.

    And yes, clues are good things, but a miserable replacement for intelligence, and dare I say it, politeness?

  • Hmmm.

    Those are good points, but I'm not sure the analogy is quite good...

    "One who believes in free speech _ought not_ to speak in a way that hinders the free speech of others." That's OK, but what is NOT OK is:

    "One who believes in free speech _ought not to be able to_ speak in a way that hinders the free speech of others."

    Now, I think the GPL believes in the second statement. The first statement says that it is wrong (in a moral sense) to limit free speech of others. The GPL would go further an enforce that morality by making it impossible.

    I think Tom objects to that imposition.

    Intersting stuff tho...
  • Won't the creation of an FSF-free Linux (BSD/Linux or Whatever/Linux) automatically create the need to call the current Linux GNU/Linux due to the need to differentiate the two? So they end up actually creating what they were trying to destroy? Oh, boy, fragmentation - what a contribution.

  • Why not call the OS by the name of the distribution? That means Debian is 'Debian GNU/Linux' and Redhat is 'Redhat Linux' and something else might be 'Joe-Bob Monkey/Linux'.

    If you want to use an OS called 'GNU/Linux', use Debian.

    (If you want an OS with real package management, use Debian, too.)
  • A couple of points:
    • They don't want to call it FSF/Linux, they want to call it GNU/Linux. Tom argues against the name FSF/Linux, and not very convincingly, since according to his own data the FSF is apparently the biggest contributor to the SUSE Linux distribution.
    • An operating system is different from a kernel, but it is also different from a distribution fully loaded with user applications. Who wants to argue that programs like lyx or gimp are part of the OS Linux? If you use a more sane definition of OS, the proportion of FSF code goes up.
    • By far the most important contribution of the FSF to the Linux world is the GPL. Tom ignored that entirely.
    • RMS definitely has a point and Tom doesn't. However, changing a name for marketing purposes is a technique worthy of the worst of suites.
    • We should simply agree to mention the achievements and contributions of the GNU project whenever we talk or write about Linux.


  • Linux deserves to be named not because Linus wrote/edited a good chunk of the code, but because ever single line of code in the kernel was contributed willingly to a project named "Linux".
    It's a matter of kernel code lines vs. fsf code lines -- not Linus's code vs. fsf code.
  • One important tip I learned from a few years
    of perl5-porters was that if you didn't
    strictly have to read a Tom Christiansen
    post, it was often easier to ignore it and
    save yourself the karmic hassle of feeling
    dirty at the end of a mailreading session.
    Tom's a moderately smart guy, but he's so full
    of bile now, for whatever reason, that it's
    no longer worth the effort.
  • They only require you to be on topic, RTFM and ask questions in English. If you expect them to spend time on your problems you better spend enough time to satisfy the above.

  • Spot on. Nicely put.

    If *I'd* made those comments, I'd want to take credit for them :)

  • Then why does it matter whether you replace the GNU utilities? Personally, I have no problem with people running a BSD/Linux system. But this article seems as hypocritical to me as the position it claims to find "reprehensive". Counting total lines of code (as he did) seems to me to be rather silly. Unless you want to count Apache, Netscape, and LyX (not to mention innumerable mail clients, news readers, IRC clients, games...) as part of the operating system. Microsoft deja vu...

  • The argument isn't that the FSF has contributed to Linux. The argument is that Linux _is_ GNU. Once the HURD is finished we'll have a GNU/Hurd system. And I heard of some discussion of a GNU/BSD or even a GNU/Solaris system (which is IMO stretching it a bit but you get the idea)

  • Actually, no; I believe that FreeBSD uses its own replacement for most of the standard GNU utilities (not sure about libc tho). I saw a thread in the Debian mail archives about creating a GNU/FreeBSD distribution, though. Don't know what happened to it.

  • by Daniel ( 1678 )
    Where? Could you please give me a reference to a quote by RMS that says "I created the notion of free software"?

  • Perhaps most of the stuff in a Linux distro isn't from the GNU project but most of the core system is. Comparing GNU/Linux to Apache/Linux or X/Linux is silly; my system runs fine if I do a dpkg --purge apache. Rather than lines of code, I'd like to see what's commonly installed on systems and what's installed by default.

    IMO, saying that Linux system's are NOT GNU at the core is almost attempted theft.

  • I agree. After reading the postings by the Horde here, I think I'm going to start calling it GNU/Linux.

  • Linux is GNU.

  • by Daniel ( 1678 )
    "If you pick up a starving dog and give him food, he will not bite you. This is the principal difference between a dog and a man."
    -- Mark Twain


  • How about purging (however your system does it) libc, ls, sh, and sed?

  • They started GNU. People like to forget about GNU, even when they're using it. I find that to be somewhere between amusing and depressing.

  • Yes, then it wouldn't be GNU/Linux anymore. Your point?

  • I think you need to get a grip on what GNU is. It is a project to build a UNIX system based on FREE software. Not on GPLed software. (They seem to be concerned that the core system is primarily GPL) Therefore, if they find a sufficiently good piece of free software, they include it. They would be fools to rewrite X when XFree is out there.

  • I always did say RMS was full of shit. This kinda' proves it. ;-)

    Hey Richard, comb your hair, take a shower, and get a life.

    - Randy
  • It absolutely does prevent those things. The best a programmer can do, once he or she has released a product under the GPL, is make money doing peripheral tasks such as making CD-ROMs or consulting.

    (He also discusses the problem of competing against free software.)

    What you fail to realize here is that if free software destroys proprietary software, it is because it is better. Period. You can't make it stop by complaining about losing your work; the lamp-oil manufacturers lost their jobs when gas became commonly used, and gas when elecrical lights became common.

    You can NOT put the genie back in the bottle.

    Deal with it.

    How does one deal with it? A common answer is to go with the free software flow, but use a license that's less restrictive than the GPL. The LGPL works decently well; Perl's Artistic licence is good. The Open Source movement has prospered because of people who, I think, see this coming.

    The GPL is bad, I believe, but not for any of the reasons you list. Rather, it's bad because it's hostile to perfectly good licenses.


  • I would be supremely annoyed if some of the GPLd programs I wrote were called GNU software.

    For some I wouldn't care, but for most, it's not more GNU software than it is extraterrestrial software (ie: not much).
  • Brett Glass, it is ridiculous for you to comment on the foundation of the Free Software movement. It is like a fox telling a farm owner how to keep his chicken farm secure. You have done your best to discredit the concept of Open Source, and what you want is a source of free code to profit from. And now you are pretending to be a friend of Bruce Perens and tell him about RMS?

    Come on. Behave with more honesty.
  • Enough said.
  • RMS deserves his place in history. He gave us a great big whopping pile of nifty utilities that hackers world-wide use everyday. Every Linuxer who can read (which probably covers us all) knows who RMS is, and what he stands for.

    Even more importantly, however, RMS gave us the GPL, which allows us to write software and give it away without fear of having our contributions hijacked. The GPL is one seriously cool hack, and for this contribution, perhaps more than anything, RMS should be thanked.

    But the only thing worse for marketing than GNU/Linux would be if Linus's original name "Freax" would have stuck. RMS may not care about this, but some of us want to use Linux and still have a life.

    The second Linux is ubiquitous I will be the first to praise Saint Ignucious as the saviour of all computerkind. I will even promise to use words like gnu-riffic and gnu-licious. In the meantime it's all about marketing, and GNU/Linux doesn't stand a chance.
  • OK if we follow tchrists philosophy we shouldn't call our favorite OS Linux either, as the Linux kernel itself constitutes a far smaller percentage of the code on a "Linux" system than the that attributed to the FSF/Gnu people.
    If we're going to try and give credit to all the uncredited contributions then I personally vote to rename the system to JRH OS.
    for J. Random Hacker OS.
    - The Rokhed

Today is a good day for information-gathering. Read someone else's mail file.