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Re: [Savannah-hackers] Re: Help wanted (sysadmin work)

From: Sylvain Beucler
Subject: Re: [Savannah-hackers] Re: Help wanted (sysadmin work)
Date: Thu, 17 Jun 2004 21:21:42 +0200

As I recently said to Hugo, I do not like analogies.
Anyway, in your examples, all names are enterprise names or do not name
something precisely. Linux names the kernel Linux Torvalds leads the
development of, GNU names the completely free operating system made by
the GNU project. Naming the whole operating system "Linux" is improper.
GNU/Linux betters reflects what the operating system is. If RedHat
calls its distribution Linux, it is improper.

We do not "rename" GNU variants. We do not have the right to do so. We
encourage people to use a better name.

Making an official GNU distribution is also a idea, I guess,
unfortunately I do not think it is easy, because you have to find lots
of people and time to maintain it, and it may be superfluous,
especially when there are distributions that almost fit our needs like
Debian GNU/Linux.

Now, aside from the technical point of view, naming the system GNU/
Linux obviously make people wonder a lot more about the GNU project and
its ideals, making the link between naming and remembering.
As far as I am concerned, I used a GNU/Linux system without really
knowing about GNU until I launched GNU Emacs *and* was curious enough
to type C-h C-p on startup, which at that time displayed the GNU
manifesto (now it displays RMS' chapter in "Open Sources", which is
similar). When I launch gcc, it is quite silent. Same for ls, bash,
etc. These cannot display the GNU start-up message, since it would
annoy users and give a bad image of GNU. There are also a lot of GNU
programs that run without I know it, unless I study the ouput of 'ps
Most GNU programs are part of the operating system core or are suited
for developers. As a beginning CS student, it took me a while before to
discover GNU programs were in my system (and even longer to understand
the origins of this "RedHat Linux"). And of course, nothing mentioned
what was free software. I seldom discovered some "This is free
software" message when running commands, but in my head it meant "This
is great software made for fun". And lots of people are not curious and
do not type C-h C-p before years.
So I have no difficulties to understand why it would be better for
people to remember of freedom to call the system GNU/Linux.

This is pretty obvious for me, and makes me wonder, asides from the
fact you do not guarantee that any statements you make are absolutely
true and correct, whether you though more than a few minutes on them,
and whatever you actually did, it does not matter because I really
enjoy remembering when I read my first RMS text.

As for the GNU/Linux|FreeBSD thing, do not forget that you do not
simply make an OS just by putting together pieces of software developed
independently. These pieces of software has to be glued together. A
point of GNU is that all programs are designed to stick together, hence
why it is not a bunch of tools, but an OS, IMHO.

Of course, I am a free software developer, a GNU fan, I think in my
own head, and I do not try to put myself in the head of somebody else.

Now, if you want to understand why the system if called "Linux" by
some people, here are some personal thoughs according to their point
of view.

First, the development of Linux made something new appear, what ESR
calls the "Bazaar" development model. This is a very exciting and
sometimes efficient model that allowed to quickly made a usable
monolothic Unix-like kernel, based on the fact it is possible to
organise several main contributors and countless occasional
contributors that find bugs and send patches. "Linux" was at the same
time a kernel, as well as a symbol to some values like rebelion
against computers giants like Microsoft. So when people "found" the
GNU "tools", ie the GNU OS that was 8-10 years old, the only new and
exciting thing was "Linux", hence the name "Linux distros". A compiler
linker made by "former-students" is way less exciting.

Then, "Linux" refers to "Linus", and Linus' views are closer to the
OSI than to the FSF. So, when enterprises like RedHat or Mandrake
began to make commercial distros and wanted to advertise GNU/Linux to
other enterprises, they used "Linux" along with "open source", because
"Linux" emphasizes technical quality, and masks the idea of 'free
software' as defined by the FSF, that make people feel uncomfortable.
Of course they have the right to do that. But that does not make them

Quick summary: Linux is not a proper name, and does not convey the
right ideas, GNU/Linux somewhat better fits, and helps people to find
about free software.

Now, make me a favor and do not reply to all this mess I wrote, and
just tell us what exactly you do not understand about GNU/Linux.


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