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The Linux Foundation’s Big Lie: ‘Linux’ is 22 Years Old

Posted in GNU/Linux, Kernel at 10:51 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Christopher Columbus did not “discover” America, he invaded it

Christopher Columbus

Summary: GNU is being removed from the timeline of the GNU/Linux operating system, owing not just to ignorance but also wilful omission

Linuxcon took place some while ago, giving many corporations an opportunity to spread some shameless self-serving marketing messages. This in itself is not a big issue. Corporations exist to maximise profit and they need to market themselves, sometimes selfishly. It’s when deception and false marketing are encountered that we should speak out.

Sadly, the host of Linuxcon is actually one of the biggest liars. It is not a new lie though and this accusation of ours depends on the definition of “lie”. To quote Wikipedia: “When the GNU project first started they “had an Emacs text editor with Lisp for writing editor commands, a source level debugger, a yacc-compatible parser generator, and a linker”.[3] The GNU system required its own C compiler and tools to be free software, so that these also had to be developed. By June 1987 the project had accumulated and developed free software for an assembler, an almost finished portable optimizing C compiler (GCC), an editor (GNU Emacs), and various Unix utilities (such as ls, grep, awk, make and ld).[4] They had an initial kernel that needed more updates.”

“Without the GPL, it’s unlikely that many people would have gotten involved in this kernel’s development. Linux needed GNU.”The word “Linux” is commonly used to refer to a system created 30 years ago by Richard Stallman. It was called GNU. The Linux Foundation knows this, but it exploits a misunderstanding or a confusion to remove GNU out of history and pretend Linus Torvalds started it all. This is not an accidental error and in a way they can justify themselves and insist that have said the truth. It’s a bit like a lie by omission [1]. This lie tends to perpetuate through misinformed people, owing its strength (and people’s irrational adherence to it) to inertia.

There are some jokes about Linux version numbers and Windows [2-3] (not so amusing), with some Cult of Personalities coverage revolving around Linus Torvalds [4-5], who again entertains the questions about Microsoft. Apart from that, there is some interesting bunch of numbers about Linux development [6,7], but again, developers of non-kernel parts get mostly ignored, despite the de facto definition of “Linux” being more than just this undoubtedly powerful kernel.

Having had many opportunities to speak with Stallman as of late I can truly relate to his concern about omission of GNU and Free software as a whole. It’s almost as though his life’s work (personal sacrifice) got abducted and the symptoms are everywhere we look. Be sure to remind the Linux Foundation of GNU; without GCC (GNU), there would have been no runnable Linux. Without the GPL, it’s unlikely that many people would have gotten involved in this kernel’s development. Linux needed GNU.

GNU will soon turn 30 years old and we are planning to publish special Stallman interviews to mark this important anniversary.

Related/contextual items from the news:

  1. Building Linux: History in the Making

    One of the greatest impacts Linux is having on the technology industry is in the way it’s built. We often tout Linux’s success stories – from running Facebook, Amazon and Google to powering eight out of 10 financial trades to running the world’s supercomputers and mobile devices, and more. But these successes are the results of a massive collaborative development effort that is 22 years in the making and today is being studied and leveraged by everyone from software developers to business executives in industries ranging from networking to financial services to life science and more.

  2. Torvalds: ‘We’re not doing Linux95 … for a few years, at least’

    Linux 3.12 gets ‘Suicidal Squirrel’ moniker as Linux Lord recovers from SSD FAIL

  3. Linux Kernel 3.11.1 Is Now Available for Download

    A few minutes ago, September 14, Greg Kroah-Hartman announced that the first maintenance release for the 3.11 LTS branch of the Linux kernel is now available for download.

  4. Linus Torvald’s SSD breaks, halts Linux kernel development

    Today in Open Source: A broken SSD halts Linux changes. Plus: LinuxQuestions.org milestones, and see startup services in Linuxs

  5. Linus Torvalds doesn’t want to be Microsoft’s CEO and other Linuxcon ramblings

    In a free-wheeling Q&A session Linus Torvalds and other top Linux programmers, talked about Linux, scuba-diving, and other odds and ends of the developer life.

  6. Who Writes Linux in 2013?

    Both the pace of development and the volume of code continue to grow in the open-source Linux kernel.

  7. Who writes Linux? Almost 10,000 developers
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  1. Michael said,

    September 20, 2013 at 8:15 pm


    Linux is the age it is.
    Other projects are different ages.

    For those who work on Linux to note its anniversary is not a “lie” in any way, shape, or form.

  2. Needs Sunlight said,

    September 21, 2013 at 7:04 am


    LinuxCon North America just came and went. The presentations are online, but there was no real nod given to the GNU project in spite of the upcoming anniversary. Between the GPL and the GCC, there has been very high beneficial impact on the world. The list of major tools and projects built with gcc is quite long. That includes many of the popular higher level languages that we now take for granted.

    Michael Reply:

    Part of this comes from Stallman’s extreme and distasteful views. Linus Torvalds has said:

    There are ‘extremists’ in the free software world, but that’s one major reason why I don’t call what I do ‘free software’ any more. I don’t want to be associated with the people for whom it’s about exclusion and hatred.

    He is clearly speaking of Stallman and his dishonest claims about wanting freedom (while also saying he would love if laws were passed to restrict choice and freedom).

    Needs Sunlight Reply:

    Richard Stallman only shocks people because he drops the f-word a lot — Freedom. A lot of people can’t handle that. Others can’t get over the fact that he doesn’t wear a tie either. As far as Linus Torvalds’ support of RMS goes, he is very happy with his choice of the GPL for his project and has said so on multiple occasions:


    Look at about 30:45 in the video. Though he dances around the F-word, it is clear that he chose the GPL for a reason.

    Also one of the founders of OSI brings up the F-word:

    Now that the world is watching, it’s time for us to start teaching them about Free Software. Notice, I said Free Software, _not_ Open Source.


    Michael Reply:

    I do not think Linus is against the GPL… why would he be? It is great and he is very happy he uses it (as am I). Not sure why you went off on that tangent.

    But Stallman gets shunned because as great as the GPL is (and some of his other work) he is an extremist focused on exclusion and hatred, as so many of Stallman’s followers do. It is very cult-like.

    Stallman has specifically stated that his ideal would be to have choices and freedoms limited by the law – so that developers would lose rights to protect their work as they wish. He is very, very much *against* real freedom, which is the right to protect your property how you wish – not just how *he* approves. This is not to say in any way the GPL is not a great choice. Again, not sure why you went off on that tangent.

    Needs Sunlight Reply:

    That’s simply the old argument of freedom for the first iteration of developers versus freedom for the end users arbitrarily out. It is also known as the BSD versus GPL debate. it’s not relevant here.

    Michael Reply:

    It is relevant because it is likely the largest reason the Linux folks do not speak much of Stallman. The fact that he is a dishonest extremist focused on “exclusion and hatred” turns people off. Now he is on the end where he is being “excluded” and he does not like it. I cannot say I feel badly for him at all.

    With that said, when the topic of the GPL comes up I do think it makes sense to make sure people know where it comes from and to show thanks toward Stallman. Yes: Stallman has many repulsive and even reprehensible qualities, but that does not mean his work on the GPL has not changed the world in a positive way. As much as I have no respect for him as a person I have immense respect for his work there… and I think Linus and most who use Linux would agree.

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