The Hurd

Frank Heckenbach frank at
Wed Mar 20 16:59:16 UTC 2002

Werner Koch wrote:

> > 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
> I heard him speak about the *Linux OS* several times on conferences.

I've heard others (including university lecturers) use a narrower
definition of OS, more along the lines of the kernel, so does it
seem possible that Linus was using such a definition and not talking
about a complete GNU/Linux system at all?

> BTW, I also recall that once he proudly presented Linux running
> MS-Powerpoint using an early WINE version.

I won't defend that (though it's certainly still better than some
(would-be) free software advocates giving presentations using
MS-Windows which I've also seen).

> >> The Hurd is based on a lot of research.
> > Please don't quote me out of context. My statement clearly referred
> > to Jeroen's "history lesson", not to GNU, Linux or the Hurd.
> Right, however I can't see what's wrong with Jeroen's history of GNU
> and OS kernels except for leaving out that a lot of other kernels used
> to be in the works around 1990.

: I don't think so. 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.
: Now if he only had looked further, he had found that there were
: already people making an OS.

As I pointed out, that's 4 mistakes in 6 lines (besides the "leaving
out" you mention which doesn't really have to be counted as a
mistake I think):

- Linus' original intention
- "almost everything" (see above)
- Linus naming it Linux
- Linus not knowing about the Hurd

> > 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
> You will never see a GNU/proprietaryKernel - this is a contradiction
> to the goals of the GNU project.

So if I use a Linux kernel with GNU tools I should give credit to
GNU by using the term GNU/Linux. But if I use a Solaris kernel with
GNU tools, I *must not* do so?

> Using GNU/Linux is explicitly giving
> Linux credit for helping out with a very usable free kernel and
> getting around the bootstrapping problem on how to develop a free OS
> using only Free Software.

Oh, now it's GNU giving credit to Linux? I thought it was about
"Linux" distributors giving credit to GNU?

This begs the question who is entitled to chose the name? If Red Hat
or SuSE makes a distribution, how is the FSF in a position to choose
its name and be able to "credit Linux"? Can't they only ask or
convince the distributors who chose to give credit to Linux to do
the same to GNU? (They could have required it in the license, but
they chose not to.)


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

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