12 comments on “Linux vs GNU/Linux: It’s Baaack…

  1. Pingback: For Me, It’s Linux, Not GNU/Linux « LoCo About Ubuntu!

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

  3. Jon, there is something I’d like to point out to you.

    People aren’t trying to “correct” you from calling it “Linux”. I don’t think anyone really cares what you call the damn thing, whether it be “GNU/Linux”, “linux”, “ubuntu” or otherwise.

    Most of the comments I’ve read are simply trying to explain the way things are.

    Sure, you can call it Linux. But you should be aware, that if you’re going to do so, in the manner of which you speak (kernel + os + programs) is alike to calling your entire county by the name of its city centre (sorry, most fitting analogy I could come up with).

    Technically, the OS, according to currently accepted scientific definition, is GNU/Linux. It’s not really debatable (not really).

    In my mind, here’s how the system looks: kernel is Linux. OS is GNU/Linux. Everything else included (what you call Linux) is Ubuntu or what have you. I think you might want to either change your argument to “Ubuntu vs. Linux”; or, change your definition of Linux to simply the kernel, and then argue GNU/Linux vs. Linux on that merit. Something like that, because GNU/Linux is NOT everything else included, and I doubt the FSF tries to claim so. For you to argue why you would call the entire DISTRIBUTION Linux and not GNU/Linux sets yourself up for an easy win.

    Here is my favourite line from the whole article:
    (from the first page) “It’s not hard for me to understand the fact that GNU is not Linux” :0)

    Keep your head up and your stick on the ice.

  4. Yes, they are trying to “correct” me, just like you. All the comments for GNU/Linux, all say that I am wrong. Just as you say:

    “Technically, the OS, according to currently accepted scientific definition, is GNU/Linux. It’s not really debatable (not really).”

    C’mon. Not debatable? There have been so many people who have come with the idea that they are right, so right that they do not even believe that there’s even a debatable topic, only to be rebutted by someone else in the comments a little later.

    Besides, if this had been a non-debatable topic, why has the term “GNU/Linux” only received the support of a SMALL minority of Linux users? There is obviously something to this debate. Not everything in a distribution is GNU, so why are they looking to hog half the credit (think Debian GNU/Linux, etc.)?

    How can the OS be GNU/Linux as you suggest if the OS is called GNU/Linux? Everyone else around here has been simply calling that part of the OS (non kernel part) GNU. My argument is that there’s the Linux kernel, and then everything else. It all falls into that category. Technically, I am referring to a distribution. That’s not exactly an easy win, but what you have now found in my “easy win” is the other side of the debate.

    What’s odd is that the debate is all over the place. People for GNU/Linux try to separate the Linux OS into a shmillion pieces (shmillions… 😛 ) and in doing so, separate the kernel, the tools, libraries, drivers, applicaitons, desktop environments, separating the system to no end, and in doing so, turn the argument against themselves, only showing that the GNU tools are a small part of the Linux pie. GNU asking for half the credit when their applications are only small parts of what a user uses in today’s modern distributions seems plain silly and selfish. Sure, their apps are important, but they are not everything.

    Thanks for the comment! 🙂

  5. No I didn’t submit your post to that site.

    Perhaps the person who did liked my comment. Seems they agreed with me.

    What I found really trying was the fact that you didn’t actually seem to learn anything from what I and other commenters were saying. That’s not to say that I expected you to change your stance on what to call the OS. But simply that you continue(d) to think the GNU people want it called GNU/Linux because of the license, rather than because they spent years building an OS called GNU that now gets called Linux just because it uses Linux as the kernel.

    Imagine you’ve been working on a car for years which you call “JRC (Jon Reagan’s Car)”.. You have the chassis, manifold, exhaust system, carbies, starter motor, electrics, steering, gear system, brakes etc, etc, etc. You’re just missing the engine. You are working on a rotary engine at the moment but it’s gonna be a few years off at least. needed a small (but essential) component to get it working.

    Then I come along and make an engine which will work with JRC and call it “Davix”.

    You say great I can just use Davix with JRC and I’ll have a complete working car.

    But now I started marketing your car (JRC) + my engine (Davix) as simply Davix instead of JRC.

    People start liking the car and using it and they think it’s great but they don’t even know who you are because they’ve never heard of Jon Reagan who invented the car (minus the engine) called JRC. But this Dave guy who invented the _car_ called Davix, they think he’s very clever and he gets famous.

    Oh did I mention the fact that you think people should be able to take your designs and use them freely and you find this even more important than the car itself? Did I mention the fact that I don’t really agree with everything you stand for. I only care that more people are using _my_ car. Davix is easier to say. That’s the name of the car. JRC is just a bunch of stuff this loony came up with to go with my car. And now he’s trying to get all the credit for my car.

    How do you feel now?

    Feel free to call it whatever you like. But at least be aware that you really are ignoring the fact that a lot of people put years of work into the OS which you name after its kernel and that was before the kernel’s development even began. When you name the OS after the kernel those developers don’t get credit for their efforts. By not acknowledging them you also don’t draw attention to those who created the GPL, without which we would all be using Windows.

  6. Hey Dave, welcome back…

    Very convincing argument! Probably the best so far.

    The thing I have here, is that the entire system is not GNU based. They didn’t do everything, and didn’t care if someone copied their works. Interestingly enough, using the car example, the car would not have been built by just me, but others adding small parts. I would have written just the instructions and installed some small parts. Back to Linux, the system and tools built by the FSF that were actually built for Linux are a smaller part of the entire Linux vehicle. AKA, they didn’t build the whole car. Others, not the FSF, have put much work into creating Linux as a viable system, such as the GNOME project, or OpenOffice, or Mozilla, etc. Even the Python programming language, which Ubuntu accepts works of. As I mentioned in my earlier comment, the full OS is the kernel, applications, tools, libraries, and drivers, effectively (in the case of Linux) a distribution. Think of it as Windows, Mac OS X, etc.

    The point is that the whole car (minus the engine) had not been built exclusively by the FSF (GNU project and all). Besides, the GNU Project itself is just a collection of applications that form to the GNU standards, and are not controlled by the FSF. Sure, the FSF has been around since 1983(4?), well before the Linux kernel. They tried HURD, but couldn’t build it. Linus did something in a small amount of time that the FSF couldn’t do in years. Obviously, something was up during that period of time. What was the FSF up to? Really, if they couldn’t build it all themselves, and the system required many non-FSF volunteers to help make Linux what it is today, why should they deserve half the credit? How do the others who volunteered their time or money to a particular project feel about not having the credit? Look to any “About” menu or window of an application, and you will see who built the application, and license, as required by the GPL. There’s no reason to start naming the whole system GNU/Linux, especially now with all the contributions coming from all over the place. The FSF did a lot for Linux, and gave it it’s start because Linus decided to use their license and tools to build the very first builds of Linux, but that is about it. It took thousands of volunteers and paid programmers years to make Linux what it is today, and if we are going to start naming credit, Linux would have a name so long, it would be almost impossible to write.

  7. Also, don’t forget that HURD still hasn’t been built. If Linus did not build Linux, there would effectively be no viable system to use today. We would be on Windows or Mac OS. Linux Torvalds also didn’t know that RMS would try to get every distribution to call themselves “GNU/Linux” when RMS asked for permission. Linus simply thought that the term GNU/Linux would be applied to GNU certified distributions only. Otherwise, we probably wouldn’t be having this discussion, as it would simply be called Linux, just like most people call it today, Linus included. Here’s the link:


  8. I can’t believe this is such an issue. Here’s the main thing:

    Jon, although I agree on just calling it Linux, when you discuss “all the tools” not being just GNU, you’re talking about an entire distribution. The fact that many if not most of the tools are GNU is obvious if you take a distribution such as Slackware or LFS or something similar and install the “base” packages. Most of those tools are GNU.

    However, the important distinction is that many (if not most) of the GNU tools were NOT created (originally) by the FSF. Although they may now be maintained by members of the FSF, these tools were not created by the FSF. They were _donated_, so to speak. Therefore, IMO, Linux should not be called GNU/Linux. The tools simply were not created by members of the FSF.

  9. @ linuxcrayon:

    Very good point about the tools being donated. I also agree about the base tools being mostly GNU… I remember with the base package in Ubuntu, many of the tools were GNU tools. Some, were not, and it was especially the case after I started installing more software.

    Thanks! 🙂

  10. Call it what you want – that is your prerogative. But keep in mind that calling the complete operating system “Linux” spreads confusion. Linux is a kernel, not a complete operating system regardless of its essential nature. Calling the system as a whole “Linux”, implies that Linux is more than what it really is. And of course, ignoring GNU means ignoring the essential work of the founding developers of the system.

    Basically, I call the whole system GNU/Linux to –

    A) Be accurate even if the name is more complex.
    B) Better respect the history behind the system as a whole.

  11. Hi Jon,

    I commented on your earlier blog about this GNU\Linux vs Linux. After the week had passed, I had more time to consider my position, and came to more ideas about this problem.

    Consider the most commonly used apps in linux today, and indeed the most successful open-source apps: OpenOffice, Firefox, MySQL, PostgreSQL, Thunderbird, Amarok.

    These are just a few of thousands if not millions, but I’m sure most linux users have used, or at least heard of, them.

    The GNU’s contributions to Free Software are invaluable, but I do think that they should not really be given such top billing as people think they should.

    In the textbook definition of what an OS is (forget about those oldies trotting out their beloved Single Unix Specification , I’m talking about an OS’s in general, Unix is just one), Yes, Linux the kernel is Linux the OS. the applications built on top of the kernel are exactly that, applications.

    Yes, the GNU project have contributed important things, like the gcc compiler. But they didnt give everything. I doubt they would have made apps with a GUI if originally proprietary projects didn’t show them the way (KDE before gnome).

    To reiterate, no, I do not think that GNU deserve’s to have it’s name in the lights in place of, say, OpenOffice, Firefox, etc…. I use these things a lot, should I call Linux Sun/Mozilla/Linux?? No, that would be ridiculous, and I think rms should wake up and realize how ridiculous his claim of deserving top billing is.

  12. Except for the fact that an operating system needs to be able to execute programs in order for it to be defined as an operating system. Linux, the kernel, cannot do this on its own, therefore, it cannot be defined as an OS. As far as I know? I could be wrong here…

    Also, the desktop environment (Gnome + OpenOffice + Mozilla, etc) is not technically the OS either.

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