that old GNU/Linux argument

Marko Vojinovic vvmarko at
Thu Jul 24 15:43:51 UTC 2008

Hi everyone, :-)

Please forgive me for jumping into the thread, I've been reading it only for 
the last couple of days, although I can see that the discussion is going on 
for some time now.

On Wednesday 23 July 2008 06:47, Alexandre Oliva wrote:
> It makes little sense to deny the important of any of the two.  GNU
> folks don't try to make it seem like Linux is irrelevant.  The
> converse is unfortunately quite true.  That's why you see GNU folks
> unhappy about this, and Linux folks who don't care because they were
> given the false impression that GNU was and is not relevant, as if all
> the merit had been with Linux, or they don't even know what GNU is,
> which is a very serious problem for the Free Software movement.

Reading the (last few days of the) thread, I saw many aspects and different 
opinions on the subject of the name Linux vs GNU/Linux being raised. But all 
that aside, as a half-ignorant naive and young user of Linux (I've been in 
Linuxland starting with RH6.2 and onwards), I came to have an opinion on the 
subject that is completely independent of history of development of both GNU 
and Linux.

Short version: Linux (the kernel) deserves more credit than GNU (utilities) in 
the name of the operating system, so I prefer Linux to GNU/Linux. Below I 
elaborate why. 

Long version. Let me describe a simplified analogy. Imagine an assembly line 
of a new car. The company that assembles the car is called Fedora Automotive 
Corp. The car is assembled of the following components. Under the hood there 
is the Linux engine, GNU transmission gears, GNU clutch, GNU oil pump, GNU 
steering mechanism and GNU wheels. In the cabin, there is the X instrument 
board, the Gnome steering wheel and pedals, Amarok radio receiver and Compiz 
air freshener. All this is held together by a modern slick blue chassis with 
the gold-plated Infinity and Penguin symbols in front and the mark
"Fedora 9 Linux x86/64/PPC Turbo Injection" in chrome fancy letters on the 
back. It's by definition the latest technology sports-car model that gets new 
upgraded parts from the factory every few days. It accelerates from 
standstill to 300 mph in less than 5 seconds. :-)

Now take a look at the car --- every piece of hardware installed there is 
vital and necessary for proper operation of the whole (possibly with the 
exception of the Compiz air freshener). But tell me, what is in principle
The Single Most Important element of the car? There is only one answer --- the 
engine. That is why the Fedora factory included the name Linux in the full 
name of the model. It is the Fedora car, no doubt, because it is assembled at 
the Fedora factory. It's components are produced by various companies --- 
Linux, GNU, X, Fedora, Compiz etc., but the engine has its special place, 
because it is the most important piece of the car. That is why in general all 
models from the Fedora family are collectively labeled "Fedora Linux" cars, 
emphasizing the manufacturer of the chassis and the manufacturer of the 

Btw, this is the usual and traditional way of naming in the automotive 
industry --- just look at the Formula 1 teams: McLaren - Mercedes, Williams -  
Toyota, Red Bull Racing - Ferrari, etc. What is emphasized is the name of the 
team that assembles the car and the engine manufacturer.

Automotive industry is not the sole example for the analogy. This is general 
in lots of aspects of human society --- the analogy can be pushed all the way 
to religions: Christianity is a religion named after its founder, Jesus 
Christ. Of course, the religion itself could not exist without the 
dissemination done bu the 12 Apostoles, but it would be plain ridicolous to 
request a name change to Apost/Christianity in order to pay tribute to those 
12 men. Their role, albeit extremely relevant, is not as crucial as the role 
of Christ himself. (I apologize for making analogies between Christ and Linux 
kernel, it's highly inappropriate, but serves the purpose of making a point.)

So, to summarize, the operating system and all distributions built around it 
are named to pay tribute to the most essential piece of software contained 
--- the kernel. I fail to see the same for GNU. Quite contrary, FSF and GNU 
people are precisely the ones who have *failed* to create this essential 
component, although they have tried (Hurd), so it is appropriate that they 
*do not* deserve to be credited with "GNU" in the name of the OS. Asking 
people to change from Linux to GNU/Linux means asking for credit that is not 
deserved, and can thus be considered impolite and arrogant (at least).

Of course, the GNU voices will disagree with my opinion, but I see no 
arguments in their favor, except the statements "GNU is important, GNU is an 
operating system that lacks a kernel" and the like.

HTH, :-)

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