that old GNU/Linux argument

Björn Persson listor3.rombobeorn at
Mon Jul 21 16:16:42 UTC 2008

Antonio Olivares wrote:
> > > 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.
> >
> > Correction: Alexandre Oliva has said that "an
> > operating system is a kernel
> > plus a bunch of userland libraries and programs that users
> > and other
> > applications generally rely on" and that GNU is an
> > example of an operating
> > system. I can't believe I forgot that.
> >
> > It's a bit vague, but clearly a whole lot less than all
> > of Fedora or Debian.
> > It could be taken to mean just a kernel and the GNU command
> > line tools, or it
> > could include X and Gnome too.
> >
> > Björn Persson
> >
> > --
> Using google with the search phrase "why is it called GNU/Linux?", we get
> many hits, most notably

None of those give a clear answer either. The FSF frequently says that "the 
operating system" or "the whole system" should be called GNU/Linux, but I'm 
not sure if they really intend "the whole system" to mean "all the software 
on the computer" or even Fedora Everything or all 21 CDs of Debian. It may 
well be that when they say "the whole system" they mean "the whole operating 
system", and that they define the operating system as all or most GNU 
programs including Gnome, plus Linux, X and maybe Sendmail.

If that's the case, then this argument is really a case of people talking past 
each other, because then we have a group who say that everything that makes 
up a distribution is Linux against another group who say that a rather small 
part of a distribution is GNU/Linux.

Björn Persson

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