that old GNU/Linux argument

Alexandre Oliva aoliva at
Tue Jul 22 16:55:24 UTC 2008

On Jul 22, 2008, Ric Moore <wayward4now at> wrote:

> Here's the real history, according to this webpage:

> he bought a copy of Andrew Tanenbaum’s MINIX operating system

Which was never just a kernel, and that to the best of my knowledge
didn't use GNU software.

>         end of October he was able to announce, ‘It has finally reached
>         the stage where it's even usable’

with the GNU operating system.

>         and released Linux under the
>         GPL (GNU General Public License).

Factually incorrect, provably.

>         It soon became the focus of
>         the largest collaborative ‘open source’ project ever undertaken,

Causal loop detected.  The term Open Source is 7 years younger than

> So, he took Minux, an operating system, (presumably with it's GNU
> packages), inserted his kernel (which took only 10 months to have it
> working enough to distribute)

Whereas an army of developers had spent 7 years writing the code he
combined with it to make it useful.

> named and released a package named "Linux"

Yep.  A kernel.

> under the GPL.


> He referred to it as "an operating system".

In the plan.  Later on, when it became clear that writing a complete
operating system was such a major undertaking, he started using the
term 'kernel' to refer to his work.

And later on, when it became clear that the combination was "big and
professional like gnu" (heck, it *was* gnu), labeling the whole thing
as Linux became too tempting to resist.

> Can FSF CHANGE the name of a GPL'd package??

Sure.  Anyone can change the name of a GPLed package.  Or even a huge
collection of GPLed and non-GPLed packages.  It is legal.

But is it morally right?

Do the ends (promoting oneself in detriment of the software freedom
ideology) justify the means (using all the GNU software and applying
his kernel name to it)?

> Is Minix now GNU/Minix as well?

It is now under the GPL, but AFAIK it didn't use much if any GNU
software, and it was never part of the GNU project (unlike all this
software that makes up the userland of the operating system GNU that
some people call Linux)

> Re-writing history also happens during the eventual purges.

Like the article you cited?

> Linus called "Linux" an -operating system-. And GPL'd it. Now what?

Let the records show that history was rewritten by whoever wrote the
article, and correct this mistake as well as the other mistake that
you justify using the article.

> He used GNU packages in his project,

*with*, not *in*.  His project was and still is named linux, and it's
no more than a kernel.  Go check what he releases as

> can someone else demand I change the
> name to GNU/NuOAR, cause I use some GNU bits?

Nobody can demand any such thing.  But if you add 200LOC to a 5000LOC
GNU project, it would be just reasonable to not give people the
impression that you wrote it all, and to give credit to the work you
based yours on.

Alexandre Oliva
Free Software Evangelist  oliva@{,}
FSFLA Board Member       ¡Sé Libre! =>
Red Hat Compiler Engineer   aoliva@{,}

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