that old GNU/Linux argument

Les Mikesell lesmikesell at
Wed Jul 16 15:46:32 UTC 2008

Alexandre Oliva wrote:

>>> It was GNU.  GNU, as a system, pre-dates Linux.
>> As a system of what?
> An operating system, whose kernel was still under development.  And,
> like every other component of the GNU Operating System, still is.

With respect to the quality of the components that are more or less 
completed, as a working system GNU might as well stand for "GNU's not 
usable" - without someone else's kernel anyway.

>>> GNU was not built on top of Linux.  Linux was eventually able to run GNU.
>> GNU what?
> GNU Operating System.  That stuff you could get from
> long before there were such things as ftp://
> URIs.

I don't think anyone ever objected to that being called GNU.  The 
objection is to the demand that the name be tacked on to other 
distributions.  As I recall, the GPL explicitly prohibits such demands 
being attached to code and won't even permit covered code to be linked 
with code formally containing such requirements so it seems in rather 
poor taste to make them even informally.

>> I was more interested in running apache and sendmail at the time and
>> didn't care if it was bsd, linux, or unix underneath.
> Apache?!?  You're not going far back enough.  Apache is younger that
> Linux, IIRC.  Certainly much younger than GNU.

Apache wasn't the original name.  The code was developed as NSCA httpd 
and I'd argue that the subsequent branches of that work and its 
companion clients have had more to do with people wanting to run 
computers - and any OS - than any other single thing.  Before that, 
computer science was a pretty boring field without much appeal to 
ordinary people.  And I'd also argue that if it, or the initial 
underlying TCP implementation that it needed had been GNU/GPL with the 
associated restrictions, much of the subsequent development that we 
enjoy today would never have happened.

> sendmail, yeah, I'm pretty sure the GNU Project decided to not
> implement its own MTA back in mid 1980's because sendmail was Free
> Software, and so the other pieces were designed to just use it.

Sendmail does go back even further, perhaps to the days when there were 
dozens of computers on the internet - but without something more 
interesting along with the ability to reuse the code it might have 
stayed that way.

    Les Mikesell
     lesmikesell at

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