that old GNU/Linux argument

Björn Persson listor3.rombobeorn at
Mon Jul 21 13:23:47 UTC 2008

Tim wrote:
> The majority will understand "Linux" as being an OS, the whole thing,
> one of the many OS distros that are similar to each other (*), but not
> understand it as referring to just the kernel.

And then you'll hear arguments like "You think Windows is bloated? Linux is 
*much* worse! Look, Debian is twenty-one CDs! Thirteen gigabytes! My, what a 
horribly bloated OS!". They think "the whole thing" is the OS, and so they 
compare "the Windows OS" to "the Linux OS", not understanding that Debian is 
a huge collection of programs more comparable to Windows plus Office plus 
Visual Studio plus MS SQL Server plus Photoshop plus lots and lots of other 
third-party programs, and that nobody will ever install all those 13 GB of 
Debian packages.

That's a misunderstanding, and they'll continue misunderstanding until you 
explain to them that the distribution contains much more than an operating 
system – or that you only need a small part of the operating system to 
operate the system, or however you choose to say it.

> There's no lack of understanding
> when one person says to another that they use Linux.  They mean they use
> an OS which has Linux at it's heart.

Let's see how much that statement really tells the other person. If someone 
says he's using Linux, he's most likely using the kernel Linux and the GNU 
core utilities. Someone who talks that way probably also uses a GUI, so we 
can assume X, but we can't tell whether he's using Gnome or KDE. We also 
don't know if he has Apache or BIND running, or some database or other 
server. We can't even tell whether packages are managed by RPM, DPKG or 
Emerge. So the meaning that the word "Linux" conveys in this case is pretty 
much "Linux, GNU and X", right?

Björn Persson

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