The Hurd

Frank Heckenbach frank at
Wed Mar 20 16:20:25 UTC 2002

Jeroen Dekkers wrote:

> > I can see it with myself: I
> > first looked at Linux because it was free and it was unix. Then I
> > realized about the Importance of Free Software. 

(Same for me.)

> And that's the exact problem. If you would have looked at GNU, you
> would have realized it directly. I don't see what the importance of
> Linux is.

As you said it: *If*. The problem is that many people (including
myself) probably would not have looked at GNU if not via Linux -- or
at least would have done so some years later (when the Hurd became
equally usable -- if there was no Linux, this might have happened
sooner than it will happen now, but still later than it did happen
for Linux), and in the meantime, they might have become even more
locked in by proprietary software to make it even harder for them to
try free software. Or they would have chosen an alternative like BSD
and not looked at GNU so much.

> > Even here, in Spain, the
> > group that most is doing to support Free Software is a Linux users
> > association (Hispalinux, with more than 1,500 associates), 
> 'Linux' users?

Yes. I'm a Linux user. I'm a GNU user. I'm a GNU/Linux user. I'm a
TeX user. I'm an X11 user. Etc. Shouldn't one be allowed to state
one thing without stating everything?

Even if we all agree that the system should properly be called
GNU/Linux, this doesn't mean one has to write "GNU/Linux" wherever
"Linux" was written. This simple "search&replace" approach is just
silly. If you want to spread the term "GNU/Linux", do it with some
common sense, and don't jump on every occasion where someone says

> I don't see how it helped by not talking about freedom and by not
> talking about GNU. Linux was only popularized and the Hurd not, that's
> the only thing. BSD and GNU could have got as much or maybe even more
> users as Linux did. Linux only came at the right moment, but did do
> most of the other things wrong.

Do "most of the other things" include the choice of license, for
example? ;-)

> > 	Of course, you didn't bother me, don't worry. I think it is good we can
> > have such discussions here, because we can learn a lot from each other's
> > experiences. I think it is important that some hard-GNU people can
> > understand much people is now in the Free Software side thanks to some
> > pragmatic and not-so-pure things, like Linux.
> And how much is NOT in free software, thanks to Linux.

How so? I'd agree with you that some (maybe many) are now using
Linux who would be using the Hurd otherwise (and using GNU in both
cases -- don't get upset ;-). But why should anyone who would have
been using the Hurd now use proprietary software because Linux

Or do you mean free software as opposed to open source? I don't
agree, either: I strongly prefer FS (the term and the philosophy),
yet I see no problem in using Linux myself. Linux certainly is free
software, according to its license, even though its creator prefers
the term OS. But where would we end if we only used software written
by people who share our views exactly?


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

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