that old GNU/Linux argument

Anders Karlsson anders at
Mon Jul 21 07:01:43 UTC 2008

* Björn Persson <listor3.rombobeorn at> [20080721 04:47]:
> söndagen den 20 juli 2008 skrev Anders Karlsson:
> > 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?

Soooo, it's easy to grasp that people have different ideas about what
"Linux" is, depending on context, technical savvy and who you converse
with - and yet forcing the point of trying to obtain a final
specification of what Linux is prevails. Hmmmm..

Understanding each other implies some sort of diplomatic process to
get the two differing opinions to move nearer to each other. I'm not
seeing much diplomacy, but I am seeing lots of "drift the argument
sideways to avoid something uncomfortable" or circular
reasonings. It's all a bit pants really.

> > 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.

Considering the pro GNU/Linux mafia can't agree either, that's hardly
surprising or relevant.

> 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.

Yeah, putting out a bonfire by pouring diesel on it has about the same

> 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.

Keeping on asking just because no-one has given you the answer you
want is frequently a Sisyphos task, not to mention that it annoys the
sh*t out of others. It's not a way to obtain cooperation shall we

> 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.

Context, technical savvy and who you're talking to....

> 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.

They'll throw in Emacs in the mix, so of course the kitchen sink is

(For the record, Emacs is my favourite editor, before anyone else has
a stroke and starts bleating Heresy!!)


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