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Re: Emacs contributions, C and Lisp

From: Stephen J. Turnbull
Subject: Re: Emacs contributions, C and Lisp
Date: Sun, 30 Mar 2014 11:02:33 +0900

Richard Stallman writes:

 > This discussion is a response to your fallacious call for people to
 > deny us credit for our work.

Richard, I did no such thing.  I called for you to give the same
credit to others you demand for yourself.  That FAQ admits that
"GNU/Linux" is an abbreviation, and goes on to provide some
justification for giving primacy to GNU.

But that justification is misdirected, given that the GNU Project with
an uppercase "P" does almost no development.  More important from a PR
standpoint, these days, it basically leaves even distribution up to
others -- I don't know how long it's been since I heard the term "gold
tape", and I don't think I even heard once about "gold CDs", let alone
"gold DVDs" or "gold BDs".  The *real* contribution of GNU, as
acknowledged by several of the BSD folks, was the *insight* that "hey
-- we don't have to deliver just 'a pile of useful software', we can
deliver a whole working system *as free software*!"  And the GNU
Project proceeded to *assemble* the work of others, as a *free
software* operating system, nearly complete.[1]

As many discussions on this list and others have shown, much of the
development work for GNU projects is done by people who feel no
allegiance to the GNU Project per se.  They feel allegiance to
particular project, and often to the Free Software Movement.
Commercial interests such as Canonical hitchhike on the GNU name, but
fail to even pay lip service on the web sites for "GNU projects" they
maintain until prodded.

And this is one of the big difficulties *you* face in advocating
"GNU/Linux".  These days, the "GNU System" is nothing but a "pile of
useful software".  You yourself encourage folks with no particular
desire to promote GNU to slap the GNU label on their products.  The
actual curating of the GNU System, as a system, is done by the
distros.  Development of almost all of the end-user-visible software
is done anywhere but in gnu.org facilities.  And the core GNU people
(at the GNU Project level, rather than the GNU project level) such as
yourself have a core mission, not of developing the GNU system, but of
political advocacy.  Compare that with the BSD distros, where the
"BSD" name lives on in common parlance: FreeBSD, NetBSD, OpenBSD, and
a legion of minor variants.  Their leaders concerned themselves with
the systems as a whole, starting from the kernel and working out.  GNU
was -- and is! -- stuck with a system with a hole, and worse, that
hole is the kernel.

It's ironic that you claim the right to name a system whose raison
d'etre is "make the software your own!" based on the initial push in
1985, whose centralizing impetus was basically moribund by 1995 --
core projects like GCC and glibc spawning forks and threatening to
bolt the GNU fold entirely, the kernel itself never considering
becoming a GNU project.  Well, the rest of the world made the GNU
System its own, and chose to denote it by the component that they
found inspirational.

Please note that everything written above is *observation*, not
*justification*.  You're welcome to promote the name "GNU/Linux",
because it's meaningful and true.  But I wish you'd drop the "but we
built it!" argument and find something genuine to say.  Your petulance
in insisting that GNU alone deserves credit for the whole makes it
embarrassing to use that term outside of GNU channels.  I still use it
because it makes a couple of points for me (and about me).  But I have
to be on guard, and I often am called on to justify it, when I do.

[1]  This is not to deny that many members of GNU projects rejoice in
their association with the GNU Project.  Nor that core members of the
GNU Project, starting with yourself, deliberately set about to create
crucial missing components such as GCC and glibc, and extremely useful
utilities such as Emacs, gdb, and Make.  The point is that as leader
of the GNU Project nowadays (and for the last decade or two) you busy
yourself not with ensuring that the GNU System is excellent, but with
political advocacy and *preventing* addition of software that you
consider dangerous to software freedom to the GNU System.  How ironic
in the context of a claim that GNU is the primary *developer* of the
software distributed by so-called "Linux distributors"!

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