that old GNU/Linux argument

Alexandre Oliva aoliva at
Mon Jul 28 02:30:22 UTC 2008

On Jul 26, 2008, Antonio Olivares <olivares14031 at> wrote:

> If there was no kernel, the GNU operating system would not have gone
> anywhere

It would have completed it eventually, or someone else would have
developed another kernel that would work with GNU.  ATM we have at
least 4.

> without the GNU tools, where would Linux be?

Who knows?  It might not even have come to existence, since it was
developed making extensive use of GNU software, and it depended
heavily on GNU software to be usable since its inception, and nobody
ever tried to change that.

> An analogy for the GPL would be the farmer who receives the gift of
> a GPL cow from a neighbour. The cow is completely free, but all of
> the milk from the cow must be given away for free, and all of the
> cow's calves, and the calves' calves, yea, even unto the thousandth
> generation, shall be given away for free.

If the cow is completely free in the same sense as in the GPL, then it
can't have been given as a gift, for gift amounts to ownership, which
is slavery rather than freedom.  I perceive an overloaded-word fallacy
here: using 'free' with two very distinct senses, one that tries to
bring the subject closer to the Free Software free, while all others
have to do with cost.

> Now what kind of use is such a cow?

You can eat it.  You can use its pieces to build other objects and
sell them.  And you can expect to get more "free" cows from the
neighbor, so you could run a business until the neighbor realizes what
you're doing and realizes he can do that himself, and kills his own
"free" cows.  There's a fable about a farmer who kills the goose that
laid golden eggs somewhere.

Of course none of this bears any significant resemblance with the way
the GPL works.

> This is quite interesting and the points are very well stated.

Yep.  Clever use of fallacies and dependence on public ignorance and
gullibility :-)

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

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