a long rebuttal to the Linux-is-the-engine fallacy

Alexandre Oliva aoliva at redhat.com
Tue Jul 29 02:13:28 UTC 2008

On Jul 28, 2008, Marko Vojinovic <vvmarko at panet.co.yu> wrote:

> Oh, really? So you are saying that memtest talks directly to the graphics 
> hardware, printing its output pixel-by-pixel on the screen?

Pretty much.  Except that not pixel-by-pixel, but rather writing
bytes directly to the table that the video card then displays using
its built-in font.

> It doesn't rely on bios routines for basically everything except
> maybe memory-access?

The only uses of bios routines I see in its source code are in its own
boot loader, to read from disk, and in the code that queries the BIOS
for configuration information, also used by Linux.  Heck, even the
Serial I/O it does is done directly using inb/outb instructions.

So it is actually *less* dependent on the BIOS than both Linux and GNU
GRUB :-)

> Aha, so xen is something in between a fully-fledged kernel and a
> loader.

I don't understand what you mean by 'loader'.  It's more of a kernel
wrapper.  It doesn't know how to load anything.  It actually depends
on the loader or the domain zero kernel to give it programs^Wkernel
images to boot up.

>> What other artifical exceptions and work-arounds are you going to have
>> to invent to make it seem like Linux deserves to be more relevant than
>> GNU in a distro? 

> Well, as many as I find convenient for the job. :-)


>> Isn't that an indication of something about both 
>> your intent and about the truth of what you're trying to dispute?

> My intent is to demonstrate that there is an alternative to your reasoning, 
> because I intutively feel that there is, at least one.

Feel free to keep trying.  I've played a lot of this game, and it
always ends up with "It's Linux because I want it to be, I don't care
what's right or moral or ethical, I don't want to give credit to the
GNU project, live with it."  Which is very human, but very sad.

> So I am just trying to construct an argument that can be considered
> valid enough, while producing a different conclusion than your own.

The more artificial it is, the less appealing it will be, and the less
it will serve as a valid excuse to deny GNU the space it earned and
deserves to fulfill its goal of promoting freedom.

> giving names to stuff is largely a matter of taste, and 
> that there is no single valid criterion for doing that.

Indeed.  But the point here is that his not about 'giving names', but
rather 'renaming things that existed before'.

Nobody's trying to rename Linux, in spite of Linus' claims that people
do.  Linux is a kernel, and trying to rename it would be as wrong as
renaming GNU Operating System to "Linux Operating System" was.

Nobody's trying to rename Fedora.  Fedora is its name.  It's not
Fedora Linux or Fedora GNU/Linux, and that's fine.  It sidesteps the
issue by not promoting one over the other, which is precisely the most
unfair situation.  Of course it would be nice if the naem promoted GNU
and thus the Free Software philosophy, but at least it's not
detrimental to it by promoting an antagonic movement and philosophy
that are represented by terms such as "Linux Operating System" and
"Open Source Software".

The authors of the GNU project named GNU GNU, and Linux developers
renamed it.  That is the problem.  It's not reasonable to rename
something just because you replaced a small portion of it.  It's not
right if you do so with the intent of denying those from whose work
you benefited the achievement of the goal for which the work was
created in the first place.  It's even worse when this is done to work
*against* that goal.

> People have to name it based on intuition.

Intuition is not a good guide when it has been distorted by years of
lies.  How long did it take humanity to overcome the notion that the
world was flat, to believe that energy could be converted into mass
and vice-versa, that sub-atomic particles could behave like waves and
vice-versa, that nature isn't deterministic.

> And if your agenda is to influence the intuition of general public
> regarding the name,

My agenda is to promote freedom.  My reasoning is that, even if I
don't convince anyone that the name GNU is relevant, at the very least
I'll have reached several people with the underlying message.  We
can't end up worse off (those who allegedly distantiate themselves
from the movement are those who already rejected it in the first
place), and for every person who learns about the philosophy, the
social goal will have advanced, even if just a little bit.  The only
things I "lose" are time and, sometimes, patience.

> I claim that it cannot be done by arguments, but by education to
> build a new kind of intuition. And that is not something that can be
> done in a thread of a mailing list --- it needs a completely new
> approach.

I'm looking forward to suggestions and willing to give them a try.
Not necessarily as replacement for this approach, of course, but
perhaps in addition to.

Thanks for your insights,

Alexandre Oliva         http://www.lsd.ic.unicamp.br/~oliva/
Free Software Evangelist  oliva@{lsd.ic.unicamp.br, gnu.org}
FSFLA Board Member       ¡Sé Libre! => http://www.fsfla.org/
Red Hat Compiler Engineer   aoliva@{redhat.com, gcc.gnu.org}

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