that old GNU/Linux argument

Alexandre Oliva aoliva at
Sun Jul 20 05:00:09 UTC 2008

On Jul 19, 2008, Thomas Cameron <thomas.cameron at> wrote:

> Alexandre, I've watched you tilting at this windmill for months.  It's
> just silly.  Someone else called the demand for the FSF folks to call it
> GNU/Linux "childish."  I didn't really think so until I skimmed through
> the rest of the thread.

There appears to be some confusion here.  There's nobody from the FSF
participating in this thread.

> I've never denigrated or minimized GNU's participation in the success of
> the Linux operating system, or any other operating systems.

> My point is that GNU is only a *part* of that success.  There are other
> projects which have been as or more important in that success.  Look at
> Apache and Sendmail and BIND.

Apache, sendmail, bind and linux are not operating systems.  They have
never been.

That people made this silly and childish mistake of renaming the GNU
operating system to Linux is unfair *and* it works against the very
evangelization you claim to support.  Nevertheless, you use such
denigrating terms to our movement as Linux operating system and F/OSS.
One gets to wonder whether we are indeed working for the same social,
ethical and moral goals.

> Those are the services which got Linux in the back door in the
> enterprise.

And where would have Linux been if it wasn't running under the GNU
operating system?

> I'm the first one to admit that without the GNU c compiler and c
> libraries,

That's just a small part of the GNU operating system.  Linux uses far
more than that from it.

> *all* of them came together for the success of what the vast
> majority of the community and the industry calls "Linux."

So?  The vast majority of computer users run non-Free Software, and
even has it as part or, in some cases, all of their operating system.
Even when it's GNU/Linux.  Who's afraid of trying to change the world
for the better?

> Look at it from the outside, Alexandre.  There are many who feel that
> the FSF's demand for everyone to pay homage by calling it GNU/Linux is
> just an attempt to steal the "glory" of Linus's success.

*If* that was the case, it would just be returning the alleged glory
to the project that most deserved it.  The people who most strongly
oppose this correction are precisely those who stole the "glory" of
GNU's success.

But that's not the case.  The case at hand is that by rejecting the
idea of mentioning GNU, a very different set of values is promoted.
And this set of values denigrates our movement, works against our
movement, and makes our task, that was already difficult, even more
difficult.  Pretending it doesn't, waving it off as childish, that's
what's ridiculous.  And offensive.  And disrespectful.  Please don't
do that.

> It hurts the FSF *much* more than it helps.

The goal is not to promote the FSF.  If it hurts the FSF, too bad.
The goal is to promote software freedom, to generate awareness about
this issue, and about how difficult and important it is to fight for
it.  If you believe Linus and Linux care about these issues, and that
by spreading the name Linux you're helping promote these values,
you've been fooled, like so many others.

> Let it go, man.  Just relax, enjoy the incredible success you've had,

Heh.  There's still a very long road until we, the Free Software
movement, can claim any success.  Hardly anyone these days can use a
computer in freedom, and that was the goal, remember?

Only those who set a goal such as 'making "Linux" popular' have
anything to celebrate.  It's running on something between 1% and 5% of
the computers in the world, and it's soon to skyrocket as cell phone
vendors go "Linux" with full-fledged tivoization.  Way to go! (not)

> focus all the energy you are wasting in this silly argument on making
> the compiler better.

See, this totally misses the point.  The compiler is quite sufficient
already for people to live in freedom.  The issues that need attention
now are completely different.  Software development is quite secondary
in my personal list of priorities, because it's not anywhere as
relevant any more to advance the goals of the Free Software movement
as spreading awareness about the importance of seeking and pursuing
freedom.  So I am putting my energy where it matters the most, and in
the mean time I'm working on technical issues because they help me pay
the bills and support my family and enables me to put my energy where
it matters for a majority of my time.

Now, if you set different goals, if you prefer to not look at the big
picture and cheer for the gains in popularity afforded by sacrificing
the fundamental goals, that's between you and your conscience.

> Nothing will gain the FSF more respect and
> acceptance than continued success.

Success as measured by "how many people gained freedom", which it set
out to achieve, or as measured by "how many people use a bit of Free
Software without even knowing or caring", which others have adopted as
their own goals?

> Please continue to evangelize Free
> Software, I am totally on board with helping you out.

That's precisely what I'm doing, while listening to demands for me to
shut up, to drop childish and ridiculous arguments, and to stop
hunting windmills.

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

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