The Hurd

Frank Heckenbach frank at
Wed Mar 20 16:32:01 UTC 2002

Jeroen Dekkers wrote:

> On Tue, Mar 19, 2002 at 02:51:15PM +0100, Frank Heckenbach wrote:
> > Werner Koch wrote:
> > 
> > > On Tue, 19 Mar 2002 00:37:29 +0100, Frank Heckenbach said:
> > > 
> > > > "Almost everything" is not really true. Even today, the GNU system
> > > > uses a substantial number of components from BSD, X, TeX, etc. You
> > > 
> > > And that was the plan nearly from the start of the GNU project.  The
> > > GNU project never said that all software has to be written from
> > > scratch for it; it just turned out that a lot of stuff needed to
> > > be written due to a lack of existing free implementations. 
> > 
> > Note that I don't deny it. I was just refusing Jeroen' claim that
> > "Almost everything was already there *written* by GNU." [emphasis by
> > me] which is clearly not true. "Collected" or "compiled" would have
> > been alright ...
> Do you know what the word 'almost' means?

I think I do. "Almost everything" means everything but a tiny part.
If you consider X, KDE, TeX, those BSD programs still used on these
sytems and many 3rd party contributions etc. a tiny part, that's
just as absurd as considering cdrecord one of the most important

> > > > developers really called it "GNU/Linux", someone like Alessandro
> > > > Rubini would have to speak of "GNU/Linux", even though his system
> > > > uses only the kernel Linux and no GNU parts. So please, get
> > > 
> > > I don't understand this.  If you are using just the bare bone Linux
> > > kernel, the name Linux is what should be used.
> > 
> > Exactly. That's why Jeroen's statement '[Linus] only had to write a
> > kernel and a few other things. He misnamed this to "Linux" and
> > didn't credit GNU.' is also unreasonable. He is talking only about
> > the kernel (and perhaps some some utilities close to the kernel,
> > written by Linus etc.), so it's no misnaming to call this "Linux".
> Now let's quote the whole: 'Linus wanted to write an operating
> system. Almost everything was already there written by GNU. He only
> had to write a kernel and a few other things. He misnamed this to
> "Linux" and didn't credit GNU.'
> I meant: Misnamed this -> misnamed the OS. I was a bit unclear, but I
> think most other people already guessed what I meant.

This makes no sense. One can only name things one has
created/discovered himself (or been given explicit permission by the
creator), so what Linus could have named is only the kernel and the
"few other things", not the complete system.

> > Yes. I support GNU, I use GNU/Linux on my machines (and sometimes
> > work on GNU/Solaris and GNU/IRIX machines ;-). But I think attacking
> > Linux (the kernel) for not being called GNU/Linux, like Jeroen did,
> > does not help, but hurt the reputation of GNU.
> I wanted to say that OS should have been called GNU/Linux and was
> misnamed to "Linux".

Then don't blame Linus, but the distributors (except Debian) who
don't call it this way.

And perhaps you can answer the following question: Why can the GNU
system be called just "GNU" without crediting the other components
used in it (or at least the major ones, see above)? The standard
argument I'm aware of is that the FSF's goal is to create a free
system, called the GNU system, writing many components themselves,
but taking existing software where available, free and suitable. So
TeX, XFree etc. are part of the GNU system, even if they are no GNU
projects themselves. If this is true, then please, why can't others
create their own system, call it a Linux system (or a Red Hat or
SuSE system or whatever) and take available free software such as
the kernel Linux, many GNU programs and other programs that are not
GNU, but part of the GNU system?

Note again, I'd like to see "GNU/Linux" written on Red Hat and SuSE
boxes (maybe even more than you would since you probably don't even
look at them ;-). I just think your way of argumenting is not very
helpful to this goal.


Frank Heckenbach, frank at
GnuPG and PGP keys: (7977168E)

More information about the Discussion mailing list