Why is Fedora not a Free GNU/Linux distributions?

Alexandre Oliva aoliva at redhat.com
Thu Jul 17 01:07:00 UTC 2008

On Jul 16, 2008, John Burton <j.c.burton at gats-inc.com> wrote:

> Some, not all, are provide by FSF. What specifically causes "linux" to
> be considered "GNU/Linux" ?

I sense a faulty assumption in the question, so let me expand the
terms you put in quotes.

  What specifically causes "the combination of the GNU operating
  system, minus its kernel, with the Linux kernel" to be considered
  "GNU Operating System + Linux kernel"?

Now, does it even make sense to ask this question? :-)

> I use alot of GNU utilities & libraries on Solaris & AIX systems,
> does that make them GNU/Solaris or GNU/AIX systems?

It doesn't matter much what you install on top of an operating system;
the operating system (presumably) is still there.  It's not because
you install Cygwin on MS-Windows that it's not MS-Windows any more.

That said, if you rely so much on GNU tools in whatever operating
system you use, to the point that there's more GNU in it than any
other individual component, then I guess you could say you've turned
it into a GNU/whatever system.  But most systems don't like much when
you *replace* its native parts with other parts.  In general, systems
designed to use those parts stand a better chance of tolerating the

> I even use the GNU compiler suite on these systems, does
> *that* make them GNU/AIX or GNU/Solaris?

Certainly not.  Some would even say that the compiler is not part of
an operating system.

> Is it the fact that the kernel is compiled by GCC that makes it
> GNU/Linux ?

Nope.  The kernel is not GNU/Linux.  The kernel is Linux and remains
Linux.  What compiles it is irrelevant.

> What is the distinction that makes people claim "GNU/Linux" and not
> GNU/AIX or GNU/Solaris.  How about BSD?

That AIX, Solaris and BSD are complete Unix[-like] operating systems,
whereas Linux, per the word of its own initial author, is a kernel,
designed to work with GNU.

GNU aims at being a complete Unix-like operating system, but the need
for its own kernel to achieve this was diminished by the existence of
another Free kernel that works with it: Linux.  Thus you can say that
GNU+Linux makes for a Unix-like operating system, but you can't say
that Linux makes for a Unix-like operating system, because it takes
more than a kernel.

> wasn't BSD UNIX for big iron around before FSF got it's start?
> Didn't BSD have a fairly complete system *before*
> GNU tools started being widespread?

Yup.  But IIRC back then BSD was still largely encumbered by AT&T UNIX
code.  Otherwise GNU might have never been started as such: BSD could
have been the Free operating system of choice.

> What is the distinction that makes people claim "GNU/BSD"?

Most often I've seen people say GNU/k*BSD, i.e., the GNU operating
system running on top of a BSD kernel, rather than its own (the Hurd).

GNU/BSD would probably be a different kind of animal, with far more
BSD userland to the point that it makes sense to keep both GNU and BSD
(rather than GNU and kBSD) in the name of the combination that makes
for an operating system.

Alexandre Oliva         http://www.lsd.ic.unicamp.br/~oliva/
Free Software Evangelist  oliva@{lsd.ic.unicamp.br, gnu.org}
FSFLA Board Member       ¡Sé Libre! => http://www.fsfla.org/
Red Hat Compiler Engineer   aoliva@{redhat.com, gcc.gnu.org}

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