The Hurd / Stupid Diskussion / Difference between OS + Operating Environement

M E Leypold @ labnet leypold at
Wed Mar 20 18:46:18 UTC 2002

Dear unlucky friends,

Frank Heckenbach writes:
 > > 
 > > 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?

Perhaps it would help to distinguish between the 'Operating
Environment' and the Operating System. OE would be defined as all
Operations that can be invoked via some API after establishing the
environemnt. The GNU shell environment would be i.e. established upon
login into a linux box (or after calling 'set-gnu-environment' on an
IRIX box) and have GNU make as make, gnu sed as sed and so on.

The concept 'OS' is less well defined, since it has userspace parts
like administrative programs or the shell. 

Giving credits to someone should not be the issue here (as some seem
to think), but functionality (does 'make' do what 'gnu make'
does). Should I call a Linux system GNU Linux then? I see 3 threads of
argument here:

  1) Linux incorporates many GNU Tools. -- I think, this doesn't
     apply, since it also incorporates X11, BSD-Tools and so on. I'd
     have to call it Qt/GNU/X11/BSD/Linux.

  2) The system provides a GNU-ish Operating Environment, that is, on
     , whose structure follows a philosphy -- I can't comment on that,
     since I haven't read enough GNU papers. Perhaps someon could
     point me on a paper, which states, what the GNU system structure
     will be? The GNU coding standards are certainly violated often
     enough in Linux, so it shouldn't be ALLOWED to be branded GNU

  3) Credits. Since someones tool T, helped someone else to make X,
     someone else should call X T/X, to give credits. -- Hm, yes I
     think, credits should be given, no problem, but not in the
     name. I once used a Borland compiler to write a boot
     loader. Should I have called it Borland/MyLoader? Hardly:
     Trademark rights would have got me soon enough.

Im really puzzled, but please don't flame now. The only valid claim
IMHO would come from 2), which also would imply some minimal Gnu
libc/shell/whatever API standard to which a Gnu system must
conform. Can anyone point me to something like that (at least a rough

I really think Gnu should/must be some kind of branding like POSIX or
Unix98 and so on, if it should have any value at all. Having Redhat
print GNU/Linux at their boxes (or SuSe) and then shipping anything
they like (as they do: look at the patched kernels, differnt admin
tools, different build systems, non portable RPMs) will not help me.

Don't sell the 'Gnu' word too cheap!

Regards -- Markus

PS: I think this debate is really dead and over. Please don't answer,
    if you *only* have an opinion, instead of an argument about (a)
    the validity of the arguments 1-3 (my logic might be deficient
    here) or (b) new empirical data (like a written Gnu
    definition). I'm only contributing this mail since I'm really
    intrested, wether there is actually a definition for a Gnu OS or
    Gnu OE.

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