32 comments on “For Me, It’s Linux, Not GNU/Linux

  1. Hey pal,
    you don’t have really the ideas clear.

    I’m not FSF member nor I agree totally with them, but:

    “gnu/linux” is not a movement as you call it, RSM and others just wrote an operating system (GNU) that missed an important things, the Kernel. The Linux kernel fitted pretty well, so the new born (complete) OS is called GNU/LINUX.

    It happens also that the original plan of RSM & co. was to create a kernel by themselves, and in truth it exists and is called HURD


    so, when it will be finished the new OS will be called GNU/HURD.

    1) FSF is a radical, activist organization because they believe in something, is that so wrong?

    2) Is not a matter of license name that in any case is not called GNU.

    3) Again, GNU is not the license, is really an operating system. The license is called GNU GPL.

    4) Not really, I explained you in a few lines of text.

    And finally you write:
    “I do not believe that GNU is Linux”.

    This sentence is at the same true and wrong:
    GNU is really not LINUX.

    GNU is a part of an operating sytem and LINUX is another part of the same OS, that is called GNU/LINUX.

    Is that hard to understand?

  2. There is a major flaw in your reasoning. GNU/Linux is called this way not because of the license, but because the vast majority of tools in the OS are developed by GNU (from the compiler to the utilities). Linux (as a kernel) is only a part of a bigger whole, of which, for the most part, are GNU applications.

  3. I agree completely. You did a smash-up job explaining several reasons, but I think the bottom line is that it’s a two-syllable, one-word name that’s snappier to say and easier to remember.

  4. Um, really? In one breath you say that the license shouldn’t be a part of the name, but in the next you identify the license as the GPL.

    GNU refers to the software and tools found on nearly every Linux system. Tools like “ls” and “grep” and a lot, LOT of others. These tools exist mainly on the commandline, but they are often relied upon by many of the larger apps that you use without ever seeing the commandline yourself.

    The GNU Tools were written to free various Unixi so that those users could do stuff with their software — the basis of the four rights of the GPL. This happened long before Linux came around (8yrs or so).

    If you really were to only run Linux, you’d be kinda stuck — Linux isn’t an OS any more than an engine is the car. You could maybe get by with some of the BSD tools, but you’d have a hard time with it.

    Many have stated it should be GNU/*/Linux or something, to represent to other tools involved. But no one calls it GPL/Linux as your ‘license-in-the-name- suggests.

  5. You seriously need to read this page:

    You appear to confuse the license GPL with the software project GNU.
    GPL is a license.
    GNU is a software project.

    To use your example:
    Windows is not called win32 (the kernel), so you should really just call it GNU and keep the kernel part out of it.

  6. Wow… I go to lunch and get 5 comments…. Thanks, folks!

    I’ll go down the list of current comments, and answer them as best I can:

    @ John Sleeves: (these numbers do not correlate to your comment’s numbers…)

    1) FSF is the free software movement. My only problem with the activist part is that it’s not fighting the battle in a professional manner. Think Bad Vista, the one that’s against DRM, and others. I really believe that they want the right things, but just don’t know how to show it in a way that benefits the image of the organization.

    2) If and when GNU/HURD is finished, maybe they will back off the GNU/Linux thing a bit…

    3) The license did in fact get the name of the software. The FSF has several GPL’s running around. The GPL is referred to as the GNU General Public License. If there was no GPL, effectively, there would have been no GNU/Linux.

    4) The problem with the GNU operating system is that I cannot find and system called “GNU OS.” From the FSF’s site, they have only a small handful of applications they have written themselves. Thus, others have written software outside of the organization, and have decided to license the software under the GPL. Once again, the license is determining the name, not GPL/Linux, but GNU/Linux, in definition of the system.

    5) You know explaining GNU/Linux is harder to “noobs.” To other technical people, it may not be a problem, but you would have to define what it stands for, and all about what it means for the user. It’s much easier to say: Ubuntu is based on Linux, built by volunteers, and is free for you to use. They’ll ask questions with a knee-jerk reaction, but at least it’s easier than GNU/Linux. It would add another level of complexity to the system.

    It’s not hard for me to understand the fact that GNU is not Linux. In my mind, it is only a small part of the Linux ecosystem. Once again, if software is built by people other than the FSF, then the FSF shouldn’t ask for all the credit of building it themselves.

    Moving along…

    @ NickF:

    The FSF did not write all the major applications end users use, such as Firefox and OpenOffice. True, many applications and utilities have been made by those at the FSF, but you do not hear Mozilla asking distributions to call themselves Mozilla/Linux. The FSF’s view that no one but them did anything to really contribute to Linux, is in fact, silly.

    @ linuxcrayon:

    Thanks!… not sure who you are talking to, but either way, thanks for the comment!

    @ ubuntucat:

    Thanks! Part of ubuntu’s success has been simplicity. GNU/Linux for me is to difficult and challenging to discuss with a new user. They can get turned off easily… that is until they see the desktop in action! 🙂

    @ lefty.crupps:

    When I refer to Linux, I refer to everything! The system, the applications, even the GNU tools. I wouldn’t get stuck using my interpretation of the system, but I can see what you are saying.

    Thanks for the comments everyone! 🙂

  7. @ Donald (sorry… I didn’t see your post come in until I replied to everyone else)

    I am not confusing the two (GNU and GPL) The GNU system (as the FSF calls it) is applications that use the GPL, seemingly the qualifier for the GNU system.

    Thanks for the comment! 🙂

  8. I have to echo what some of the other people here have said. The reason that it is “GNU/Linux” as opposed to just “Linux” is the same reason that “AIX” is just “AIX”: Linux does not provide a complete re-implementation of a UNIX system. It only provides the kernel.

    Take a look at the Single UNIX Standard, for example. The SUS states that a compliant system is one that has the kernel which provides certain APIs, the userland tools which provide certain interfaces with the system users, and the libraries, which provide other common functionality. Remove GNU from a GNU/Linux system, and you have to replace it with something else (Busybox, maybe, or some other suite of UNIX software).

    Now, if the Linux kernel all of a sudden shipped with the entire system (like, for example, FreeBSD does—“make world” installs a new kernel, core libs, and userland, because all of it is the “operating system”), then there would be no reason to call a Linux system with native Linux utilities, “GNU/Linux”, because the GNU userland software is not used.

    This is why I call systems with GNU utilities and a non-GNU host kernel a “GNU/kernel” system. Usually, that’s “GNU/Linux”, but it is possible to have different other operating systems with GNU at the core. The Hurd would be redundant to say GNU/Hurd, because the GNU utilities would be the Hurd’s native utilities by definition. However, if you replace the FreeBSD userland with GNU, it becomes “GNU/kFreeBSD”, because now you have removed the FreeBSD C library, the FreeBSD core utilities (ls, mv, cp, rm, etc., etc.), and replaced them all with GNU. It’s no longer just FreeBSD.

  9. This one had to be a blog about Ubuntu, from an Ubuntu user. I don’t know why, but this GNU/Linux distribution has the habit of creating mac-like people. Spooky…

    Try running only – and only – the Linux kernel and you will see why it’s GNU/Linux and not just Linux. Really, try it.

    The FSF did not write all the major applications end users use, such as Firefox and OpenOffice. True, many applications and utilities have been made by those at the FSF, but you do not hear Mozilla asking distributions to call themselves Mozilla/Linux. The FSF’s view that no one but them did anything to really contribute to Linux, is in fact, silly.

    No, Free Software enthusiasts wrote this applications and the ones used to compile Linux and manage a system.

  10. @ Trausch: I see what you mean. In my mind Linux could be called Linux, much as any other system such as Windows or Mac OS X. Really, the Linux kernel could be (and already is) called just that, the Linux Kernel, and avoid the GNU situation. For me, it’s Linux, but that’s just me. It’s not a big deal, and really a personal preference.

    @ toxikmind: Yup! It’s all those 9 million pesky Ubuntu users… ROTFL!

    Perhaps you don’t know this, but if Ubuntu didn’t exist, Linux would not have it’s “Year” until 2040, if it even would have a year…

    By the way, you’re right:

    “No, Free Software enthusiasts wrote this applications and the ones used to compile Linux and manage a system.”

    Free software enthusiasts created the software, but not the FSF!

  11. Pingback: On the names of operating systems… « Trausch’s Little Home

  12. Hi,

    Well, I agree that the system of software known by some as “GNU\Linux” should really be called “Linux” I disagree with most of your reasons. It is true that the _FSF_ did not write most of the applications used in a modern linux distro, but they did write some important ones, such as the gcc (compiler). What I do not like is how Richard Stallman will not give an interview unless the interviewer says “GNU/Linux” instead of Linux. This sort of hair-splitting is ultimately counter-productive.

    While I admire his achievements, I find him now to sort have missed the train. Most people who switch to linux and other FOSS are doing because it is free as in beer, and not free as in freedom. Even “open source” lovers dont really follow RMS’ four freedoms (which he labels from 0 to 3, hows that for geeky?), but rather just the fact that their source is available for perusal, and freely available.

    On a gradient between RMS’s opinion’s and Linus Torvalds, I’d say I agree more with Linus. One idea that I think RMS, and a lot of the FOSS old guard, does not get is that most of the world’s population will never learn how to code, let alone use the command line, and this is how it should be, IT is not the only domain of knowledge. The GUI is here and it is here to stay, it is the primary way most people interact with computers.

  13. @ samoanbiscuit:

    Thanks for the comment!

    You bring up an interesting point. The old-guard you mention do refer to Linux as GNU/Linux, while 99% of new users I talk to refer to it as plain ‘ole Linux. Even after several years of usage, they still use Linux. I have rarely ever heard GNU/Linux used in the wild. I’ll write more about that in my following post, which will be out either tonight or tomorrow.

  14. IIRC, Linus is at ends with RMS. IIRC, Linus calls Linux Linux, not GNU/Linux.

    Link: http://www.landley.net/history/mirror/linux/linus.html

    Quote from Linus Torvalds: “So these days I just tell people to call it just plain ‘Linux’ and nothing more.”

    Also, another article worth reading: “No, RMS, Linux is not GNU/Linux”: http://librenix.com/?inode=2312

    Both are very good resources. The “Linux is Not GNU/LINUX” article brings up several VALID and solid points.

    IMO, the kernel is the OS. IMO, an OS does not include userland tools. IMO, userland tools are extras. IMO, an OS provides access to hardware and allows communication between hardware and software. IMO, the kernel is the _system_ that allows things to _operate_.

  15. Why try to live up to the stereotype of the ubuntu flamebaiter? This is a waste of everyones time. Your position is so indefensable that this cant be anything else but a trolling expedition.

  16. @ Greg: If it is a waste of your time, then DON’T READ IT and then COMMENT! I seriously was about to delete your comment…

    Really, I was just stating my opinion on the issue because numerous times I had people try to “correct” me when I used just “Linux.”

    Ubuntu flamebaiter…. Ever try on the title of… Ubuntu basher?

    And, finally… Indefensible? It amazes me how ignorant some people can be to looking at another’s viewpoint on an issue. If you think that it is indefensible, read my post again and feel free to challenge me. Post your rebuttal in the comments… I dare you.

    Really, there are millions of users like me, new generation users, who in a growing user base, are calling Linux, just “Linux.” It’s not wrong, and really neither is GNU/Linux. It’s a personal thing, and all depends on when and how you were brought up in the Linux community. The older users (meaning the time introduced to Linux) call it GNU/Linux because of the relevance and importance of the FSF during the early days of Linux. Nowadays, the newer generation does not have such an attraction over the FSF (due to activism, elitism, etc.), and do not call it GNU/Linux as less and less geeky users run the system.

    If you seriously believe that everyone should call it GNU/Linux… just read my post once over again.

  17. @ Greg: Are you aware that the oldest Linux distribution (still being supported) does not call itself GNU/Linux? I’m not an Ubuntu user. I don’t even like Ubuntu. I’m a proud Slackware Linux user. Not Slackware GNU/Linux. Slackware Linux. Check it out if you don’t believe me.

    Also, something to point out in reference to the elitism of RMS. Debian GNU/Linux was formerly financially supported by the GNU Project. They were also listed as an official distribution. Now, they are not. Why? Because of the addition of proprietary repositories. These proprietary packages are not (to the best of my knowledge) included in the standard Debian install, but they are available. This is the only reason Debian is not recognized by the GNU folks. Apart from offering proprietary repos (AFTER installation), they conform strictly to the standards. So, in other words, because Debian GNU/Linux chooses to make something available that makes the lives of its users easier, they are not recognized as an official GNU/Linux distribution.

    In the above paragraph, I use the phrase “GNU/Linux” because that is the name of the Debian project. I also use it because that is the name the GNU folks chooses to use to describe its officially recommended distributions. I do NOT use the phrase as a preference. Again, my preference is “Linux.” It is also the preference of Red Hat and Slackware, two of the most respectable distribution providers in the world.

    If Linus Torvalds, Patrick Volkerding, and the maintainers at Red Hat all say it’s Linux, then it is Linux.

    As has been mentioned by many other people, the staff of the GNU Project and FSF are not responsible for the creation of many of the userland tools. They are responsible for some, but not all. The FSF tries to lump them all together and call it “GNU” because they are all released under the GNU GPL. These software projects may have been contributed to help the establishment of a new, free operating system, but that does not mean the staff of either the FSF or the GNU Project created them. Therefore, these tools are not GNU tools; they are GNU GPL’d tools. Therefore, they are not the GNU operating system; they are tools to aid users in interfacing with the Linux kernel. Therefore, it is not GNU/Linux; it is Linux.

    Call it what you want, but I will call it Linux.

  18. Of course you have every right to have the opinion you do but making a false statement such as the GNU in GNU/Linux is named after the license rather than the license being named after the operating system is just crazy. Even after being corrected by several other commenters you still repeated the same fallacy. So either you are unable to admit that you were totaly in the dark about the meaning of GNU or you were purposely spreading disinformation to try and get a rise out of someone. I personally myself dont usually use the term GNU/Linux and dont subscribe to all of Richard Stallmans views myself but I do respect his ideals and the fact that he is willing to stand by them.If you dont want to use GNU/Linux dont use it but dont marginalize his contribution either because without the GNU toolset their wouldnt be a Linux today.
    Also the ubuntu flamebaiter was out of line and I regret posting that.

  19. Hi Jon,

    You don’t seem to realise this but you seem to be very confused in your post and confused by the responses you are getting.

    The OS is made up of the GNU tools (the bulk of the entire OS and essential for the running of the OS) + the Linux kernel (a small but key component).

    Don’t get confused into thinking of a distro as an OS.

    A distro is the OS (GNU + Linux) + a bunch of other software like GNOME, KDE, X, Firefox, etc. etc (many of which are considered essential too).

    As was pointed out by another poster GNU is not a bunch of applications that are licensed under the GPL and bundled with the Linux OS. GNU was an operating system in the making it just needed a kernel. The kernel that the GNU developers were going to use was to be called HURD. They ended up choosing to use the Linux kernel because a) HURD development was coming along too slowly b) the Linux kernel was already relatively complete, and b) it was licensed under a compatible license because Torvalds chose the GPL.

    The GNU people obviously wanted to call the OS which was going to be called GNU/HURD, GNU/Linux because they swapped out HURD for Linux and to give credit to the kernel developers.

    At the time, Linux was a required element to get GNU running. Now, however, it is possible to run GNU with other kernels. On the other hand Linux also requires GNU to run. You cannot run Linux on its own.

    Later Linus Torvalds came to disagree with the philosophy of the FSF and I think now really wishes he had chosen a different license altogether. He tells people to call the entire OS Linux which takes credit away from the people who put in the bulk of the work into GNU in the first place.

    Why side with the guy who wants to strip others of credit that they deserve? The GNU people don’t ask you to call the whole OS GNU… they ask you to call it GNU/Linux.

    I am trying to point out what other commenters have tried already to do. I hope I have made it clearer for you.

    Wikipedia explains all of this quite clearly too. You should really look into it further. It is very interesting.

    In the end you, may decide to call it Linux anyway for convenience or because you are used to it or because you don’t like RMS or his opinions (I don’t think that’s a valid excuse for not giving the GNU project credit though). But it would be nice if you at least understood why so many others really want the OS known as GNU/Linux.

    All the best

  20. @ greg: Thanks for the post! RMS has done a great deal to help lead the free software movement. Without his efforts, there effectively would be no GPL, and Linux and other tools would be released under a different license. My argument is the same one that linuxcrayon said earlier:

    “As has been mentioned by many other people, the staff of the GNU Project and FSF are not responsible for the creation of many of the userland tools. They are responsible for some, but not all. The FSF tries to lump them all together and call it “GNU” because they are all released under the GNU GPL. These software projects may have been contributed to help the establishment of a new, free operating system, but that does not mean the staff of either the FSF or the GNU Project created them. Therefore, these tools are not GNU tools; they are GNU GPL’d tools. Therefore, they are not the GNU operating system; they are tools to aid users in interfacing with the Linux kernel. Therefore, it is not GNU/Linux; it is Linux.”

    And, sorry for suggesting you were an Ubuntu basher… 😉

  21. @ Dave: Sorry I didn’t see your post(s) in the comments:

    When I refer to an OS, I am actually referring to the whole system, as Wikipedia describes it, a system that performs tasks on a computer. It’s something that makes it usable. The Linux kernel would not be of much use, nor would be the userland tools, if it were not for some necessary programs,and not all userland tools were built within the FSF, meaning that GNU could not be implied as the only tools used. Also note that not all software prebuilt into various distributions are under the GPL. See my above post for more information on this.

    I am not trying to strip those of their due credit. They (the FSF) simply did not build Linux, GNU is not the only project in town, and many other applications are tantamount to GNU tools these days. They could have even been compiled using another compilation system other than their userland tools. Thus, RMS wanting everyone to call Linux “GNU/Linux” just doesn’t make sense, and seems selfish; seriously not in the interest of common users. I still do not hear Mozilla asking people to call their systems MPL/Linux (They don’t have a project like GNU, so I’m using the license as an example).

    Thanks for being respectful in your comment! 🙂 (It’s at a premium these days…)

  22. Boy! Do I agree with the sentiment. Linux is Linux is Linux. In this case no GNUs is good news as the only thing which should be an issue is my choice of distro whether it is GNU “compliant” is in the choice. Naming – for me- should be simple and straight forward. Don’t try to classify everything too finely it muddies the water for all of us.

  23. (this comment will be posted on both of my post’s comments section)

    It’s just my opinion, and why I titled my post “For Me, It’s Linux, Not GNU/Linux.” I am finding that my original post is causing many people to get irritated over the fact that I do not want to call Linux “GNU/Linux,” and the debate has become broken down to the exact definitions of what I originally meant. What I referred to was the full system, kernel, apps, and all in all of my posts.

    Thanks everyone for the posts. Read this page on Wikipedia for more on this topic:


    I am going to let anyone have the last word, as I am done. I’ve got better things to do, like writing a final review for Ubuntu Hardy Heron.

    This debate has come to repetitive points (or agreements) that are beginning to get old — fast. My point of view is clear: It’s Linux, and that’s MY opinion, and I am not suggesting that everyone must call it Linux. Everyone is free to their own opinion, but at this point, no one has shown me enough reason to change my thinking, even with all the links and information.

    I’m tired of the constant fighting, and I suggest that it ends. This kind of fighting is not good for Linux, and divides the community. I would never have written my post if I had known that everyone was going react as such over my personal opinion. It is also clear that we are not going to reach a consensus in this debate.

    Now, let’s get back to the fun that Linux (or if you prefer, GNU/Linux) provides for all of us, for free. 🙂



  24. I think you have a very lax definition of “Operating System”, Jon Regan. It might be because I’m an old school computer scientist but in my book, the operating system is the BASE that the rest of the computer system software depends upon. The kernel is the lowest level of the operating system along with the system drivers. The operating system tools are the next layer and are considered part of the operating system because of their intimate relationship with the kernel and drivers. Everything else is application software and is designed to target the operating system and is NOT part of the OS. KDE, Apache, libcairo, or Gnash are not part of the OS.

    RMS says that Linux (the kernel) is not an operating system and naming the OS “Linux” is inaccurate because of this. RMS says the GNU project was designed to be an OS so calling it an OS would be accurate. He asks that if you use the Linux kernel together with the GNU OS, that you name the OS GNU/Linux and not Linux.

  25. Jon, why do you call it Linux and not Ubuntu? You seem to cluster almost everything that a simple user might find in an OS and then decide to call it Linux. But you’re not, in essence, talking about an OS but rather about a Distro (which happens to include Firefox, Open Office etc as choice software)

    In this case, it would be much more appropriate to just talk about “Ubuntu”,

    if on the other hand you’re talking about an actual OS then just calling it Linux is, indeed, taking credit away from the most important fact. The license that allowed it to exist and the core software that it needs to fun. An OS does not need firefox, gimp and all that. It just needs the software to command (Operate) the system. That is the GNU.

    Thus, if you want to talk about this kind of “achitecture” – so to speak – the correct term is GNU/Linux. If you want to talk about the distro, then use the distro name.

    Your opinion about FSF is rather misguided as well. Yes, they are radical but it seems that the world needs radical changes. Also, MS has proven time and again that it will balk to no act to get what they want and thus their infamy is well deserved.

    PS: I am also an Ubuntu fan but also recognise that freedom is much more important than simply technology. I am sad to see that the part of GNU/Linux that raises awareness to freedom is the one that some people are trying to hide.

  26. Pingback: Linux vs GNU/Linux: It’s Baaack… « LoCo About Ubuntu!

  27. Pingback: Linux vs. GNU/Linux: The Aftermath « LoCo About Ubuntu!

  28. you are absolutely correct not using gnu to describe the OS. the fsf have some very wacky ideas and it’s best to distance linux from them and talk of open source instead 🙂

    people who take rms seriously are a very odd lot indeed. do they really say they use gnu, slash, linux? lol

    if you want a laugh have a look at rms’s home page lol xD

  29. Well, on the other-hand, I don’t particularly care for linux, I think it does alright but I can choose from at least three quite popular kernels now (linux, BSD variants, solaris and other lesser knowns) however it seems like there aren’t too many free desktops and when I use any of those kernels I’m always using Gnome, which is gnu, so I either say I use gnome or gnu, and omit the kernel entirely. Why not? No mac user ever says they are using BSD (which in fact they are) so who cares what your kernel is?

    Anyway even if you do choose linux amongst the myriad of choices I think it’s rather unthankful to not even care that gnu has made the freedesktop possible. Somebody mentioned GCC, you basically can’t have free software without it, any software developer knows that, so be thankful for gnu.

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