05.13.18

Debunking the Usual Omission of GNU

Posted in GNU/Linux at 12:56 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Pack of gnu in the wild

Summary: Debunking the Usual Omission of GNU — a reader’s debunking of a new article from Linux Journal

THIS guest post from “figosdev” is case insensitive — a choice of style. But it’s the arguments that count.


I know, it’s never going to change.
And it doesn’t really have to.
A tired rebuttal to a tired old farce.
Because why not?
If this gets more time, might as well respond…

Debunking yet another tired “let’s just call it Linux” article that makes a lot out of agreeing with itself

 

Some may remember that the Linux naming convention was a controversy that raged from the late 1990s until about the end of the first decade of the 21st century. Back then, if you called it “Linux”, the GNU/Linux crowd was sure to start a flame war with accusations that the GNU Project wasn’t being given due credit for its contribution to the OS. And if you called it “GNU/Linux”, accusations were made about political correctness, although operating systems are pretty much apolitical by nature as far as I can tell.

a controversy that raged from the late 1990s until about the end of the first decade of the 21st century.

the controversy was probably mostly people saying “you should call it gnu/linux, because we have called it gnu for years and you added a kernel and called the whole thing ‘linux’”

the GNU/Linux crowd was sure to start a flame war with accusations that the GNU Project wasn’t being given due credit

if it was a company with a monopoly, they probably just would have filed a lawsuit. but instead they had an ongoing debate. lets make this debate sound as unreasonable as possible, because then we win by ad hom.

The brouhaha got started in the mid-1990s when Richard Stallman, among other things the founder of the Free Software Movement who penned the General Public License, began insisting on using the term “GNU/Linux” in recognition of the importance of the GNU Project to the OS. GNU was started by Stallman as an effort to build a free-in-every-way operating system based on the still-not-ready-for-prime-time Hurd microkernel.

GNU was started by Stallman as an effort to build a free-in-every-way operating system based on the still-not-ready-for-prime-time Hurd microkernel.

 

the emphasis on the hurd kernel is entirely on the part of the linux crowd. the purpose of the gnu project is and was to make users free. linux doesnt care about that, but its a very good kernel, so stallman suggested sharing credit. and he kept suggesting it– for years, as linux grew and continued to accept all the credit.

According to this take, Linux was merely the kernel, and GNU software was the sauce that made Linux work.

to the gnu project, hurd is just a kernel. and linux is just a kernel. it makes no sense to gnu developers to use the entire project and name it after the kernel–

the cpu is a very core part of the computer, but if you took a laptop designed to make the user free and changed the intel processor to an amd one, you wouldnt call the laptop “an amd” would you? that would be silly. if you said you got an amd people would say “what did you put it in?” “oh, its a dell.” because an amd just does nothing without the rest of the laptop.

Noting that the issue seems to have died down in recent years, and mindful of Shakespeare’s observation on roses, names and smells, I wondered if anyone really cares anymore what Linux is called. So, I put the issue to a number of movers and shakers in Linux and open-source circles by asking the simple question, “Is it GNU/Linux or just plain Linux?”

oh come on, you did not… this article is a rehash of so many like that open source fanboys do from year to year to year. you didnt really wonder at all.

So, I put the issue to a number of movers and shakers in Linux and open-source circles

 

ha! you asked “linux circles” if you call it linux? we already know what “open-source” calls it. your bias is built right into your sources. this is a farce.

“This has been one of the more ridiculous debates in the FOSS realm, far outdistancing the Emacs-vi rift”, said Larry Cafiero, a longtime Linux advocate and FOSS writer who pulls publicity duties at the Southern California Linux Expo. “It’s akin to the Chevrolet-Chevy moniker. Technically the car produced by GM is a Chevrolet, but rarely does anyone trot out all three syllables. It’s a Chevy. Same with the shorthand for GNU/Linux being Linux. The shorthand version—the Chevy version—is Linux. If you insist in calling it a Chevrolet, it’s GNU/Linux.”

This has been one of the more ridiculous debates in the FOSS realm

 

yes, its ridiculous because not only does open source insist on eclipsing free software, it wants to do it in every possible way– from co-opting a social movement to changing the name of everything, to denying credit for anything accomplished over the past 15 years (“well that was then, but…”) even to pretending that the debate is over “and we won!” (but thats how the article leaves it. we arent there yet.)

Next up was Steven J. Vaughan Nichols, who’s “been covering Unix since before Linux was a grad student”. He didn’t mince any words.

yes, hes a complete shill for zdnet.

“Enough already”, he said. “RMS tried, and failed, to create an operating system: Hurd. He and the Free Software Foundation’s endless attempts to plaster his GNU name to the work of Linus Torvalds and the other Linux kernel developers is disingenuous and an insult to their work. RMS gets credit for EMACS, GPL, and GCC. Linux? No.”

Enough already”, he said. “RMS tried, and failed, to create an operating system:

 

wow. i used to think he was sort of in-the-middle as shills went.

steve: take windows– an entire “operating system,” and replace ntkernel, and call it yours. let me know what you still own when theyre done.

 

RMS gets credit for EMACS, GPL, and GCC. Linux? No.”

steve, what the heck does this even mean???

youre the ones suggesting it be called linux/linux. youre talking like stallman wants to call it gnu/gnu.

 

He and the Free Software Foundation’s endless attempts to plaster his GNU name to the work of Linus Torvalds and the other Linux kernel

uh, no? torvalds plastered the linux name onto the gnu operating system. heres how you know– the gnu operating system already existed.

and from what you said, youd think that the gnu team took linux and added it to the gnu os and called the linux kernel “gnu.” but again, they call what other people took and added linux to– and call it gnu/linux.

someone is plastering a name onto everything, but the name theyre plastering is onto it is linux.

if we can call everything linux, theres no reason that calling it “gnu/linux” is specious.

To be fair, the use of GNU-related monikers didn’t start with Stallman. An early distribution, Yggdrasil, used the term “Linux/GNU/X” in 1992, and shortly thereafter the terms “GNU/Linux” and “GNU+Linux” began showing up in Usenet and mailing-list discussions. Debian, which early on was sponsored by the Free Software Foundation, starting using the term “GNU/Linux” in 1994, which it continues to use to this day. Stallman began publicly advocating its use in 1996.

yes, to be fair.

id like gnu/steve (his argument was we are trying to plaster gnu onto everything, so this isnt any different) or as steve is known in the linux world: “linux” (the l-man, steve the kernel, linsteve 2.0) to go tell debian developers “plastering the GNU name to the work of Linus Torvalds and the other Linux kernel developers is disingenuous and an insult to their work!” and find out how that goes. go ahead, l-man, do it…

But Stallman’s advocacy always put a bad taste in some people’s mouths.

yes, but to be fair, there are people who react negatively to just about any idea.

“For me it’s always, always, always, always Linux,” said Alan Zeichick, an analyst at Camden Associates who frequently speaks, consults and writes about open-source projects for the enterprise. “One hundred percent. Never GNU/Linux. I follow industry norms.”

Well, somebody has to defend orthodoxy.

For me it’s always, always, always, always Linux,” said Alan Zeichick, an analyst at Camden Associates

 

ive heard about gnu and linux about a million times in over a decade. as of today ive heard of alan zeichick once, and camden associates (what do they even do?) once. im just going to call them linux, its the more popular term.

 

“I follow industry norms.”

so you use windows and apple mostly– ok.

Gaël Duval, founder of the once uber-popular Mandrake/Mandriva distro who’s now developing eelo, a privacy-respecting Android clone, pointed out that insisting on GNU/Linux might open the door wider than originally intended. “I understand people who support the idea to call it GNU/Linux”, he said. “On the other hand, I do not see why in this case we wouldn’t use “GNU/X11/KDE/Gnome/Whatever/Linux” for desktop systems, because graphical environments and apps are very significant in such systems.

insisting on GNU/Linux might open the door wider than originally intended. “I understand people who support the idea to call it GNU/Linux”, he said.

 

– yes, to keep the original project from being eclipsed. technically gnu eclipses unix, but a. it cant legally be called unix and b. thats what the u cleverly stands for: “gnus not unix.”

i would be perfectly happy with the name linug instead of gnu/linux, and it could stand for “linug is never undermining gnu.” i truly believe stallman would accept this.

“Personally, I’m comfortable with both Linux and GNU/Linux”, he added, “but I use simply Linux, because adding complexity in communication and marketing is generally not efficient.”

adding complexity in communication and marketing is generally not efficient.”

the message that you really want to convey after all, is that linus torvalds wrote an entire operating system.

Richi Jennings, an independent industry analyst who pens a weekly security column on TechBeacon, expressed a similar sentiment. “Look, it’s totally fair to give the GNU project its due”, he said. “On the other hand, if that fairness needs to be expressed in a naming convention, why stop at GNU? Why not also recognize BSD, XINU, PBM, OpenSSL, Samba and countless other FLOSS projects that need to be included to form a workable distro?

Why not also recognize BSD, XINU, PBM, OpenSSL, Samba and countless other FLOSS projects that need to be included to form a workable distro?

because this is a completely specious argument by their own percentage standards. even with the bsd part… though that was the best example.

note the percentage argument is entirely a thing that the linux crowd made up, and it misses the point a bit like everything else theyve said to justify co-opting free software.

“The bottom line is that ‘Linux’ is what the vast majority of people call it. So that’s what it should be called, because that’s how language works.”

The bottom line is that ‘Linux’ is what the vast majority of people call it. So that’s what it should be called,

 

by this ridiculous argument, internet explorer should be called “windows” and firefox should be called “facebook.”

Self-professed “ace Linux guru” and Linux writer Carla Schroder said, “I’ve never called it GNU/Linux. GNU coreutils, tar, make, gcc, wget, bash and so on are still fundamental tools for a lot of Linux users. Certain people can’t let any Linux discussion pass without insisting that ‘Linux’ is only the kernel. Linux distros include a majority of non-GNU software, and I’m fine with ‘Linux’ as an umbrella term for the whole works. It’s simple and it’s widely recognized.”

“Certain people can’t let any Linux discussion pass without insisting that ‘Linux’ is only the kernel.”

guess why? because linux is the kernel.

“I’m fine with ‘Linux’ as an umbrella term for the whole works. “

and the whole rewriting history part is fine too.

Tallying the votes, it looks as if the “ayes” have it, and you can call Linux what you want. If anybody gives you any grief, tell them what Schroder told me: “Arguing is fun, but I suggest that contributing financially or in other ways to GNU/Linux/FOSS projects is more helpful.”

Tallying the votes

if polling people and counting the ones who agree with your stance is what you call voting, theres got to be a place near central america you can run for office.

Arguing is fun, but I suggest that contributing financially or in other ways to GNU/Linux/FOSS projects is more helpful.”

i would say that when youre not doing that, a few arguments against rewriting history are possibly worth your time.

also, i think it helps if people call it gnu/linux.

Or, we could argue about whether it’s FOSS or FLOSS.

Or, we could argue about whether it’s FOSS or FLOSS.

its both. have a cookie.

 

there are a few stupid things about this article worth mentioning:

gnu/linux is about precedence, not percentage. that whole percentage red herring is bunk city.

creating an operating system to make users free is a loftier goal than writing a kernel to avoid a hike through the snow, and suggesting “gnu/linux” as a compromise is both generous and smart– since linux insists on taking all the credit.

gnu and also the free software movement were co-opted by linux and open source. even open source initiative co-founder bruce perens admits this, though it wasnt intentional on his part. gnu/linux was proposed as a way to give back some of the credit, after too much was taken away. it was a gracious move, and no matter how many times this “lets just agree on linux” argument is made (year after year after year) the fact is– the gnu/linux name serves a purpose regardless.

if people call it “linux” they are letting you know that they are willing to co-opt a very important work and possibly rewrite history.

if people call it “gnu/linux” they are letting you know that marketing isnt more important to them than due credit– and that they care about your freedom and what the gnu name stands for.

you dont have to care what the gnu name stands for, but it does stand for a bit more than the name “linux” does. the gnu name (while it really is just a name) indicates things to users that “linux” barely implies at times (or in practice.)

whats funny is that by poking at the name “linux,” the project to make users free continues to promote a worthier goal than just a practical piece of software– so what if it does it the way ricky gervais in extras tries to inch his way into the scene. the somewhat disingenuously-eclipsed project to make people free doesnt have to seem like its cool, it only has to do whats right.

while the industry doesnt have to do whats right, it only has to seem like its cool.

and if this kind of bs is what passes for “cool” these days, maybe these people need to get out more.

the one thing i meant to add is, ‘no matter how many times these arguments are trotted out, using the gnu name is still a reliable way to convey that you care about freedom– while calling it linux is an increasingly UNreliable way to do do that.

you have the choice, and it says where your priorities are. theres something about ‘gnu/linux’ thats hard to co-opt– those who would misuse it, would probably never use it. perhaps this is stallmans unintended genius, but i wish id thought of it.

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