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GNU and Linux in Debian and Ubuntu

Posted in Debian, FSF, GNU/Linux, Ubuntu at 10:53 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz


Summary: Analysis of two popular and closely related distributions of GNU and Linux

DEBIAN made headlines for several reasons lately. We covered these in our daily links and didn’t make a big fuss over any of that. It’s just not our point of focus, e.g. Xfce in Debian.

One of our contributors, one who uses a great deal of Debian in the front and back end (as do I), noticed a change in the Debian branding. “Scroll down to ‘Index of Releases’” he writes, “and notice that GNU/Linux is now gone [from] http://www.debian.org/releases/”

So they also support BSD, but that is not entirely new. Our contributor explains that “that’s why there’s no Linux mentioned, but aren’t the FreeBSD and Hurd kernels using the GNU userspace?

“Debian is currently working with the FSF to get the FSF’s endorsement.”“I took a quick look and put Debian Linux and FreeBSD [1] 6.0 onto a pair of VMs and then ran a script [2] to look for mention of GNU in the manual pages. Both versions were installed with only the standard system utilities and nothing else. Hurd is not available for Debian 6.

“Debian GNU/Linux 6.0 had 347 out of 674 manual pages (51%) mention GNU.

“Debian GNU/FreeBSD 6.0 had 292 out of 535 (54%) mention GNU.

“Ubuntu Server 12.04 had 492 out of 1032 (48%) mention GNU.

“Computing,” he explains, “like society at large, risks heading into a post-freedom era. The GNU base is something that Debian could be advertising both from a technical perspective and a freedom perspective.”

We recently saw that in action when Debian sidled with the FSF on UEFI.

“The amount of GNU GPL tools,” he adds, ” is actually higher since some are under the license but do not mention it or GNU in the manual page. One example is flock which is under the GPL [3] but the man page says nothing.

“I’m not sure how to count whether they tools are part of the actual GNU project without a manual count, which it not interesting due to the effort needed.

Later he added: “Turns out that flock is not GPL even though the parent directory implies so. It has its own license. hwclock is a better example because it actually is GPL, though the manual page does not mention it.

One other contributor writes: “Now that they also distribute gnu/hurd and gnu/kfreebsd, gnu/knetbsd, it might make sense for them to drop the Linux moniker. Perhaps they they should call it, "Debian GNU OS and free software distribution" or just "Debian GNU and free software distribution" because the common, binding software is GNU.”

The Debian brand is generally quite strong and it represents freedom to a certain degree. Debian is currently working with the FSF to get the FSF’s endorsement. It’s an easy distribution to provide endorsement to and in due time the FSF too might give it some blessings.
[1] http://cdimage.debian.org/debian-cd/6.0.5/kfreebsd-amd64/iso-cd/



for j in $(for i in $(echo $PATH | tr ":" "\n" );do ls $i;done);do
echo $j;done|wc -l
for j in $(for i in $(echo $PATH | tr ":" "\n" );do ls $i;done);do
(man -R ascii $j|grep -il gnu && echo OK || echo NO);done 2>/dev/null
| grep OK | wc -l

[3] ftp://ftp.kernel.org/pub/linux/utils/util-linux/v2.22/v2.22-ReleaseNotes

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