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

Frank Heckenbach frank at g-n-u.de
Wed Mar 20 21:06:05 UTC 2002

Bernhard Reiter wrote:

> | 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.

I guess the same can be said about Red Hat, SuSE etc. They probably
also once made a list of programs needed, and wrote (or hired people
to write) some missing parts (some people might consider install and
admin programs major components, and AFAIK today major parts of the
devlopment of GCC and glibc are done by Red Hat/Cygnus).

Sure, they built on the existing work of the GNU system, but so did
GNU on BSD (which is also a complete system, not just a random
collection of programs). TeTeX (not sure if this or another TeX
distribution is part of the GNU system, but it is of most GNU/Linux
distributions), e.g., is also a "system", consisting of many
individual packages, selected and put together in the intention of
making it a system.

I don't see the real difference. It may be a difference in numbers,
but not in principle (SuSE doesn't include the full GNU system, and
it includes things not part of the GNU system). Sorry, but the more
I read and think about this, the less I'm convinced that I should
call any system GNU/Linux unless the makers of the system
(distribution) call it so (i.e. Debian).

If the FSF wants them to call their distributions so, it could
either enforce it by license (probably near to impossible to do now
in retrospect, and likely involving some negative side effects), or
as Markus suggested start a branding prorgam for GNU (compatible)
systems (and maybe enforce this with some kind of compilation
copyright on the whole system -- though IANAL and I don't really
know if/how compilation copyrights work at all).


Frank Heckenbach, frank at g-n-u.de
GnuPG and PGP keys: http://fjf.gnu.de/plan (7977168E)

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