Please create an account to participate in the Slashdot moderation system


Forgot your password?
GNU is Not Unix

"GNU/Linux" vs. "Linux" 207

ByteDancer writes "This is an editorial that I found over at kernel traffic which discusses in a neutral way the whole issue with the GNU/Linux naming suggestion." I wouldn't quite say its neutral, but I would say that its a good article.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

"GNU/Linux" vs. "Linux"

Comments Filter:
  • by Anonymous Coward
    It is really a meaningless debate.
    I would just call my system Linux
  • I believe that what RMS really wants is to get that issue into the public light. One way to do that is to get the term GNU/Linux out into the media. People will inevitably ask what GNU is, and that leads to FSF, copyleft, and discussions free software as a philosophical matter.

    I agree that this is RMS's get people to recognize the concept of freedom that has enabled Linux. If people take exception with attaching the name 'GNU' to an existing name and think this is self-serving, may I propose we call it 'Free Linux'. This introduces the issue of freedom that RMS is concerned with without making it look like someone is trying to ride Linux's coattails to fame.
  • Further, it seems to me that the only sensible place to draw this line is between the kernel and everything else. Anywhere else creates grey areas of significant size. If ls/mv/cp/etc. are part of the OS, what about kfm? If bash is part of the OS, what about fvwm? If gcc is part of the OS, what about perl? If emacs is part of the OS, what about Wordperfect? (And I don't even install emacs on my systems... I'm a joe user. Does that mean my OS is incomplete?)

    You haven't read the arguments quite right. Bash is not merely a command-line analogue of fvwm--- a GNU/Linux system will not boot without bash. (Actually, boot floppies do--- but that's not the point.)

    Look at your system startup scripts someday. They all are shell scripts run by bash, that call commands like cp, mv, mount, and so on.

    Someone once said it very well here in slashdot--- when you think GNU/Linux, thinx Unix V7. The basic, common denominator Unix toolset/environment.


  • All this is true. In that case, there would be absolutely no reason to call such a system GNU/Linux, so it's beside the point.

    A lot of it comes down to what one calls the OS. Some people obviously go with the maxim "the OS is the kernel"; I don't, but it's a merely terminological issue anyway. The kernel is clearly called Linux. The argument, IMHO, is what the Unix (and think bare-bones Unix system--- not Apache, X, and other such non-essential stuff) clone should be called.


  • Apparently, my theory is true:
    slashdot readers have a significantly lower ability to recognize sarcasm than the average population.

  • by drwiii ( 434 )
    If you want to call it GNU/Linux, fine. Don't force [] your opinion on everyone else.
  • I read a little bit of the thread on the linux-kernel mailing list. One person told Stallman that this was not the place for mentioning GNU/Linux. Stallman claimed that someone else made a posting about it first, and that he felt compelled to respond. (I did not see the original post). Someone then told Stallman that he should just ignore posts that disagree with his opinion in the interest of preventing flame wars. I was highly amused by that. None of the people bashing Stallman for his GNU/Linux stand (including the author of that last message I mentioned) had any intention of simply ignoring Stallman's post, which probably would have been the way to really stop a flamewar. It takes two to tango. The easiest way for people who don't agree with Stallman to stop this whole mess is simply to ignore his comments on the topic. Writing editorials about it or bashing Stallman about it only feeds the fire.

  • > a GNU/Linux system will not boot without bash

    There's no reason that I know of that a Linux system (or, more accurately, init) can't start anything else in the world as its command interpreter. My /etc/rc.S explicitly calls /bin/sh in the #! line. If I were to change that to /bin/tcsh or /usr/bin/perl or whatever, init should be perfectly happy using those to interpret my startup scripts. I could even replace /bin/bash and/or the /bin/sh link to it with a different Bourne derivative and not even have to rewrite my startup scripts. You said it yourself... boot floppies do it.

    For that matter, I could easily imagine a dedicated-purpose Linux machine that had no shell available at all, and replaced init with one that didn't run initscripts, just directly launched its one-and-only application.

    I don't intend to do this, because I think bash rocks, but my point remains - bash is not a vital part of the OS any more than any other shell, graphical or otherwise, is.

  • by John Campbell ( 559 ) on Friday April 09, 1999 @12:34PM (#1941648) Homepage
    I've seen quite a few arguments for and against calling Linux GNU/Linux. The arguments for seem to be based on five major points:

    1) The kernel doesn't form the entire operating system. Other programs make up the OS as well, and the name of the OS should reflect these.

    This is really two points, the second being dependent on the first. If you assume for the sake of debate that the kernel is not the entire operating system, does it follow that every program that is part of the OS should be reflected in the name? I think it doesn't.... after all, we don't call it IE/Progman/Windows/DOS. And if you assume that it does, that's where ridiculous names like "GNU/X/BSD/Apache/Mozilla/Troll/Linux" come from...

    And I'm not sure this is relevant, anyway, because I have trouble accepting large amounts of userland stuff as being an integral part of the operating system. First off, it seems to me that there's pretty obviously a line between the OS and just plain old apps. The kernel is definitely part
    of the OS; the program I whipped up the other day to emulate dice for Shadowrun pretty definitely isn't.

    Further, it seems to me that the only sensible place to draw this line is between the kernel and everything else. Anywhere else creates grey areas of significant size. If ls/mv/cp/etc. are part of the OS, what about kfm? If bash is part of the OS, what about fvwm? If gcc is part of the OS, what about perl? If emacs is part of the OS, what about Wordperfect? (And I don't even install emacs on my systems... I'm a joe user. Does that mean my OS is incomplete?)

    2) RMS and the FSF should be given credit for their huge contributions to free source.

    Certainly. That's why it's GNU cc, GNU bash, GNU emacs, GNU binutils, GNU shutils, GNU libc, and so on. These are the GNU project's contributions, and vitally important ones they are. (Well, except for emacs :) ) However, Linux is _Linus's_ contribution, so _he_ gets to name it.

    3) Linux is part of the GNU project, and should therefore carry the GNU name.

    Well, dismissing for the moment the fact that not even all of the FSF's stuff that's indisputably a part of the GNU project has "GNU" tacked on the front of its name (bash?)...

    How would you feel if you built something (using, admittedly, borrowed tools - but see 4, below), named it after yourself, spent a while using it, then your neighbor caught sight of it, and came over and said, "I've been trying to build something similar to that for years. Since I started building mine first, you have to credit me every time you refer to your creation."

    That's what RMS is trying to do to Linux. If not actually wrong, it's still, at the very least, rude.

    4) It wouldn't have been possible to make Linux without gcc, and other GNU tools.

    Probably true, but is there a rule now that the product has to be named after the tools used to create it? As someone else said, if I build a house with Craftsman tools, does that mean I have to put Sears/Campbell on my mailbox? Is this new rule going to apply to all software? If so, do I have to call my Shadowrun dice program GNU/shadowdice from now on? Is the DOS version Borland/shadowdice? Or is it still GNU/shadowdice, because I did all the development on Linux with gcc, then copied the (99-44/100% pure portable ANSI C) code to a DOS box and just did the final compile, from identical source, with Borland?

    5) We need to get GNU and the free source philosophy into the public eye.

    That's a worthwhile objective. I'm sure there are better ways to accomplish it, though, then by starting a massive public flamewar that can only damage both GNU and Linux in the public eye... You think the FUD about Linux not being unified is bad now, wait 'til the MS PR guys get hold of this one...
  • by Herschel Cohen ( 568 ) on Friday April 09, 1999 @12:25PM (#1941649) Homepage Journal
    I hope you were not including the editorial that is cited as part of this article. Because it gives a reasoned explanation for those thinking of a quick response a reason to let it pass.

    RMS has contributed greatly to the cause of "Free" software. He is simply heritage that cannot be left without respect or credit.

    Personally, I think many of his arguments are specious and his personality characteristics can lead many to conclude he brooks no contary views. I would hope that this is more the showman side that accentuates the negative image than reality.

    I believe reasoned editorials have there place and perhaps even direct responses are in order provided that show respect for his actual contributions when "Free/Open" source was even more misunderstood than it is today.

    Understand the man and cut him some slack.
  • Not only is EGCS GNU in name (Experimental GNU Compiler System), and in copyright (owned by the Free Software Foundation), but it is also heavily based on gcc, and thus has a whole lot of GNU Project code in it. If you're going to boycott the GNU project, you need to write a new compiler from scratch, not extent an existing GNU project one, as egcs has done.
  • RMS wrote a shitty compiler called gcc 1.0.
    Cygnus and Linux hackers fixed it as needed,
    for embedded systems developers (Cygnus) and
    the kernel (Linux hackers).

    "shitty compiler"? if it was so "shitty," why did everybody start using it and enhancing it? If it was so "shitty," why didn't Cygnus go and write their own from scratch?

    As for Cygnus's role, sure they've contributed to gcc for a while, but so have many other people, including several people within the Free Software Foundation. So if you want completely non-GNU code, you must write a compiler from scratch, since gcc and egcs are both inextricably tied with the Free Software Foundation and the GNU project.
  • e: What Linux is. The name "Linux" is exactly whatever the majority believes it to be.

    It seems that the majority of /. is willing to accept this in the case of "Linux." Why, then, don't they accept the majority's definition of "hacker"? Hypocrisy?
  • Posted by Mike@ABC:

    Any tech journalist who has covered Linux over the past year knows about RMS, the Free Software Foundation, the GNU project, and the years of hard work that went into bringing open source/free software to the masses. Any journalist worthy of the title (keep yer wisecracks to yerself) should already have a grip on the history and philosophy.

    But man...have you ever tried to pitch a story about history and philosophy to an editor? Might as well go write about the Commodore 64. Tech outlets are looking for the new stuff, the trends, the really nifty stuff. The best we can hope to do is make mention, every now and again, of just what open source is, where it came from, and what it can do.

    Hence my earlier post on RMS and this whole debate being a shame. To me, and a number of other tech reporters, RMS is looking for credit for stuff already done.'s already done. If he could bring something new, refreshing and thought-provoking to the table -- instead of correcting us everytime we forget to say GNU/Linux around him -- then all of the things you're talking about will once again come to light.

    Probably shouldn't be speaking for all tech reporters here. So all of that is really just pertaining to me. But that's my story, and I'm sticking to it.
  • by gavinhall ( 33 ) on Friday April 09, 1999 @10:56AM (#1941654)
    Posted by Mike@ABC:

    First off, that editorial, IMHO, was dead on. Can't much argue with that.

    But what irks me more is that we have people like RMS, and those who feel the need to respond to him, tied up in a useless debate when they could be making significant contributions to the rest of the open source community. I mean, geez...let it go! It seems as though RMS is focused more on getting attention for past glory instead of using his considerable talents and energy for future projects.

    And as for the people who respond to him and spend the time and energy defending/fighting folks can end it. If you no longer pay any attention to RMS, then he'll either get the picture and move on to better things, or he'll end up irrelevant. Either way, the community and the movement moves on.

    Suggestion: next time RMS gets an ant in his pants about GNU/Linux, whether it's in a post online or at a live conference, ignore it. Move on. Call it Linux, call it BSD/X/GNU/Linux/GNOME whatever. But don't give in. Either he'll see the light and drop the subject, or he'll get tossed out on his keister for causing a scene.

    And everyone else gets to move on. Enough of this, already. A rose by any other name....

  • by gavinhall ( 33 ) on Friday April 09, 1999 @12:57PM (#1941655)
    Posted by Mike@ABC:

    I have to agree. RMS is quite brilliant. He's done a lot. But he's alienating the very people who could benefit from what he can do.
  • The FSF people think that the OS should be called GNU/Linux since Linux wasn't made by the FSF; a OS using only GNU software (whatever that is) is called GNU.
  • Since egcs stands for "Experimental GNU Compiler System", you are correct. However, a compiler is not an essential part of an OS. The majority of systems in the world don't have a C/C++ compiler. It's essential for *building* Linux, yes, but then the C compiler RMS used to start building gcc before it was bootstrap was likewise essential, but isn't credited.

    Personally I'm happy writing GNU/Linux where people want me to and it won't cause confusion among the non-cogniscenti, but I'd really rather say Linux in conversation.
  • I don't see why the free software community insists on keeping it called just "Linux". The word "GNU" is not crediting RMS (or just him) but a group of people. Plus it promotes the idea of freedom.

    Why should the name of the OS (or kernel or Operating Environment as someone else called it) promote freedom? Why not call it FreeToModifyUnixLikeOS? The ideas of a group don't need to be expressed in the names of their products directly. That's just silly. If it were needed then every commercial product would be prefixed with profit: Profit/Coca-cola.
  • by Joe Mucchiello ( 1030 ) on Friday April 09, 1999 @10:47AM (#1941659) Homepage
    Many people see this behavior [insisting on GNU/Linux] as directly hypocritical to his stated cause of freedom. His insistance on this name change seems to go against the very philosophy he claims he has been fighting for. And the almost feverish intensity of his insistance seems only to highlight that hypocracy.

    That is the only important thing in the article. The rest is the author's apologist plea that RMS not hate him.

    The author even contradicts himself with this: So my suggestion is for people to be tolerant of Stallman, and to be aware of the deeper ideas involved. A reputation for hypocrasy cannot help the cause of freedom. RMS does injustice to the cause of freedom because most people can not and will not and should not look past his hypocrasy.

    Personally, I think it's just an ego thing. Poor guy, no one wants to acknowledge GNU. If he wants GNU to gain mindshare, maybe he should hire an marketting firm.

    The reason GNU has respect in the community is that the community knows what it stands for. Geeks tend not to like things that are pushed down their throats. Alienating the people who should be evangelizing GNU is the poison RMS is playing with. He should know better.

    Good luck, RMS. May the cause of freedom be strengthened by the hypocritical intolerance of others' opinions.
  • by Joe Mucchiello ( 1030 ) on Friday April 09, 1999 @01:25PM (#1941660) Homepage
    If RMS said, in interviews, "Please call it GNU/Linux. That is the name I prefer. I understand that you have the right to call it what you wish, though." Then he would be an advocate. Instead he acts like a two year old, ignoring the interviewer until he accedes to RMS's will. I would love to see an interviewer, just end an interview rather than deal with his nonsense.

    Note: I have respect his older work. I have no respect for what he says about Linux.

    But if it [a license] says "This license forbids you to do the things I don't like," it is no longer free.

    What utter nonsense. The GPL says "Don't link my code with non-GPL code." That sounds like something "I" don't like. By your definition, no license is Free.
  • But man...have you ever tried to pitch a story about history and philosophy to an editor? Might as well go write about the Commodore 64.

    I can believe that. I certainly didn't mean to imply that tech journalists aren't doing their jobs. (Or that anyone else in the media isn't). It's more of a systemic issue that includes readers as well. Writers don't write it because editors don't want it. Editors don't want it because readers eyes glaze over when they read it. Readers eyes glaze over because they don't understand the importance of it. Readers don't understand the importance of it because nobody told them. (or because they didn't listen)

    Perhaps RMS hopes that seeing GNU/Linux in various stories will cause them to ask questions and that those questions will lead to stories with the answers.

    I don't know if that would happen or not. Based on your posts, it sounds like RMS may not be taking the best approach. Nobody ever called him a marketing genius. Perhaps someone who understands his objectives, and the ways of PR should suggest better methods to him.

    I don't think that RMS is looking for personal credit for anything (as some have suggested). IMHO, he is looking for publicity for Free Software.

  • Regardless of the validity or lack thereof of RMS's arguments, he is absolutely right about the central issue:

    The media is FINALLY hyping Linux for it's technical virtues and distributed development (as it should), but is completely silent when it comes to the fundamental philosophy of free software. The media is also silent about the fact that without that fundamental philosophy, Linux probably wouldn't exist except as an acedemic curiosity today (or as yet another proprietary system that %99.9 of the population has never heard of).

    The philosophical debate rages all over the net in the form of MP3 vs RIAA, or lawsuits over linking a web page, look and feel suits, domain name trademark issues, genetic patents,and even DVD vs DIVX.

    What it comes down to is that some people think it's possable to own the laws of nature and anything derived from them (everything else), some think that is fundamentally wrong, and most have no idea. These issues will, one way or another, affect everyone eventually.

    I believe that what RMS really wants is to get that issue into the public light. One way to do that is to get the term GNU/Linux out into the media. People will inevitably ask what GNU is, and that leads to FSF, copyleft, and discussions free software as a philosophical matter.

  • >Seriously, there are people talking about doing
    >this, either intentionally, or as a side effect
    >of, another project.

    There's also a general "distaste" that forms. I calmed down and stayed with debian (for the moment) when I found /etc/issue[.net] so that I could remove the phrase, but the "in your face" does create a subtle "friction" just from natural reaction. Probably not enough to switch in most cases, but enough to be a subtle influence on future behavior.

    My new faculty system in the fall will probably get a *bsd instead of linux. The distataste isn't the primary reason (i generally prefer the "flavor" & philosophy of the bsd distributions), but I can't honestly say that it isn't a factor.

    [I can't switch right due to the mutual hostility of the ext2 and ufs file systems. FreeBSD hangs about 20% of the time on boot if there is an extended partition full of linux logical partitios physically after it on the ide drive]
  • No. The Linux community has developed it's own terms over the years which differs from the FSF terminology. Hence the difference in the meanings of "Linux". If the FSF had really cared about what was going on in the Linux movement, they've would've been aware of this. The fact that they seemed to have totally missed out on what the "unversal" meaning of "Linux" is shows just how out-of-touch the FSF is when it comes to understanding what going on with Linux.
  • Don't you know nuthin' :-)
  • Ever called Windows NT just 'NT'?

    Ever called Unix System V Release 4 just 'SVR4'?

    Ever called a Chevrolet Camaro Z28 just 'a Z28'?

    I thought so. So all distros should put GNU/Linux on the box/CD, and it should be the full, official name. But we can all call it Linux in casual conversation. And reporters can call it Linux to RMS's face and he should take it more gently :-/
  • Personally, I would have very little problem switching names if, say, the GNU project were to say, "Hey, Linus, wanna be part of the GNU project?" and Linus agreed. However, that ignores one fact:

    -not all GNU projects have GNU in their name (despite their use of GNU in the name.) Case in point: Window Maker.

    However, since the *true* reason (I assume) for the proposed name change is ego puffing, I cannot and will not use that atrocious GNU/Linux name.
  • and, therefore, you'd still be using GNU tools.
  • Quite frankly, I'm a Linux *user*, and an quite aware of the fact that my Linux system if it weren't for the fine folks that produce free software such as yourself. Thank you!!! :^)
  • Amen to that...

    Although I shudder to think what he'd put together (would EMACS be used for everything? ;^)
  • The question then arises is the only GNU software software that is written by the FSF? I wonder if it
    isn't. Just look at names. GNOME stands for "GNU Network Object Model Environment". Clearly
    the gnome people want GNOME to be part of the GNU project, even if they didn't assign copyright
    over to the FSF.

    I think it may be. At any rate, the panel is (C) the Free Software Foundation (I have the "About..." dialog up right now). I can't find an official copyright in the sources, but I suspect that gnome-libs, gnome-core, and gmc may have done this. Does anyone have more information?

    Of course, the name might not be the right place to give credit so much as to indicate what the
    thing actually is. If that is the case, than GNU would probably be the most descriptive.

    This is the way I look at it. The GNU project set out to create and collect the software necessary to make a free OS, now I'm using an OS which is built on that software.

  • I would hate to have it become really popular and then have someone start dictating what its name
    should be.

    Which clause of the GPL says that again?

  • Besides, it's possible to replace most of the GNU stuff in the OS (gcc is part of the OE), with BSD
    tools - all of their stuff may eventually be replaced, so calling it GNU/Linux wouldn't be

    Actually, if someone made a distro using the BSD tools, the argument for GNU/Linux would be even stronger because we'd have to tell it apart from BSD/Linux.

  • The reason he calls it GNU/Linux is that the GNU project set out to build and collect the software necessary to create a totally free operating system. He wants it to be called GNU/Linux not because Linux is GNU software but because most Linux distributions are essentially distributions of the GNU operating system. I personally wish that when he heard of Linux he had gotten together with Linus and announced that Linux was GNU's first official kernel and the world now had a free operating system. Evidently no-one (including Linus) really expected the kernel to get as useful as it has and the GNU project wanted (among other things) portability to every hardware setup under the sun and a cooler design (hence the Hurd).

  • No. They don't. They just need X code to boot X correctly. Unless the sysadmin screwed up the boot scripts. :-)

  • ) Linux is not a GNU/FSF project. Linus created the kernel and should get full credit.

    Linux is not GNU/Linux. GNU/Linux is. :-) GNU/Linux refers to the operating system that you get when you compile GNU software for Linux.

    GNU/Linux is an unwieldy name, Linux is much shorter and pithier.

    I agree there. I use GNU/Linux in writing but I don't think I've ever said it.

    The GNU part of the name describes command line tools and not the actual operating system.

    ...but every operating system based on Linux contains the GNU utilities and *requires* them to boot. Before you yell 'replace them', wait..

    The name GNU/Linux is not future-proof because the GNU-written tools may eventually be
    replaced by others (like the Perl project).

    Ok. Replace GNU fileutils with Perl fileutils, GNU shellutils with Perl shellutils, GNU libc with Perl libc, etc. Then you can call your computer Perlutils/Linux. BSD/Linux is another option, of course.

  • Might I suggest you start asking human beings for help?
  • by mikpos ( 2397 ) on Friday April 09, 1999 @11:11AM (#1941679) Homepage
    I don't see how this is a good idea. The only person you're hindering is yourself by giving up all the GNU tools. RMS doesn't care if 2 people are 2 million people use his software; this isn't a popularity contest for him. If you've followed his whole 'open-source' vs 'free' debate, you can see that quite clearly. The 'open-source' advocates think that it (OSS/FS) is good if lots of people end up using it, whereas RMS seems to think it's good per se.

    This I can guarantee you if enough people start boycotting GNU:
    (a) they won't have a system to run for about five years
    (b) the GNU project will carry on like it did before, as if nothing had ever happened
    (c) people will start to try to use Perl for something useful *shudder*

    Anyway, if you haven't noticed, boycottition is a predominantly capitalist idea, and seems to work the best in a capitalist setting (i.e. a big popularity contest). It's normally used to send a message to someone, but it seems to all go in vain when the other side barely notices, let alone addresses it.

    And don't get me started on how childish this seems. RMS says something you don't like, so you get 5 of your friends to beat him up after school. I cannot think of anything more trivial than the name of an operating system. If he wants to call Linux "GNU rules over all with infinite wisdom", I don't see what the deal is. Yes, whenever the media talks to him he tries to force them to call it GNU/Linux, too, who cares? Has anyone noticed that no one has ever tried to talk to him about it without using the using the phrases "psycho", "fanatic" or "get lost"?
  • by pjc ( 2413 )
    I think one of the biggest contributions the GNU project has made to Linux is libc - nearly ALL linux programs use it.

    Funny really, libc5 was not (totally) GNU code, but libc6 is, so Stallman's GNU/Linux claim is stronger now than it used to be.

  • This is well written, and goes a good job of avoiding the emotional knee-jerk reactions of some people. I do subscribe to the logic presented. I for one adhere to the adage that an OS can be one solitary program. This was taken from the OS "dinasaur book"

    More importantly, the GNU/Linux business makes as much sense to say X/Linux. The point is to tolerate Stallman's activism until the press understands the significance of hir real contribution.
  • I still adhere to the definition of OS as outlined the in dinasaur book.

    It is the program that creates an interface that abstracts the hardware.

    This is the kernel. It provides an interface for the GNU tools.

    Incidentally, If I use loadlin and just boot the kernel and nothing else, have I used GNU tools? I honestly don't know and wish to know.

    --- more importantly --

    If Richard doesn't get off his high horse, his ego will keep people from listening to him. Richard could learn a lesson or two from Linus in this regard. Linus' ego requires a gemscope to see it. Whereas, Stallman's ego can be seen with the naked eye if it were in orbit.

    Seeing people enjoy his work and effort is reward enough for Linus, Stallman --even though he deserves the credit-- will not rest until his name is in neon and thus, will never get it.

    This will effect the name more than any other factor.
  • What they found was no accident... Richard Stallman I think it is wonderful that Lignus wrote a kernel. But the guts of all GNU/Linux distributions out there today is GNU software. We would be nowhere without it.
  • If we're going to prepend names to Linux based on useful applications, why not call it Gnome/Linux and KDE/Linux? Or Netscape/Linux? Or StarOffice/Linux? Wait, let's list them all! It is now called GNU/Gnome/KDE/Netscape/StarOffice/Quake/Linux. Nice and pithy, huh?

    Seriously, let's just keep the name as Linux, and not add two needless syllables (Gah-Noo) in order to massage RMS's already huge ego. The next thing you know, people will start lobbying to rename the Internet to Gore/Internet...

  • As I understand it, the animal gnu (which looks like a yak) is pronounced "noo", while the RMS project (which doesn't look like a yak at all, but includes yak, a lexical analyzer) is pronounced "gah-noo".

    If I'm wrong, I'm sure someone here will correct me.


  • Unfortunately for your argument, most people can still use linux without Gnome or KDE or Netscape or StarOffice or Quake, etc... Go home now and delete all of the GNU utilities, and then try to use Linux.

    Try using Linux without X-Windows, doable but a first class pain. Should we then call Linux X/Linux or X/GNU/Linux? There's a project going on to create perl scripts that could be used to replace all the command line executables. If it succeeds should we then rename Linux to Perl/Linux?

    My problems with the GNU/Linux label are as follows:

    1) Linux is not a GNU/FSF project. Linus created the kernel and should get full credit.

    2) GNU/Linux is an unwieldy name, Linux is much shorter and pithier.

    3) The GNU part of the name describes command line tools and not the actual operating system.

    4) The name GNU/Linux is not future-proof because the GNU-written tools may eventually be replaced by others (like the Perl project).

    I don't mind saying GNU/Linux because Debian is GNU/Linux, and that's what I use.

    You can and should call it whatever you want. I will continue to call it Linux.


  • Actually the GNU version is called bison. And the original (AT&T) version is spelled yacc (for 'yet another compiler compiler').

    I stand corrected...

    -GNU/ERIC (Eric Really Is Cool)
  • by Joe Decker ( 3806 ) on Friday April 09, 1999 @10:44AM (#1941688) Homepage

    Great editorial, but I have a nit. The conclusion of the article could be paraphrased as "if you don't realize tht Stallman is an activist, you might think he's a 'raving, bitter, jealous person.'" In my experience being an activist in other areas of my life, I can tell you that often the most effective actvists are embittered raving people. At times, I have been most effective when, to some extent, I've been bitter and forceful.

    The editorial goes on to attribute a lot of idealism to Stallman's goals. I don't think it's necessary or productive to debate his motivation. The idea that people do things for a single reason is usually overly simplistic anyway. The question is, Is he being effective? Frankly, in these circumstances, I think so. We're seeing a lot of press on this subject, and awareness of GNU and/or Linux are on the rise. Stallman deserves some credit for this (as well as many other things).

    Even so, I still call it Linux. But I'm glad he's asking the question.

    --Joe Decker

  • by nowan ( 4075 ) <> on Friday April 09, 1999 @11:13AM (#1941689)
    > Are Linux folks really interested in free software?"

    And I think the answer is "No!", sad as that may be. Despite all the emphasis on "Don't argue, just code," all the code in the world wouldn't amount to a hill of beans if it weren't for the tradition of free software. The idea and tradition of Free Software, and the GPL, are the reason people can work together openly like this, and use each other's code. It's the glue that holds the whole thing together, and yet people seem to be forgetting that, and attributing the things that have happened to great code, which is simply wrong.

    Not to belittle the role that Linus & others have played, my impression is that most of these people are just that, coders, and that isn't enough. It's important to realize that what we're looking for isn't just good code -- we need a situation in which we *can* code, and code effectively. And for that, IMHO, we absolutely need people like RMS.

    Gr. Enough rant, I guess.
  • though remember, gnu is pronounced "Guh-new" (Gnome being pronouncd "Guh-nome" in the same fashion), so it'd have to be "li-guh-new-ix"
  • If your gonna get technical (moronic), I'm running vmlinuz, not linux...
  • Well, linux was completely rewritten from scratch. AT&T and Thompson had about as much to do with li nux as the prohibition did root beer (heh, I like that). Though, linux is licensed under GNU, no? If it wasn't that "Guh-new-li-nuhks" sounds incredibly horid, I might actually be a proponent...

    Free Beer, Free Speach... who cares? I want Free Sex.

  • Linux is a sexy name. GNU/Linux is's hard to pronounce, it's hard to may not seem like a big deal but having an unsexy name has brought down projects before.

    I agree GNU should get more attention but this isn't the way to do it IMHO.


    BTW: Does this mean any project that uses GNU code will not only have to be released under the GPL but also have "GNU" on the front?
  • ...he'll end up irrelevant...
    The General Public License.
    The Free Software Foundation.

    Say what you will about Richard Stallman, but I would rather that he didn't end up irrelevant.

    Mark Fassler
    fassler at frii dot com
  • "Are Linux folks really interested in free software? Or are they interested only in Linux?"


    I'm very interested in free software (free speech). I'm also interested in free software (free beer). And I'm interested in Linux. My interest began as "Hey - these ACC Bookstore guys are selling a really cheap Unix. Unix would look real good on my resume. I have a spare PC."

    Then, after a while, it morphed into "Wow! I can download all this cool stuff and I don't have to pay!" This is about when ACC morphed into Redhat 2.0.

    Now, years later, I'm mainly interested in "This isn't Windows, halelujah!", combined with "the right to poke around your software and do with it whatever you want - how can software be built any other way?".

    But the bottom line is these are _all_ motivating factors (and for a lot of others, as well). Back then I was a young geek, now I'm a professional PHB (sadly, my geeking is mostly on the side for fun), but I still have all the same motivations for using Linux.

    I never did give a sweet damn what RMS wants to call it (it's Linux as far as I'm concerned, but hey - as I said, I'm just a PHB), but I'm glad he and the GNU Project are out there.
  • > the GNU/Linux business makes as much sense to
    > say X/Linux

    Not really. Take away X, the system still boots. Take away the BSD-derived tools, the system still boots. Take away the GNU tools, the system won't get beyond /sbin/init. I think that says something about the relative importance of the GNU tools in the system.

    This is the same reason that it doesn't make too much sense to say that the GNU tools on a Solaris box make GNU/Solaris. Unless you rewrite all of the system scripts and some of the other utilities, you'll still need to keep the Solaris toolset around -- the system will still depend on them, not the GNU toolset.
  • by larien ( 5608 ) on Friday April 09, 1999 @10:25AM (#1941697) Homepage Journal
    This is one of the first things I've seen on the web which acknowledges RMS's efforts towards the free software community. Whatever ills he may have done, it is unlikely that much of the software we have today would exist.

    It's just a shame some of his attitudes are so objectionable and act as the beginning of religious flame-wars.

  • by Nemesys ( 6004 ) on Friday April 09, 1999 @10:57AM (#1941698)
    What's going on here is that we have three different things: the kernel, the operating system, and the operating environment, and the *distributions* build around the Linux kernel are changing the borderline between operating system and operating environment.

    What do I mean by "operating environment" as distinct from the OS? Well, it's the set of stuff you need to remain sane - compilers, editors, LaTeX -- all this stuff comes on CDs from RedHat and Debian and Slackware and friends. If you take away any bit of this, the system carries on - it can just do less.

    So what's in the OS? Stuff like mount, grep, libc, fsck, ls, bash, sed, et cetera. Remove one of these things, and who knows what will happen.

    Traditionally, Unix vendors have deliniated the OS by sticking all the OTHER stuff in /usr/local, or not even selling it. Linux distributions have put the OE in /usr, not in /usr/lib, cause /usr/local doesn't mean "stuff that's OE, not OS", it means "stuff that didn't come from the vendor".

    Now, no-one is ever going to dare claim that GNU wrote most of the OE you get in psychotically huge distros like Debian. What is arguable, though, is that they wrote the most important parts of the OS: libc, and the toys in /bin. They also made most of the rest of the stuff possible through gcc. They wrote the important parts of the OS, except the kernel.

    If the name Linux were not entrenched as a term encompassing any or all of the kernel, the OS and the OE, then sure, you might be able to make a case for calling it GNU/Linux. There are two reasons you might want to do this: one, to give credit, and two, to emphasise what GNU and the FSF stand for.

    However, the name Linux no longer means the kernel. When people want to talk about what vmlinux is, they say either "the Linux kernel" or "the kernel". They don't say Linux.

    The name Linux, however, is, in the minds of non-techie people, the embodiment of everything the FSF stands for anyway, so there's no need to further emphasise the GNU aspect. It's already there, shouting to the rooftops.

    The question of credit where it's due is the unfortunate one. The GNU project's contribution to the Linux OS is not going to be recognised in the name. This is a pity. But names are important and valueable, and the Linux name is too valuable to the community to screw it around now. The FSF will have to grin and bear it.

    Besides, it's possible to replace most of the GNU stuff in the OS (gcc is part of the OE), with BSD tools - all of their stuff may eventually be replaced, so calling it GNU/Linux wouldn't be futureproof.

  • Ever called that Z28 a Delco/Z28? I didn't think so. Yet, without those Delco parts that GM puts in there, it won't run. In fact, those Delco parts are the foundation of what makes the car run. The name "Z28" is just that--a name.

    Linux would not work without the GNU foundation. Like it or not, the community that uses Linux has named it "Linux", not "GNU/Linux". This decision did not come from Linus, but from the community (Linus himself claims to be a little embarrased that a facsimilie of his name was used to describe the OS). Besides, like "Z28", "Linux" is just a name. It is not an attempt to describe all that goes into it.
  • As a semi-physicist, I clearly see your point and agree with most of what you say. However, I would like to further comment about acronyms (your 3rd Law). And please note the distinction between an acronym and an abbreviation.

    Your example of PC vs. Mac illustrates one concept. The abbreviation PC gives the illusion of simplicity (and cost?) because it has less letters than Mac. However, Mac is only one syllable, and in the end, much easier to say (and to use).:)

    Take the name Common Business-Oriented Language. Eeeeww! Ah, but shorten it to COBOL and a whole bunch of suckers then use it. This is also true for Formula Translator; this monstrousity would never do. But shorten it to FORTRAN, and once again, a whole bunch of suckers then use it. (Note: 2 syllable acronyms) However, instead of stopping there, the folks up at Waterloo took it to a fatal level with their Waterloo FORTRAN: WATFOR. Yes indeed, WATFOR!? Not content with this, the Waterloo FORTRAN IV compiler comes out (WATFIV). Chaos ensues as users are confused (Wat5 is fortran 4).

    I have no idea what I'm talking about except to say that names are important (no more that 2 syllables), and acronyms sometimes work.

    As for me, my sinister, evil choice of a name is GPL/Linux.
  • This subject was brought up before. Boycotting (which I am NOT advocating) would be an incredibly large undertaking. People who are advocating this needs to think about it, it took the FSF (or the GNU Project) 15 years to where it is today when they decide to "boycott" proprietry UNIX. There are claims of just using *BSD's code to do the rewrite. Obviously these people have not taken a close look at *BSD code. IMO, I do NOT believe it is possible to replace GNU code without a total rewrite.

    If you find any illogical mistakes in my staments, please correct me.

    Thank You

    Linux is a Unix clone...

    Hold it right there.

    No it is not.

    It is a kernel.

    UNIX(tm) is an operating system.

    Repeat after me kids, S-Y-S-T-E-M.

    Of which, the kernel is but a part.

    However, the line is ``Linux is a Unix
    clone...'', when it ought to be Linux is
    a clone of the Unix kernel...''

    Do you wish to stop this madness?

    1. Remove the Linus preamble to the GPL.
    2. Replace the line ``Linux is a Unix clone...''
      with something to the effect of ``Linux is a clone
      of the Unix kernel; combined with the utilities
      and compilers of the GNU project(,
      it forms a completely free operating system for
      your computer.''

    That is it. You do not need to call it
    GNU/Linux, (RMS ought to have chosen a more
    marketable name than `GNU'), but if, as this
    editorial acknowledges, Linux would not
    without the GNU project, then why is it
    not acknowledged in the answer to the question
    ``What is Linux''?

    This is not a small matter.

    Web sites such as and quote
    these lines from the kernel README essentially
    verbatim; so people looking for information about
    Linux(like clueless CNN reporters) will come away
    with half the story, and since reporters are only
    capable of telling half of any story to begin with...

    No, it does not matter what other people think.

    What does matter is the truth.

    Which is, as the editorial notes, Linux would
    not exist without the work of Richard Stallman
    and the GNU project.

    So, put it in writing.

    In the kernel README, where it belongs.
    "The Internet interprets censorship as damage,

  • Let us not forget that the FSF (or at least the Debian community, if not the FSF) is still working on the HURD -- the next-generation OS kernel.

    GNU kernel + GNU utilities = GNU/Hurd
    You can't argue that one very much.
  • Unfortunately for your argument, most people can still use linux without Gnome or KDE or Netscape or StarOffice or Quake, etc... Go home now and delete all of the GNU utilities, and then try to use Linux.

    The whole argument of the BSD/Linux folks was based on strict percentages of contributed code. I think that we should rather put emphasis on _usefulness_. I (unfortunately) had to use Win NT for some work not too long ago. I found that I couldn't even survive without installing most of the GNU utilities. It took most of the pain out of Windows.

    I don't mind saying GNU/Linux because Debian is GNU/Linux, and that's what I use.
  • The practice enabled by free software is collectivism and cooperation. That is its most important feature.

    At one level, yes, it doesn't matter what any software is called, apart from the basic and natural and necessary encouragement to authors and the community provided by preserving the acknowledgement to whoever gave the original inspiration. That is, this is an application of the social process invoked when naming comets, stars, and species.

    At another, more important level, the retention of the GNU prefix reminds us and all users of the reason why this was all started and works, and counteracts the all-too-common tendency, IMO, for "GNU" and "free software" to deteriorate into mere urban legends harnessed for the purpose of promotion. Remember, part of our ethos is that proper appreciation of software and the genius of its developers demands users be far more sophisticated about it than MS, IBM, or other vendors pretend they can be. IOW, free software doesn't suck like a "touchy, feelie" hyped GUI does and so it doesn't lie to the user.

    There's no reason why people shouldn't make a proper living developing software under the GPL. But we should never sell our souls to do so, whether that entails forgetting the principles that GNU was founded to promote or the basic commitment to honesty and shirking of hype which characterizes the rest of the software industry.

  • This GNU/Linux debate is pointless and harmful. Linux has done more to advance the open software movement than anything else I can think of, but RMS seems to treat it like an enemy trying to usurp all his work.

    He's not thinking of the cause, he's thinking of himself.

    The fact is, Linus got the attention and he didn't - and that bugs him to no end. But I think his pride should take a backseat to what's really important. And what's really important is the advancement of truly free software in the face of tremendous adversity.

    Being recognized isn't important. Doing something worth being recognized for is.

  • Is it a long O or a short O? ;-)
  • First, I remember an article on /. that advocated the BSD thing. I didn't think anyone really took it seriously and, as far as I know, no one has bothered to actually do any of that. What a waste of time it would be. Anyone that wasted years doing that would be, IMO, far more irrational than Stallman at his worst. I mean, when RMS rewrote everything, it was to make it Free and Better. This BSD thing would be 5 years of effort just so you could spit in RMS's face. And I don't think he'd even care.

    Second, egcs stands for Experimental GNU Compiler System, so you'll have to do better than that to purge GNU.

    Third, the Perl thing has nothing to do with the GNU/Linux debate. The motivation is to stop relying on system commands in perl scripts, so you don't have to worry if something is in /usr/bin or /bin or /usr/local/bin or whatever. This is a worthy goal in and of itself, in that it will make perl code more portable. Tcl, for example, already does this.

    Finally, even if you could purge your system of all GNU tools, you'd still owe everything you have to GNU for making it possible in the first place.
  • I don't think it's an "ego" thing. RMS is an idealist, and his major ideal is freedom. He wants people to call it GNU/Linux because he wants people to be thinking about Freedom. He hasn't proposed RMS/Linux. It's important not because he wants the world to think he's a great guy but because he wants the world to *believe* in Free software.
  • RMS has not once "forced" anyone to call it GNU/Linux. He may scream, shout, yell, and refuse to talk to you if you don't, but those are all freedoms themselves.

    The day RMS hires a lawyer and starts to impose his will with some type of power will be the day he is a hypocrite. Until then, he's free to act as he likes.

    The real disservice going on here is the notion that telling someone your opinion is in some way related to force.

    You are free to put things like "Please don't use this software to do things I don't like" and it could still be free software. But if it says "This license forbids you to do the things I don't like," it is no longer free.
  • From Neal Stephenson's Essay []:

    Gnu is an acronym for Gnu's Not Unix, but this is a joke in more ways than one, because GNU most certainly IS Unix,. Because of trademark concerns ("Unix" is trademarked by AT&T) they simply could not claim that it was Unix, and so, just to be extra safe, they claimed that it wasn't.

  • > By withholding a commodity (money, sex, opinions...) to induce a certain response, you have forced compliance.

    Whoa! Hold on... You're saying that if I pay someone for a candy bar, that I am "forcing" them to give me the candy bar???

    So we don't have a "volunteer" army because we "pay" the soldiers.

    The RMS definition of "freedom" means being able to do stuff without any attempt to stop you with the force of law or the barrel of a gun. Most people would agree that "freedom" means being able to advocate whatever you want so long as you do not impose your will with a lawyer or a gun.

    You can't say RMS is a hypocrite because he he says he supports "freedom" but violates YOUR definition of "freedom" and "force".

    If you really wanna play that game, then you are also a hypocrite. After all, I read your opinion and I had to think about it (ie I was FORCED to think about it).
  • I'm about to release some software in the next few months and I had originally considered GPLing it. Now I'm not so sure.

    I would hate to have it become really popular and then have someone start dictating what its name should be. It's just silly and definitely not what I would consider to be totally free. Besides, just because you tack one thing to something else doesn't necessarily mean that they are magically going to share popularity or acheive codependent mindshare. It's just as likely that the unwashed masses would simply become indifferent to the GNU abbreviation.

    Names aren't supposed to describe everything that's inside something. It's not even supposed to necessarily describe all of the phylosophical intents of something. Otherwise, our names would be very strange: DNA/Paul, Procreate/Paul, or somesuch.

    The point is that a name is an identifier and as such only needs to be unique. Linux is just as good a name as any other as long as there isn't something else called Linux. Giving one thing too many different identifiers will only dilute understanding.

    Really, to properly represent the "cry for understanding" how many qualifiers should we include?
    Linus'sUnixlikeKernelWithGNUandBSDpiecesCanRunXW indowsAndIsFreelyDistributable/Linux
  • Yeah, I understand that. However, the same still holds true that the distros can call themselves whatever they want. RMS can call his distro whatever he wants to call it.

    I personally think he's wrong in believing that this course will get him anything but grief. I think he's marketing up the wrong tree, so to speak. The people that use and support GNU tools already know what they are and what they stand for.

    re: What Linux is. The name "Linux" is exactly whatever the majority believes it to be. It's the unfortunate thing about names and identifiers. Currently, when someone says Linux I would guess most people think of a full distro.

    Thanks for the counterpoint though,
    -Paul (Really wish I could downgrade this post... not sure it deserves a two and I'd rather not have it downgraded for me.)
  • Heh. Sort of.

    I think it's because the majority of /. already considered "Linux" to be the whole ball of wax long before the unwashed masses were involved. Besides, the unwashed masses are just as likely to call it "Redhat" as they are to call it "Linux" and I'm sure we would correct them. :)

    re: Hacker. So, it isn't really hypocrisy, but the definition of "hacker" is probably changing. If so, the /. community will just be dragged kicking and screaming. I, for one, will be screaming too.
  • Given recent events, I'm wondering if Linux is renamed, could it end up being called Gore/Linux? Of course, the media will abbreviate it and it will end up being called Gorenux. Then, as a final indignity, GNU will come to be known as Gore's Not Unix. I think that it might be best to leave well enough alone. ;^)
  • I think this editorial points out something really important: what Stallman is fighting for in particular may be foolish (renaming Linux to GNU/Linux), but the general problem that brought this about (Linux getting lots of recognition, and other free software getting little) is very real. As someone who uses and develops free software, but doesn't use Linux, I constantly find myself asking, Are Linux folks really interested in free software? Or are they interested only in Linux?

    It will benefit a lot more people than just Stallman if the Linux community somehow can come forward with a plan to make sure that a little of the light shining on them illuminates others in the free software community. How is the Linux community going to do this?


  • I think you have read wrong. Linus said that he originally called it linux as a play on his name and that he never intended for that to be the actual name. He came up w/ freax(or somethink like that, a combination of free + freak + unix) but the owner of the ftp site where he was uploading the sources didn't like the name and just left linux as the name. It just stuck after that.
  • I still adhere to the definition of OS as outlined the in dinasaur book.

    It is the program that creates an interface that abstracts the hardware.

    This is the kernel. It provides an interface for the GNU tools.

    Well, WIN.COM is the Windows kernel. Does that mean that Windows should be called WIN.COM, because Windows is a collection of tools, not the kernel itself? The tools, libraries, etc. are more important than the kernel itself--a program written for GNU should behave the same regardless of your kernel, be it Linux or HURD (or is it spelled Hurd?). And a program written for Windows (the environment, not the kernel) should behave the same regardless of your kernel--be it WIN.COM or a GNU kernel (with WINE)--because the API matters, not the kernel.

  • I hate to sound like an RMS-phobe. He had some terrific ideas and over time those ideas were used to build up an important software library -- the GNU utilities.

    But the way I see it, the major achievement of the FSF until the 90s was a) some standardization of these utilities, and b) making them available on non-Unix platforms. Until Linus came along, there was (practically) no free Unix!

    Linus has done more for the cause of "free software" by far than RMS. I don't know exactly why he was able to work the magic that RMS et alii could not, and in far less time build up a complete corporate-ready operating system that rivals the market leaders for reliability and features, whereas after years of obscure toil the FSF managed to throw together free versions of extant utility software -- in many cases, the kind of thing that students do as programming exercises. Not nearly as impressive as it could be, or should have been. RMS had some good ideas, but Linus made them work, and far exceeded the goals and grasp of the FSF.

    I view this attempt to paste the GNU label on Linux as a latter-day release of a video with the latest Oscar winner billed as the star, when they were actually a bit player (e.g. starring GWYNETH PALTROW as Cab Passenger #3).

  • Renitpicking: the main gimp page, disagrees with you on the acronym expansion of gimp. Check it out. From the main page on

    What is the GIMP
    The GIMP is the GNU Image Manipulation Program. It is a freely distributed piece of software suitable for such tasks as photo retouching, image composition and image authoring....

    Just a minor detail. Otherwise I think that we are in agreement.
  • The article was really good, I think that it is probably the best article I've seen written ont he subject.

    Now, I've been thinking about something for a bit, what do you guys think:

    GNU stands for GNU's not UNIX - it's an attempt at an operating system that's UNIX-like, but completely Free Software/Open Source. To foster this, RMS came up with the GPL and LGPL.

    Now, many people point out that the percentage of GNU software in a normal Linux dist. is around 10% by weight (volume?). I.e. 10% of the bytes on a normal Linux dist are taken up by programs written by the FSF.

    The question then arises is the only GNU software software that is written by the FSF? I wonder if it isn't. Just look at names. GNOME stands for "GNU Network Object Model Environment". Clearly the gnome people want GNOME to be part of the GNU project, even if they didn't assign copyright over to the FSF. So is the GIMP. After all, GIMP stands for "GNU Image Manipulation Program". And let's not forget the "GNU Image Manipulation Tool Kit" (Gtk).

    And there's an even bigger group of software that may be part of the GNU project that isn't owned or written by the FSF - GPL'd software. The justification is this: the GNU project is an effort to create a completely Free operating system. What can releasing a program under the GPL mean but that you want it to be a part of a Free operating system (notice the cap in Free as opposed to free). The GPL has been acknowledged to be "viral" in nature (a horrible term but it will do for the moment). It is designed to keep a piece of software permanently Free, and to spread Free software if possible. So the goal of both is Free software.

    Even if not entirely consciously, isn't every piece of GPL'd and LGPL'd software inherently a part of the GNU operating system? Sort of the theory that two people who have the same goals are working together, even if they've never met?

    Is there anyone who's written GPL'd code who doesn't want GNU to be a reality, even if they don't believe that it will be a reality? Is there anyone who wouldn't want their GPL'd and LGPL'd code to be a part of GNU, if it became a reality?

    So if this is true, and I'm not saying that it necessarily is, calling most Linux dists GNU/Linux makes some sense. After all, Linux is GPL'd. And I suspect that you'd find a pretty large portion of all the [software|bytes|any metric you want] to be from GPL'd software.

    Of course, if this is true, it makes more sense to call a Linux system a GNU system, not a GNU/Linux system. That's an interesting implication.

    On the issue of all the code under the bsd or x/mit license, that's a weird issue. They are working towards similar goals by releasing their source under their license, but on the other hand they've all but made their code public domain. calling the system a GNU/BSD system would satisfy almost everything but giving credit to X. GNU/X/BSD just won't work lingually.

    Of course, the name might not be the right place to give credit so much as to indicate what the thing actually is. If that is the case, than GNU would probably be the most descriptive. Especially as most Linux systems are Sys V based rather than BSD in layout, regardless of what code is used.

    I think that in the end, it's really a matter of what the distribution in question is about. RedHat should call their dist RedHat Linux, or RedHat GNU/Linux, or RedHat GNU, or RedHat RealOS, or anything that they damn well please. Suse, pacific Hi Tech, Stampede, Debbian, etc. can do the same. So if Debian calls their dist Debian GNU/Linux, than that's the right name for their dist.

    As far as what is the right name for a system that contains largely GPL'd apps with some BSD licensed code, x/mit licensed code, public domain code, etc. is a bit up in the air. Calling a theoretical dist something like what I just described a Linux system seems an even worse name than GNU or BSD, Linux is just the kernel. But then again language is fluid and it now means the whole thing. If Linux eventually comes to mean nearly the same thing as GNU, then it doesn't really matter much from the GNU point of view. The X people feel fine about their work being subsumed into anyone else's (see their license) as do the BSD people (see their license), so GNU, GNU/Linux, or Linux seem the best candidates.

    Or then again, we could go with something completely different and just call it Fred. Or maybe Foo. That's more in line with the hacker culture.

    Note: I still don't plan to call my system GNU/Linux. I plan to call it Linux, and explain to everyone that I meet the idea of Free Software/Open Source, and write as many GPL'd apps as I can.

  • Linux: 2,279,937
    GNU: 582,413

    It's not even 4:1.

    As someone who has been a big fan of RMS's free software products since well before Linus started his train rolling (I think 1988 counts as well before), I do think RMS/FSF deserve tons of credit for getting us where we are today.

    I do agree that the OS (Kernel + essential FS and utils) should be called Linux. I do NOT agree that fully packaged distros should automatically be called Linux. E.g., what I have at home I call Red Hat, a product that consists of Linux plus a bunch of applications and cool added value utils.
  • Given: RMS wants GNU to get some mindshare by putting it in the name.

    Given: Most of us think compound names are pretty dorky.

    Therefore: We call it Lignux. See, we can even pronounce it almost the same, just pretend the 'n' has a tilde over it. Like "Lin-yucks". And it'll make the francophones happy, too!

    Lignux it is. Everyone's happy. Everyone get back to work. :-)
  • Advanced Search results:

    gnu | linux: 700k

    linux: 600k
    linux & !gnu: 520k
    gnu: 175k
    gnu & !linux: 110k
    gnu & linux: 70k

    Make of it what you will. I think it supports my position that the ratio is about 4:1.

  • For heavens sake, I'm getting a little bit fed up with this "GNU/Linux" vs "Linux" thing... I mean, if you think about it, doesn't it seem a little silly to be arguing amongst ourselves over such things as what to NAME an OS?? No wonder some anti-OSS folks like Bill Gates point out that the OSS community becomes more and more fractured whenever issues like money or author credits are involved.

    Now admittedly, RMS has brought more attention to GNU by taking his line with "GNU/Linux," but I must agree with KT on this; is it really the sort of attention that GNU deserves?? Don't get me wrong, I do think GNU deserves some credit, but I don't think attention just for the sake of attention is what RMS would ultimately want. If attention is to be given to something, it must be for a reason. In the case of Linux, it does have such a reason: its technical merits, and the fact that it is OSS.

    I mean, really--the press would not be talking so much about Linux today if it weren't for the fact that Linux is an outstanding piece of software that is distributed freely. Anyone can distribute a program for free, but when you have an entire operating system, such as "Linux" (or "GNU/Linux") distributed in such a manner, this is what really gets attention... And for this reason: people have always assumed in the past that something like an operating system could only be undertaken by dedicated professionals who made their living by selling highly secretive intellectual property, like Microsoft. And then, out of the blue, along comes "Linux," proving for the first time what seemed before to be impossible. This is what gets attention. But the GNU project, as it stood, would not have gained attention on its own, and for this reason: it was not a complete, working system--it was rather in the state that Mozilla is in right now, if you don't mind... It was Linux that finally produced a working operating system that could prove to the world that such a thing as a free OS was in fact possible... And now look at it: the unthinkable is happening... A free OS, to compete with the world's most powerful multi-billion dollar corporation?? This would have been unthinkable in the past, not because of GNU, but because of Linux.

    But GNU still does get attention as a result, because as KT said, one cannot learn about the history of Linux without discovering GNU and what it stands for.

    And incidently, if we REALLY wanted to give credit to all who made this complete OS possible in Stallman-style, it would then be something like:

    GNU/Linus Torvalds/Alan Cox/Cygnus Solutions/MIT X-Windows/The Open Group/BSD/David S. Miller/University of Washignton/I'm sorry about the people I forgot/Linux

    Now doesn't that seem a little absurd?? So my point is, let's stop these massive flame wars about how to name an OS, and unite in the common cause of promoting what the OS really stands for.
  • My numbers on Altavista:
    +"linux" : 2,283,417
    +"GNU/linux" : 18032

    Comes to about 126 to 1
  • What sounds better? Linux or GNU/Linux? Obviously Linux sounds better. Isn't that kind of important? Idealism aside, the way a name sounds is not something nobody cares about. Linux is a good name. It just sounds like an operating system. Give enough credit to enough people and organizations and you will find yourself with a name so long that it is shortened to a completely new acronym. Linux is a good, uncomplicated name that rolls easily off the tongue and doesn't sound weird when you throw it into a conversation. And whether Stallman likes it or not, that will be a major reason why people are going to keep calling it Linux.

    He'll get his credit. People aren't just going to forget that the FSF contributed a bunch of code, so do we really have to complicate the name?

  • the next-generation OS kernel.

    If you mean "next generation" as in "ground breaking" or "innovative" then I'm curious what about it you consider next generation.

    Or do you simply mean "comes later chronologically"?
  • One poster asked why this wasn't an issue two years ago. That answer is simple: Open Source.

    Open Source is not compatible with the FSF's goals. OSS is about a development model. Freedom is literally a side benefit. The FSF is striving to completely eliminate proprietary software and the copyright laws that are used to protect it.

    When Eric Raymond began saying that "Free Software" needs a better name, Stallman saw the real possibility that the FSF's ideas would be pushed to the background--and they have been.

    "Open Source" is and always has been a bad idea. It's Free software. That's the goal, and the only way to get there is for companies to recognize that to obtain the benefits you have to change the business model. Open Source doesn't do that.

    Money can be made with free software. It's the best model for users and the best model for developers. Only the MBA's and marketers are being hurt by this model, and I say good riddance.

    Who cares if Linux is on every desktop in the world if all we can run on it are proprietary programs? I don't want to sell Open Source to companies. I want Free software, companies or not.
  • Seriously, there are people talking about doing this, either intentionally, or as a side effect of another project.

    One group is working on replacing the standard GNU tools with BSD equivalents (and using egcs instead of gcc, which is, IMHO, quite a stretch). I think this one is a reaction the GNU/Linux naming.

    A group of Perl worshipers are rewriting the Unix command set in Perl. Their system would ultimately be at least mostly FSF-free.

    I expect someone will follow up this with links to the projects I mentioned (which I probably read about here, anyway).
  • See subject.
  • by AJWM ( 19027 )
    if I'm wrong, I'm sure someone here will correct me

    Well, if you insist...

    but includes yak, a lexical analyzer

    Actually the GNU version is called bison. And the original (AT&T) version is spelled yacc (for 'yet another compiler compiler').
  • by Mr T ( 21709 ) on Friday April 09, 1999 @03:54PM (#1941762) Homepage
    I guess I think this issue is important, in part, because I generally support RMS's cause and admire him. I think he's a little rough around the edge's socially sometimes but he has ideas that are very different for most of us and he's so devoted to them that he comes across like an arrogant, abrasive, lunatic, which isn't really the case. (this stuff is subjective, but RMS is definitely very sane and, from everything I have seen and heard, he is one of the gentalist and nicest people you could be fortunate enough to meet. I don't know how many people routinely call him crazy and have only read interviews or his emails)

    The issue has been brought up a number of times that RMS should start his own dist. if he want's to rename it. Is that a right we give to the dist. providers? Do we want to? I don't think the community would be so cavalier about this idea if Redhat, SuSE, Debian or Caldera decided to start calling their dist something else. If "Redhat Linux" became "Redhat OS" people would be blowing gaskets. Caldera has every right to call theirs OpenUNIX instead of OpenLinux, they don't even need to mention "Linux" anywhere. How would that go over? To suggest that RMS start a dist to call it "GNU/Linux" isn't the solution, that may just be the symptom of a future problem.

    The other option I have heard a few times is the "Boycott GNU" option. I support this simply because I'd like to see another compiler written for the sake of competition... In reality these efforts are very far from being useful. Subing in the "Experimental GNU compiler system" for the "GNU C Compiler" isn't quite boycotting GNU. If these people are serious, I support their efforts just so that there will be more competition but I haven't heard anything that makes me believe that they understand how large an undertaking it is. FWIW, Stallman is a brilliant hacker and has had a lot of very very sharp people working with him and the GNU project has taken a long time to get to where it is.

    What I think this really represents is a change in the community. Free Software isn't a very popular thing and it never has been. There has been a small core of devoted free software people and an increasing user base. GNU/Linux or Linux has long ago reached a critical mass where the number of free software people are out numbered by the users. I think it happened around the time Netscape was ported, it was such a killer app that so many people longed for that once it was ported a lot of people could use Linux or GNU/Linux without needing something else. As soon as the needs are taken care of the community loses a bond that it once had because they aren't all waiting for that magic app to be written. This is exemplified through the KDE vs. GNOME debates, some people just don't have the ideological concern about whether or not QT is free, it works and they have it and that is all they care about. (I think that is also why the debate is so frustrating, people are debating on entirely different levels about entirely different matters.)

    Linux has lost its virinity. It's useful to people and businesses now, regardless of what they think about free software, open source software engineering, or community. The majority of the people on linux don't care about free software. Now RMS may seem a little arrogant and he may even be arrogant about wanting to change the name to GNU/Linux but it might be the better thing to do for free software. Free software is bigger than Linux (GNU/Linux) Linux needs free software but free software does not need linux (but it's arguably the best kernel going right now)

    How much of our soul are we as a community willing to sell? You can play games on linux, it has 3D acceleration, you can buy and use integrated office suite applications, it has sophisticated GUIs, it's in the media with good hype, big businesses and software companies are paying attention to it and porting software to it. Should it become the next windows or should it be different this time? Some people already see Redhat as the next MS, take out the free software and they might as well be. Our community needs to focus more on the freedom to keep linux from becoming what we all hate. If it's not about freedom then what is the difference between Linux and BSD? (most users aren't technical enough to truely appriciate the real differences other than the license) Or Linux and Apple Darwin? Or Linux and the Solaris with the Sun Community License?

  • I thought that Debian (hope I spell it correctly) IS his distro, no?

    No; IIRC it was started by two people called Debra and Ian, hence the name.

  • Although I shudder to think what he'd put together (would EMACS be used for everything? ;^)

    There's no reason why it couldn't be your login shell. Log in, do ^X!startx and watch your window manager and a bunch of xterms pop up, with an Emacs in each one! ("Stephen, you are twisted" - everyone else on Slashdot)

  • Pronounce it "glen-ucks" or (respecting the Finnish pronunciation) "glean-ooks"?

    Hmmm... Add X and you have X/Glinux.

    Throw in some BSD and you have BSD X/Glinux -- still pretty pronouncable.

    Hmmm... "Red Hat Glinux" -- not bad.

    Oops, time for my medication. Sorry. :)
  • Is THAT why Microsoft did that? Ya know, I always wondered...
  • [Warning: Unabashed facetiousness in this post.]

    When's the last time you saw a group voluntarily lengthen a name in order to make it more precise and then have the name gain any kind of acceptance? To my knowledge it always goes the other way around. Hence the proliferation of acronyms. (Play a DVD or CD on my PC for free? Whee! Alternatively, if it's a g3 running LinuxPC, should KDE be for me?)

    Being a physicist, I can't help but try to indentify some fundamental laws of nature here (and then shamelessly try to attach my name to it):

    Claudius's First Law of Names for Stuff: All first laws for anything are trivial and can safely be ignored.

    Claudius's Second Law of Names for Stuff: As a function of usage, names for things generally get shorter and the information content of the names shrinks to zero.

    Claudius's Third Law of Names for Stuff: Things with long names are susceptible to acronymization or amputation (or both). Things whose names can't be safely Bobbited will "Never Get Used (tm)."

    Claudius's Fourth Law of Names for Stuff: Design flaws can generally be compensated for by choosing a suitably short name.

    Demonstrations: (1) A PC is more common than a Mac. Note the shorter name. The term "PC" doesn't carry much information anymore (less info than the word "Mac"), in accordance with the Second Law. (2) Perhaps the most used computer language is C. Note the brevity. (3) The Java folks have it right. Short language name, short acronyms for stuff (JDK, awt, etc), but they'll never be able to compete with C until it's called just "J." (4) C++ is the canonical example of the Fourth Law.

    As you see, the entire GNU/Linux movement is doomed since it attempts to violate the fundamental laws of names for stuff. It'd be about as fruitful to advocate building a perpetual motion machine.
  • Writing editorials about it or bashing Stallman about it only feeds the fire.

    There is a difference between writing a carefully thought-out editorial and simply attempting to start a flamewar. Granted, editorials can often lead to heated debates, and perhaps the linux-kernel mailing list is not the best place for such a discussion. However, you seem to be suggesting that people withhold their opinions in the interest of avoiding flamewars; to me, the cure seems worse than the disease.

    I think that the editorial is an example of how one should express an opinion, rather than bashing one's opponents or repeating what has already been said.

Usage: fortune -P [] -a [xsz] [Q: [file]] [rKe9] -v6[+] dataspec ... inputdir