that old GNU/Linux argument

Björn Persson listor3.rombobeorn at
Mon Jul 21 02:47:02 UTC 2008

söndagen den 20 juli 2008 skrev Anders Karlsson:
> * Björn Persson <listor3.rombobeorn at> [20080720 19:52]:
> [snip: lots of hairsplitting and otherwise ludicrous statements]

If my latest response to Thomas Cameron seemed particularly hair-splitting, it 
may be because he rejected the definition I proposed and yet made more 
statements that seemed to agree very well with the definition he rejected. I 
tried to figure out where the difference was and came up with a marginally 
different definition. If he doesn't agree with that one either, then I 
definitely don't understand what he means with "Linux".

> Is it really so hard to grasp that the term "Linux" can (and does)
> mean different things depending on context, who you are talking to,
> and the counterparts technical savvy?

It's not difficult at all to understand that people have different ideas of 
what Linux is, but that's not enough to understand what any particular person 
means when he says "Linux". And why are we even communicating if we aren't 
going to try to understand each other?

> I also would like to know why you have the absolute fascination and
> the palpable need to obtain a totally absolute definition of "Linux".

I don't think I'll get everyone to agree on a definition. I don't even think 
all the anti-GNU/Linux folks will agree on a definition.

When Mark Haney "vented his spleen" I made an attempt to damp the argument 
that would inevitably follow. I tried to get Mark to say something about what 
it was that should or shouldn't be called Linux or GNU/Linux, so that maybe 
people would at least argue about the same thing. That mostly failed.

I kept asking in the hope that at least some people would start thinking about 
whether their opponents even understood what meaning they put in the words. I 
expected that some of the anti-GNU/Linux folks would say that Linux is the 
operating system and that the operating system is the kernel plus the 
programs that are necessary to boot the system, log in, run commands and edit 
text files, or something like that. I thought that others would include stuff 
like Cron, RPM, X and maybe the core parts of a desktop environment.

Instead, those who have answered so far or otherwise made their position clear 
in the argument either say that Linux is a kernel or that pretty much 
everything and the kitchen sink is Linux. I didn't expect that. I'm 
particularly surprised that some even include unfree programs that have never 
been distributed bundled with Linus' kernel.

So far I haven't seen a pro-GNU/Linux person describe what GNU/Linux is and 
what it isn't. It would be interesting to see whether they include the 
kitchen sink in GNU/Linux.

Björn Persson

More information about the fedora-list mailing list