that old GNU/Linux argument

Thomas Cameron thomas.cameron at
Sun Jul 20 03:28:09 UTC 2008

On Sat, 2008-07-19 at 16:26 +0200, Björn Persson wrote:
> Thomas Cameron wrote:
> > On Tue, 2008-07-15 at 02:48 +0200, Björn Persson wrote:
> > > Mark Haney wrote:
> > > > Personally, I think the demand by Stallman, and others to call Linux
> > > > 'GNU/Linux' is just stupid and childish.
> > >
> > > What exactly is it that you don't want to call "GNU/Linux"? What pieces
> > > of software does it contain?
> > >
> > > Is Udev part of what you call Linux?
> >
> > udev is not a GNU project.
> >
> > > Is Yum part of what you call Linux?
> >
> > Yum is not a GNU project.
> >
> > > Is Apache HTTPD part of what you call Linux?
> >
> > Apache is not a GNU project.
> >
> > > Is Sylpheed part of what you call Linux?
> >
> > Sylpheed is not a GNU project.
> >
> > The reality is that a modern Linux distribution contains code from the
> > *BSD projects, from the Apache project, from ISC, and from a ton of
> > other projects and groups.  Should we call it "GNU/Apache/BSD/Kitchen
> > Sink/Linux?"  That's just silly.
> >
> > The core of the distribution
> *The* distribution? Which one? Mark Haney's post didn't talk about any 
> particular distribution, but this is the Fedora list after all so I'll assume 
> that you meant Fedora.

Nope, you're intentionally missing the point.  I'm talking about Linux
as a Linux distribution in very generic terms.  Whether it's Fedora,
Ubuntu, Slackware, whatever.

> > is the kernel, called Linux.  It is 
> > perfectly fair and reasonable to call it plain old "Linux."
> Although you didn't really answer my questions, your argumentation implies 
> that you consider Udev, Yum, Sylpheed and the entire Apache project parts of 
> Linux, but not Kylix apparently. 

Sure, they are all part of a Linux distribution.  That is not to say
they can't also be part of some other OS.

> You also seem to equate Fedora with Linux. I 
> won't assume without further evidence that you're a bigot 

Inflammatory language like this does *not* make someone more likely to
agree with you.

> who thinks Fedora 
> is the One True Distribution, so you probably consider Debian, Gentoo and 
> others different versions of Linux or something like that.

Of course.

> I guess your idea of Linux is "all software that is included in at least one 
> distribution based on the kernel Linux" – a bit narrower than Joe Klemmer's 
> concept of "all software that can run in a Unix-like environment".

No, the current most common use of the term "Linux" really talks more
about a Linux distribution with all the associated applications.  Many
if not most of those apps have zero relationship to the GNU project.
*That's* my point.  For the FSF folks to claim that we should all change
our vernacular to call it GNU/Linux is no more appropriate than the
Sendmail folks demanding we call it Sendmail/Linux.

> Seeing how you point out that Yum, Apache and Sylpheed aren't GNU projects, 
> yet consider them parts of Linux, it seems like you think they're subprojects 
> of Linus Torvalds' Linux project and are distributed by Linus and his team. 
> Surely you know that's not the case, but if they can be parts of Linux 
> without being Linux projects, then I don't understand why they couldn't be 
> parts of GNU/Linux without being GNU projects.

Nice try, but that's neither what I said *or* implied.  You are
stretching what I said into something on another planet.

There is software from a *ton* of projects included in a typical Linux
distro.  For the FSF folks to claim that we should all bow down to the
mighty FSF and change our vernacular is the height of hubris.  FSF/GNU
was heavily involved in the success of Linux, to be sure.  But so were
Sendmail, the Apache project, ISC and countless others.  You don't see
them making asinine demands that we go around calling it Sendmail/Linux
or Apache/Linux, do you?

> > I don't 
> > really get riled up at the folks who write it as GNU/Linux, but I think
> > they are being silly, and not attributing all the other fine projects
> > which have contributed code.
> I agree that it would be silly to talk about all of Fedora as "GNU/Linux", 
> because it contains so much more than just GNU and Linux. I suppose that's 
> why it's called "Fedora".
> It follows of course that it would be even more silly to call Fedora "Linux", 
> because Linux is an even smaller part of Fedora than GNU/Linux is.

I don't think anyone on this list is claiming that Fedora == Linux.  I
think what has been said over and over is that Fedora is a Linux
distribution.  The vast majority of the community and the industry calls
Linux distributions just plain old "Linux."  It's easy, it makes sense,
everyone knows what is being said.

My objection is *not* to giving all due credit to the FSF/GNU.  As
indicated in an earlier post, I am incredibly grateful to the FSF and
all the work they've done.  I am very familiar with the story of the
incomplete OS called GNU and the little kernel that Linus came up with
that fit so nicely with GNU.  But to demand that we go around calling it
GNU/Linux to the exclusion of the countless other projects which made
Linux so successful is just ridiculous, plain and simple.


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