Creating an operating system with Linux but without GNU (was: Re: that old GNU/Linux argument)

Marko Vojinovic vvmarko at
Wed Jul 30 12:10:57 UTC 2008

On Tuesday 29 July 2008 17:28, Alexandre Oliva wrote:
> On Jul 28, 2008, Marko Vojinovic <vvmarko at> wrote:
> > In the following paragraphs of that post, I used it to draw a silent
> > parallel to the whole Linux vs GNU/Linux discussion.
> FWIW, classical/information doesn't make for such a parallel.  It's
> not the classical on top of the information; classical is not a noun,
> it's an adjective to information.  You'd just say "classical
> information" and be done with it.  That's how the English language
> works.

The slash is simply a bizzare syntax that I introduced just for kicks. You are 
completely right about the adjective and English. However, the parallel is 
actually between the classical/information "quest for change" and GNU/Linux 
"quest for change" being both equally sterile. They both may be technically 
correct, moral, the Right Thing and all, but most people will simply refuse 
to do it, for no specific reason at all.

People are simply reluctant to change their default behavior if they are not 
forced to, ie. if they are happy with the current situation. Asking them to do 
the Right Thing (whatever it be) can have only partial success at best. Be 
happy if one out of a thousand people on this list changes his mind about the 
name of the [GNU/]Linux. The major effect these quests have on people is to 
say "oh, no, not again those GNU folks hyping about that damn stupid name, I 
have to filter out this thread" when they see someone mentioning GNU/Linux 
instead of Linux.

Folks that use Fedora or any other [GNU/]Linux distro are in large number 
computer lovers and geeks. For them the name "Linux" is a symbol, a synonim 
for "being better and smarter than those stupid M$ Winblows users", a name 
that they grew up with and that they love. Renaming that, however morally 
correct, is just blasphemy for them, and will provoke the simple "I refuse" 
reaction. Just try to go to Los Angeles and ask people to rename their 
basketball team from "LA Lakers" to "NY/LA Lakers", for whatever reason you 
might come up with. Noone would even consider you seriously. "LA Lakers" is a 
legendary name, people are used to it and love it as it is, and would refuse 
to change it, on a completely irrational basis. Arguments, credits, quests, 
the Right Thing, whatever..., are a complete waste of time when confronted to 
such irrational behavior.

The parallel to "classical/information" is quite simple --- no sane person 
would agree to append a mandatory adjective to such a frequent noun. And why? 
Well, there simply isn't an answer to "why" question --- they simply won't do 
it, and won't have a serious explanation if you ask them.

In that sense, both "quests" are futile, in my opinion, and hence the 
parallel. Btw, this is not an argument, just my opinion. :-)

> To make the point clear, let's try a thought experiment.  Imagine that
> some people are so fed up with "these threads" that they set out to
> create an operating system built exclusively out of Free (Libre) and
> Open Source software, but without any GNU software, to avoid any
> claims GNUdists might have on it.
> Now, of course they can use whatever name they like to name the
> distribution (they picked cRocks), but what term would you use to best
> describe the operating system on which it is based?
> f) Other, please specify:

I would probably use the most popular version of the name. That would be the 
first one I hear, first one I get used to, and the one that would be most 
probably understood by others when I try to communicate. Which of several 
names gets to become most popular? Other than "name **** sounds sooo cooool" 
reasoning, it's mostly a game of chance. It doesn't really matter (to general 

> >> I do not see how not using GNU/Linux is a social injustice.  I disagree.
> >
> > Neither do I, but Alexandre is talking about it in a number of
> > posts.
> This is conflating two issues that are related, but not the same.
> One thing is the social injustice promoted by non-Free Software.
> Another thing is the name.

Ahaaaa, yes, one shoud be careful to keep the distinction between the 
"freedom-for-software quest" and "change-to-GNU/Linux quest". Good call. :-) 
They are indeed related, but nevertheless distinct, as you say.

Ok, well, to make it clear, whereever I have talked about "social injustice" 
in this thread in the GNU context, I meant the latter --- the "social 
injustice of the wrong name of Linux operating system". I have never actually 
discussed the "non-free-software social injustice", nor I intend to. Without 
knowing exactly the details about that "free-software-quest", I generally 
tend to agree with it and support the idea. I feel quite against not being 
able to share software with my friends and neighbors and so on. But I am 
getting OT here... :-)

Best, :-)

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