EditorsAbout the SiteComes vs. MicrosoftUsing This Web SiteSite ArchivesCredibility IndexOOXMLOpenDocumentPatentsNovellNews DigestSite NewsRSS

04.04.13

GNU and Linux: It’s Not Just About Attribution But Also Philosophy

Posted in GNU/Linux at 5:18 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Branding is the key

Coke

Summary: Why it’s reasonable to say “GNU/Linux”

An increasingly-tiring debate over the naming of the (GNU/)Linux operating system was recently rekindled. It occurred rather virally after several Web sites and longtime authors who habitually cover the subject of (GNU/)Linux had weighed in again, opening an ageing jar of worms.

Like many flamewars in the GNU and Linux world, we should accommodate these, not suppress them. With suppression — after all — moral advantages are lost. It is widely understood that no corporation wants to project infighting, but in the Free software world corporations are not central. Likewise, branding is not the top priority.

What the argument over the names often boils down to is philosophy, not just attribution or credit. GNU was created with software freedom in mind. Linux, in its genesis, was proprietary until it adopted the GNU GPL licence and then became mainstream. A former colleague of mine was the first to distribute GNU and Linux — a practice which over time saw the system’s name abbreviated to “Linux”. The motive for this abbreviation is an interesting subject which merits its own in-depth research.

Rather than argue about what the system should be called we should pay attention to Katherine’s post  and ask ourselves, what is it that should be prioritised? Freedom or popularity? These are not mutually-exclusive and describing the problem as such would be a false dichotomy. But practice suggests that those who insist on calling the system just “Linux” are happy to de-emphasise the values originally incorporated into GNU in 1983.

Richard Stallman famously said, “Freedom is having control of your own life. Power is having control over someone else’s life.” To a lot of people — yours truly included — freedom and justice are the goal, software is part of the means. For those to whom branding wars are of greater interest, the “Mac versus PC” (or Apple-branded PC versus Windows-saddled PC) is right around the corner. Or as I often put it, those who do not like Microsoft go to Apple, whereas those who do not like proprietary software turn to GNU/Linux or BSD.

Distributions of GNU/Linux bring yet more brands into the debate, not to mention all the pertinent components that belong neither to GNU nor Linux. Distributions adopt different philosophies which often reflect the views on their founder, e.g. Mark Shuttleworth in the case of Ubuntu and Patrick Volkerding in the case of Slackware Linux, Inc. The brand we use to refer to software often reveals something about our preferences, philosophy, likings and convictions.

Rather than fight over naming of systems let us reason about the innate values each of these brings. Brands are instruments of association, reputation, kinship, and/or status. We need to go deeper and explore what actual substance each of these has got. And we can choose the brands which suit us best.

Originally posted in Linux Advocates

Share this post: These icons link to social bookmarking sites where readers can share and discover new web pages.
  • Digg
  • del.icio.us
  • Reddit
  • co.mments
  • DZone
  • email
  • Google Bookmarks
  • LinkedIn
  • NewsVine
  • Print
  • Technorati
  • TwitThis
  • Facebook

If you liked this post, consider subscribing to the RSS feed or join us now at the IRC channels.

Pages that cross-reference this one

What Else is New


  1. Links 19/4/2014: Slow Easter News Day

    Links for the day



  2. Links 18/4/2014: New KDE, Kubuntu, and More

    Links for the day



  3. Some Perspective on Heartbleed®

    Our views on the whole Heartbleed® bonanza, which seems like partly a PR stunt (for multiple stakeholders)



  4. Microsoft is Leaving Windows -- Including Vista 8.1 -- Vulnerable to Non-Government Crackers, Not Only to NSA

    Microsoft makes it ever more evident that securing users of Windows is not at all a priority, and perhaps not even a desire



  5. Links 17/4/2014: Android RDP, New Ubuntu, RHEL 7 Milestone

    Links for the day



  6. Racing to 1984: Mass Surveillance, Cracking, 'Targeted' Assassinations, and Illegal Torture

    Links for the day



  7. More Microsoft Subsidies to Patent Troll Intellectual Ventures

    Microsoft hands money to Bill Gates' close friend who is the world's largest patent troll



  8. Aiding Microsoft Under the Disguise of 'Pro-FOSS'

    Not everything which is FOSS necessary becomes, by virtue of existence, a positive contribution, as we are constantly reminded by projects that help proprietary software and/or restrictions get a strong grip on FOSS



  9. Links 16/4/2014: Red Hat PR, Ubuntu LTS Imminent

    Links for the day



  10. Links 15/4/2014: Lots of PCLinuxOS Releases, Ukraine Updates

    Links for the day



  11. Apple and Microsoft Actively Lobbying Against Patent Reform in the US

    Apple and Microsoft are reportedly intervening/interfering with US law in order to ensure that the law is Free/libre software-hostile



  12. Lawsuit by Microsoft Shareholder Targets Fine for Crimes Rather Than the Crimes Themselves

    A new lawsuit by a Microsoft shareholder shows everything that's wrong with today's model of accountability, where those who are responsible for crimes are accused of not avoiding fines rather than committing the crimes



  13. Public Institutions Must Dump PRISM-Associated Software

    Another reminder that taxpayers-subsidised services should refuse, as a matter of principle, to pay anything for -- let alone deploy -- proprietary software with back doors



  14. GNU/Linux News: The Opportunities Amid XP EOL

    Links for the day



  15. Microsoft Gets Its Money's Worth From Xamarin: PlayStation 4 Now Polluted by Microsoft

    The Trojan horse of Microsoft, Xamarin, is pushing .NET into Microsoft's console competitor



  16. After Brendan Eich Comes Chris Beard

    Having removed Brendan Eich using bullying and blackmail tactics, his foes inside Mozilla achieved too little as we have yet another man (coming from inside Mozilla) acting as CEO



  17. Healthcare News: Free Software in Health, Humanitarian Causes

    Links for the day



  18. Links 14/4/2014: MakuluLinux, Many Games, More Privacy News and Pulitzer Prize for NSA Revelations

    Links for the day



  19. TechBytes Episode 87: Catching up With Surveillance (NSA, GCHQ et al.)

    The first audio episode in a very long time covers some of the latest happenings when it comes to privacy and, contrariwise, mass surveillance



  20. Server News: KVM, ElasticHosts, Other GNU/Linux Items, and Open Network Linux

    Links for the day



  21. Hardware News: Freedom, Modding, Hackability on the Rise

    Links for the day



  22. Distributions News: GNU/Linux Distros

    Links for the day



  23. GNOME News: Financial Issues, Mutter-Wayland, West Coast Summit, Community Participation

    Links for the day



  24. KDE News: Kubuntu at the Centre Again KDE Applications Updated

    Links for the day



  25. Techrights Rising

    Effective immediately, Techrights will do what it takes to bring back old volume and pace of publishing



  26. Links: Surveillance, Intervention, Torture and Drones

    Links for the day



  27. Mobile Linux Not Just Android: Jolla, WebOS, and Firefox OS News

    Links for the day



  28. Google's Linux Revolution: New Gains for Android, Chrome OS (GNU/Linux)

    Links for the day



  29. Free/Libre Databases News: MongoDB, NoSQL, and MySQL Branches/Forks

    Links for the day



  30. Open Access on the Rise: Textbooks, Journals, Etc.

    Links for the day


CoPilotCo

RSS 64x64RSS Feed: subscribe to the RSS feed for regular updates

Home iconSite Wiki: You can improve this site by helping the extension of the site's content

Home iconSite Home: Background about the site and some key features in the front page

Chat iconIRC Channel: Come and chat with us in real time

CoPilotCo

Recent Posts