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Yes, Chrome OS is a GNU/Linux Distribution and Google is Still Worth Supporting

Posted in GNU/Linux, Google, OIN, Patents at 2:47 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: Distributions of GNU/Linux need not conform to people’s expectation of freedom and control, so even some restrictive systems like Chrome OS are in fact GNU/Linux

A recently-run poll in TuxMachines helped validate the claim that Google’s (GNU) Linux efforts do count towards the general cause of GNU/Linux, contributing in terms of volume probably more than lesser-known distributions like Doudou [1], SolydXK [2], Zorin OS [3], and Netrunner [4] (recent news intentionally chosen). As Ken Starks put it the other day [5]: “For those that want to argue that Chromebooks don’t run on real Linux, that’s like saying oxygen isn’t really a part of water.”

He has a point. Those who never wanted GNU/Linux to enjoy high morale and gain momentum will say that Chromebooks should be ignored and not be defended from Microsoft's FUD campaigns. A lot of large companies (OEMs [6-8]), not just Google [9], are really falling in love with Chrome OS and it’s good that they use Chrome OS (never mind lockdown and privacy implications) instead of Windows. If one looks at the definition of a GNU/Linux system, then Chrome OS may definitely qualify; it might not be so freedom-respecting, but being freedom-respecting is not a requirement of being a GNU/Linux system. SteamOS is basically a platform for installing and running proprietary software (games), but that does not make it anything other than a Debian derivative and a GNU/Linux distribution.

“SteamOS is basically a platform for installing and running proprietary software (games), but that does not make it anything other than a Debian derivative and a GNU/Linux distribution.”Google has just joined OIN, making its commitement to GNU/Linux even stronger. As SJVN put it: “The Open Invention Network (OIN), the organization that was formed to promote collaboration and patent non-aggression in support of Linux, announced on Wednesday that Google has joined IBM, NEC, Novell, Philips, Red Hat and Sony as a full member of OIN.”

SJVN’s colleague at CBS said without concrete evidence that “Many companies using Linux pay Microsoft patent royalties for its operating system intellectual property.” (note the propaganda term at the end, classic CBS)

Google, unlike Novell for example, does not help Microsoft manufacture the above FUD; quite the contrary. We should boycott openSUSE [10], which is basically part of SUSE (Microsoft partners), not losing sight of the real issue which is patents/extortion, not a degree of versatility (more of a technical matter).

Bashing Google rather than companies like Apple and Microsoft is a wasteful move; it’s almost like bashing Canonical/Ubuntu. Let’s be happy that Chromebooks are gaining traction; for particular users they are very appealing as they would have practiced their freedoms even if they had them.

Related/contextual items from the news:

  1. Linux Top 3: Linux Foundation Grows, Fedora 20 Delayed and Doudou Grows
  2. SolydXK hands on: Two good Linux distributions with a solid base

    My hopes were high, and if you go back and read some of my posts during that time it shows in the way I wrote about it. Then there were rumours that there might be a KDE version of LMDE, and I thought that would be Nirvana for sure.

  3. Zorin OS 7 Released – A Ultimate Linux Desktop with Windows 7 Feel
  4. Netrunner 13.12 RC available for testing
  5. Linux — La Casa Nostra

    Check the latest sales numbers for the various Chromebooks and Android phones this holiday season. I live in a little podunk town of less than 15,000 people and the Walmart here can’t keep Chromebooks on the shelves. Those Windows 8 “slablets” gathering dust day after day? They’re not doing so well, but our Walmart is getting ready to accept their third order of Chromebooks since Black Friday. Our mailman’s wife took on some part time work over the holidays at Walmart and she works in electronics. She sees it every day.

    For those that want to argue that Chromebooks don’t run on real Linux, that’s like saying oxygen isn’t really a part of water. You ultimately end up sounding like someone with a mouth full of sour grapes. So when detractors jeer and ask, “So when is this year of Linux we’ve been hearing about?” just shrug your shoulders, smile and get out of the way. They don’t see the megalith bearing down upon them.


    But with all of that being said, there are some things glaring back at us, things that need to be fixed, things that should have been fixed a long time ago. These problems or shortcomings in the Linux system aren’t really too hard to fix. The same tight-knit community that assumes someone else will fix it is the same tight-knit community that needs to pay attention to these problems.

  6. Chromebase: A Chrome OS All-in-One PC from LG due at CES 2014
  7. Gift Guide 2013: Top Chromebooks for the holidays
  8. Dell also joins the Chrome OS bandwagon launches Chromebook 11
  9. Google working on Chrome OS Recovery Tool App
  10. Review: openSUSE 13.1 GNOME
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