that old GNU/Linux argument

Alexandre Oliva aoliva at
Wed Jul 16 06:18:27 UTC 2008

On Jul 15, 2008, Les Mikesell <lesmikesell at> wrote:

> Gordon Messmer wrote:
>> What we *are* advocating is that the GNU/Linux operating system be
>> referred to as GNU/Linux because GNU is the name of the project
>> whose goal is to provide a complete Free Software operating system.

> But that's a small minority of the code in the distribution.

Apparently you're taking 3 different concepts as synonymous: kernel,
operating system and distribution.

A distribution is an operating system plus a bunch of applications
that run on it.  Some examples of distributions are Fedora, Ubuntu,
the Debian GNU/Linux main repository, BLAG, gNewSense, UTUTO-XS,
FreeBSD, NetBSD, OpenBSD.

An operating system is a kernel plus a bunch of userland libraries and
programs that users and other applications generally rely on.  Some
examples of operating systems are GNU, BSD, UNIX, MS-Windows, VMS,
DOS, OS/2, etc.

A kernel is the part of an operating system responsible for allocating
machine resources.  Some examples of kernels are Linux, Hurd,
KERNEL32.DLL, and the AFAIK nameless kernels of other operating
systems and variants there of mentioned above.

Now, it wouldn't make sense to say that Fedora is a kernel, or that
GNU is a distribution, would it?  Why would it make sense that say
that Linux is an operating system, when even its original author
announced it as no more than a kernel that requires the GNU Operating
System to do anything useful?

>> If you think you're better qualified than they are too tell them
>> what to call their software, then you're much too far out of touch
>> for any of us to convince you otherwise.

> I'm not the one trying to dictate the name used for other people's
> software.  I think it is wrong.

I'm happy you agree it's wrong.  This means you wouldn't side with the
people who did just that to the GNU operating system, when they
started calling it Linux, would you?

Alexandre Oliva
Free Software Evangelist  oliva@{,}
FSFLA Board Member       ¡Sé Libre! =>
Red Hat Compiler Engineer   aoliva@{,}

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