that old GNU/Linux argument

Alexandre Oliva aoliva at
Thu Jul 17 01:52:06 UTC 2008

On Jul 16, 2008, Les Mikesell <lesmikesell at> wrote:

> 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.

That's true.  Just as true as Linus' claim as to his kernel at the
time he first announced it, no?  See, that's exactly why it would not
be right to call it just GNU, or just Linux.  It's the combination of
both that makes them both useful.


> 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.

There's no such demand.

There's a request (not a demand) that, if one chooses to refer to the
name of the operating system, the combination be used rather than the
name of the kernel that makes for a smaller portion of the operating
system than the GNUserland.

> As I recall, the GPL explicitly prohibits such demands

Correct.  Red herring, too.

>>> 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.

It was and it wasn't.  It was indeed a bunch of patches on top of the
(also younger) NCSA http server.  That's where "a patchy http server"
came from.  But that was '90s already, some ten years after GNU

> 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.

Yeah, there are *so* many widespread Free sendmail derivatives I can
hardly count them with a single finger :-)

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

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