that old GNU/Linux argument

Marko Vojinovic vvmarko at
Thu Jul 24 21:04:55 UTC 2008

On Thursday 24 July 2008 18:03, Gordon Messmer wrote:
> Marko Vojinovic wrote:
> > 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.
> I'm not trying to be rude,

No offense taken. ;-)

> but did you just say that you have an 
> entirely uninformed opinion that you'd like to contribute?

No no no, I said that I am uninformed about the *history* of the two projects 
(except some rudimentary information, most of which I actually read in this 
very thread). I did not say that I am completely uninformed. The point is 
that my argument is independent of knowledge of that history, so I claim to 
have a legitimate opinion regardless of my ignorance for history of GNU and 
Linux. I presented it in a form of analogy because it is the easiest way for 
others to understand the essence of the argument.

> When did being informed and educated go out of style?

:-) Well, not all information is relevant for every discussion. I simply 
stated that knowledge of history of GNU and Linux is not relevant for the 
argument I am presenting, ergo I need not be informed about it. The new style 
in town is "knowing only relevant information"... ;-)

> > Long version. Let me describe a simplified analogy.
> Because the only thing better than an uninformed opinion is one argued
> by analogy!

I don't understand your comment. Are you saying that using an analogy is a bad 
way to present an opinion? Why? Though, if you prefer, I can present it also 
without using any analogies. It just seems simpler this way.

> > 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.
> Here's what I want you to do:  Go out to your nearest Harley Davidson
> dealer and take a good look at the new Rocker C.  It's beautiful.  Then
> turn around and look at the Buell bikes across the isle.  The engine is
> largely the same, but people don't refer to Buell bikes as Harleys.

I am sorry, but I don't live in the part of the world where one can find a 
Harley Davidson dealer easily, so I have to miss the beauty. Nevertheless, I 
understand that Harley and Buell are two bike manufacturers, like Fedora and 
SuSE are two distros. If both Harley and Buell use the same engine for their 
bikes, than I suspect that performances of both are quite similar, and that 
essentialy it is the same machine, just with different wheels, brakes and 
design details, along with the name of the brand. But it seems that neither 
Harley nor Buell give appropriate respect to whoever manufactured the engine 
for them, which is unfortunate. The Linux distros generally do give 
appropriate respect to the kernel they use.

Btw, do both companies really use the same engine for their bikes (off-topic, 
but now that you have mentioned it, I became curious)?

> > 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.
> And who began the Free Software movement?

RMS? (I hope to know at least that much history.) So what about it? I see no 
point here?

> GNU started *years* before Linus began work on his kernel.  When Linux
> was announced, GNU as a "big and professional" project.

Well, from my (freshman's) point of view, it was big and professional, but 
incompetent to produce the equivalent of 4 months work of a single computer 
science student in Helsinki. If I was a part of GNU project, I would be 
ashamed of that. Just compare the number of users who use Linux kernel 
against those who use Hurd kernel. Today. It's an embaressment for GNU, the 
way I see it. After roughly two decades of existence, I see that Linux kernel 
won, and Hurd kernel lost. They both used GNU utilities. The winner is paid 
tribute by having its name mentioned in all distros that use it.

Let me make another analogy. Persons A and B are running a marathon on the 
Olympic games. Incidentally, person B is also professionally involved in 
athletic shoe design, and also gives those hi-tech shoes to all contestants 
in a marathon to wear if they like. And it turns out that person A wins the 
marathon. Now person B asks for a part of the gold medal, since A used the 
shoes given away by B. Is that legitimate? No, it isn't. The gold medal is 
given for the running discipline, not shoe-making discipline. A and B were 
equal in having the same shoes, but A won while B lost. A is the sole to get 
the credit. The fact that B has a "big and professional" shoe company that 
existed for ten or so years has nothing to do with the race itself. Of 
course, the shoes (being hi-tech) definitely did help both A and B to run 
more comfortably and efficiently, but the gold medal is given for the quality 
of the man running, not the quality of the shoes he wears.

In other words, kernel is qualitatively more important than all other 
utilities that are used in conjuction. GNU did make all those utilities, but 
failed to make the most important part. Therefore, GNU deserves *less* credit 
for the later success of the combination "kernel+utilities", simply because 
the more fundamental part is made by somebody else. And this somebody else 
gets credit for the work. And that seems fair to me.

Best, :-)

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