that old GNU/Linux argument

Thomas Cameron thomas.cameron at
Sun Jul 20 06:01:22 UTC 2008

On Sun, 2008-07-20 at 02:00 -0300, Alexandre Oliva wrote:
> 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.

FSFLA, then.

> > 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.

I've never said they were.  You are AGAIN intentionally missing the
point and sidestepping.  They are part of a DISTRIBUTION.  Let me try to
write this in small words so you can understand it.  I am talking about
what most folks call "Linux," a Linux distribution.

> 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.

Apparently not.  I am about getting Free and Open Source Software
adopted in the mainstream, and thereby growing the community.  As far as
I'm concerned, I am working towards increasing freedom.  We're both
working for the same thing, but you have such an incredibly narrow view
that you will apparently accept no pragmatism.

> > 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?

/me rolls his eyes.  I've already conceded that point.  Why are you
arguing in circles?

> > 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.

And Linux (as in a typical Linux distro) uses far more of other
projects' code than it uses of GNU.  Therefore, to my original point
(which you are ignoring), it makes no sense to call a Linux distro
"GNU/Linux."  No more than calling it a "Sendmail/Linux" or
"Apache/Linux."  All of those projects contributed to the success of

> > *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?

ROFLMAO - dude, seriously, read what I'm writing.  I'm talking about the
call for Linux to be called GNU/Linux.  No more, no less.

> > 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.

Um, hold on a sec, there.  "Stole?"  To steal typically means to have
the intent to deprive another of property.  I've been using Linux since
1995, and I've never, ever seen anyone in the Linux community indicate
that they intended to deprive GNU of any property or even credit for all
they've done.

That the Linux kernel was what accelerated F/OSS popularity was
happenstance mixed with cool code.  That the general public saw Linux
distributions rise up in popularity and they chose to call them "Linux"
instead of "GNU/Linux" is not theft, it's just the way things shook out.

Accusations of theft are pretty serious.  I don't buy it at all.

> 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.

Ah, OK, I get it now.  Yours is the One True Way, and everyone else is

Extremism in any form is bad.  You're being extremist here, sorry, no
other way to call it.

> > 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.

Wow - talk about biting the hand that feeds you.  Don't you work for Red
Hat, a company best known for... Linux?  Wait, sorry, that's not biting
the hand that feeds you, that's hypocrisy.  Linus and Linux don't
*really* promote freedom, but you'll take money from a Linux company.
So you're pragmatic enough to do that, but not enough to recognize that
there is more than one way to spread free software?  Whatever.

> > 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.

Again, I think you are going to extremes.  I think that by penetrating
enterprise computing environments (as you call it, 'making Linux
popular'), we *are* increasing freedom.  The more people who are exposed
to Free/Open Source Software, the more those people will participate in
the community.  The bigger the community, the more penetration we can
get, and the bigger the community becomes again.  Apparently that's not
good enough for you, and that's fine.  For me, it's great.

Now I'm done with this thread.  By sidestepping and redirecting the
conversation or flat ignoring what I've said, you've reminded me of that
old saying about wrestling with a pig.  The pig enjoys it and you just
get dirty.


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