"GNU/Linux": Terminology and relations between projects.

Bernhard Reiter bernhard at intevation.de
Wed Mar 20 17:08:09 UTC 2002

On Wed, Mar 20, 2002 at 02:57:55PM +0000, Luciano Miguel Ferreira Rocha wrote:
> Stop that, will you?

In principle I agree with you that I'd like to see more posts
with a clear argumentative language and considering background knowledge
and already known arguments. It will make this list more enjoyable for us all.

Back to your post about why to use GNU/Linux for the operating system.
You first considered reason to call the kernel GNU.
Note that the GNU project did not produce the kernel "Linux".
They also do not claim this.

> So now for the system, not the kernel itself.

> But now, today, the
> GNU part as diminished in relevance in comparision with the rest of the
> system: the configuration tools, the X Window System, KDE, Mozilla, and lot
> of others. I mean, a user would use Linux or GNU/Linux for hours without
> seeing any GNU component...

The FSF has an explanation page at:

It contains the most important argument which you did not address so far.
| The GNU Project was not, is not, a project to develop specific
| software packages. It was not a project  to develop a C compiler,
| although we did. It was not a project to develop a text editor,
| although we developed one. The GNU Project's aim was to develop a
| complete free Unix-like system: GNU.

I quote some more to clear up other confusions which are common:

| Many people have made major contributions to the free software in
| the system, and they all deserve credit. But the reason it is a
| system--and not just a collection of useful programs--is because the
| GNU Project set out to make it one. We made a list of the programs
| needed to make a complete free system, and we systematically found,
| wrote, or found people to write everything on the list. We wrote
| essential but unexciting major components, such as the assembler and
| linker, because you can't have a system without them.

> Anyway, I do think you and everybody else are entitled to call it GNU/Linux
> system if you like, but I don't think you are entitled to make me call it
> GNU/Linux reasoning that I'm insulting GNU by doing so.

It is the opinion of the FSFE that there would not be the current wealth 
of complete Free Software operating systems without the GNU project. 
Thus giving credit to it is something we think is of importance.

Another thing which the page clearly mentions:
| The GNU Project supports GNU/Linux systems as well as the GNU system
Again: we like the kernel done by Linus.  We also like the Hurd.
None of these kernels is the ultimative end of development.

The GNU project also gives credit to the systems based on BSD code:
| Aside from GNU, one other project has independently produced a free
| Unix-like operating system. This system is known as BSD, and it was
| developed at UC Berkeley.

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