Why is Fedora not a Free GNU/Linux distributions?

Les Mikesell lesmikesell at gmail.com
Fri Jul 18 16:40:18 UTC 2008

Alexandre Oliva wrote:
>> I look at at this way: a unix-like operating system is the part that
>> makes everything look like a file and applications that are portable
>> across them only need an API of creat(), open(), read(), write(), and
>> ioctl()
> API = UNIX-like C library?  On GNU+Linux, GNU libc, right?  Linux per
> se offers no such APIs.

In the original design, the things in section 2 of the manual (fork(), 
open(), pipe(), etc.) were system calls and thus by definition what the 
operating system does.  Now everything is stubbed into the c library so 
it is harder to tell the difference unless you look at the man section 
number that documents the function.

>>> Nothing like "many small programs, each doing a single simple task
>>> very well, that can be combined through pipes and a powerful shell
>>> programming language" would be part of the UNIX philosophy, because,
>>> well, these small programs wouldn't be part of UNIX per this narrow
>>> definition.
>> That's a good idea under any OS, not particularly unique to unix.
> Heh.  Discarding part of a statement to make it fit others isn't very
> nice :-)  Good ideas are present in any OS, so... whatever conclusion
> you might want to get to :-)

The philosophy is loosely associated with unix and aided by it's ability 
to fork fairly lightweight processes, but really isn't specific to 
anything, much less whether something is GNU-ish or not.  Emacs, the 
very first GNU program, was probably the thing most widely accused of 
straying from the 'small program that does one thing' concept in its 
day.  (Actually, I think emacs goes back farther than unix, but my 
memory is a little fuzzy that far back).

>> The c library isn't unique to unix by design.
> I don't understand what you're trying to communicate here, there are
> several different possible interpretations.  Please expand or use
> different words?

We've strayed from GNU vs. not-GNU into unix vs. not-unix, but the point 
of unix-like operating systems is to hide the differences among 
processor types and i/o devices and present the system calls as 
described in section 2 of the manual regardless of the hardware - and to 
do some special stuff in process id 1 which is the only one not created 
by fork() with inherited file descriptors. The point of the standard c 
library is to hide the differences among operating systems.

But back to GNU vs. not-GNU.  There is a GNU operating system.  Nobody 
uses it and there are reasons for that.  Instead of fixing those 
reasons, they want to tack their name onto the distributions that people 
do use because some portable applications from their set are often 
included. For reasons I've already covered, I'd rather see distributions 
minimize the GPL-encumbered code and use things from the *bsd or 
opensolaris projects instead - except for gcc which I don't think has a 
less restricted counterpart.  Then the GNU project could just go its own 
way in the isolation the GPL demands while the rest of the world 
cooperates and interoperates at the component level.

   Les Mikesell
     lesmikesell at gmail.com

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