Today, I wrote a post about why I call Linux “Linux” and not “GNU/Linux.” That post attracted quite a number of views, and a good number of comments as well.
What is amazing about this subject is that so many people can be brought to action over it. From the comments, some agreed with my post, saying that Linux was easier to explain than GNU/Linux, while others disagreed with saying GNU/Linux is called such since Linux is just a kernel, and GNU is the system.
I still stick by my opinion that I will call Linux “Linux.”
I have made this decision since I refer to the entire system as “Linux,” the kernel as the “Linux kernel,” and I do not see a reason large enough to consider calling Linux “GNU/Linux.” What is evident from just the comments is that it is a personal thing.
I call it Linux, and others call it GNU/Linux. Potato, tater. Same thing.
I do not really mind what people call it, because it’s not a big deal. From my point of view, there isn’t a “GNU” system, or at least not the traditional sense by which most people would think. The GNU system, as the FSF calls it, is really no more than applications that have been built free software supporters who used the GPL, and not direct members of the FSF (but is approved by the FSF), and thus is not a system on it’s own, or with the Linux system. The tools have been built for Linux, but that still does not constitute a GNU surname.
What does remain true is that the Free Software Foundation has done much good for software. Software freedom, as I have learned over the past 3 years that I have used Linux, is certainly a good thing. The GNU GPL is one of the best software licenses, in my opinion, and I would use it if I were to write a program. What I do not like, however, is the activist attitude that the Free Software Foundation takes in working against software patents and digital rights management.
Here’s a story to go along with my argument about activism:
The “Bad Vista” campaign (which I thought would be used to promote Linux, or some other system) which I had joined, turned into an activist campaign to bash Vista. What happened on release day? Bad Vista supporters (3 of the supporters, at least) dressed up in hazmat suits, and gave CDs with free software on them to people about to enter the Vista party. They eventually got roped off, just like your average protesters. Those who participated had a good fight on their hands and were, in my opinion, fighting for a good cause. Good intentions aside, I was a little embarrassed. It was a rather unprofessional attempt to change people’s attitudes toward a competing software, and only served to make free software and Linux advocates look like radicals with nothing to do but protest big business. They did try to do something good, yet what they did might have turn off many potential users walking around on the streets.
It’s reasons like the one I gave above as to why I do not call Linux “GNU/Linux.” It’s a personal choice, and if you as a reader want to call it “GNU/Linux,” that’s fine. Some distributions, even Kubuntu, call themselves GNU/Linux, and I will refer to them as such. However, when talking about Ubuntu, or just Linux in general, I will use “Linux.”
A trend that I am noticing is that programmers or long-time (since 90’s or early 2000) hard-core users call Linux “GNU/Linux.” The newer users that are beginning to use Linux call it “Linux.” It’s not wrong, or the new users being uneducated. It’s users taking a simpler view of a once complex system. It’s becoming more attractive to more and more users every day, and as any other product, it becomes ever more simple to use and understand. No longer is it a geek-only system, and when new users refer to Linux, they refer to the full system. The Linux vs. GNU/Linux debate is not going to go away, especially with the new generation of Linux users entering the scene, who are average users, different in thinking from the older, Free Software Foundation driven individuals. This new generation will undoubtedly call Linux, just “Linux,” or maybe even not that much, and just refer to their distribution as the Linux they use, as we are seeing today with Ubuntu.
Update: In case you are itching to go back, click here for Part I.
Update 2: Here is my final review of the topic here.