Re: that old GNU/Linux argument

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On Jul 20, 2008, Thomas Cameron <[email protected]> wrote:

> On Sun, 2008-07-20 at 02:00 -0300, Alexandre Oliva wrote:
>> Apache, sendmail, bind and linux are not operating systems.  They have
>> never been.

> I've never said they were.

You proposed and rejected the idea of referring to the operating
system as Apache/Linux, sendmail/Linux, etc, as a means to counter
GNU/Linux, as if GNU was parallel to Apache or sendmail in this

> They are part of a DISTRIBUTION.

But are they major, essential components of a distribution?  Do they
make up for a larger contribution to the operating system than any
other component present in it?

> I am talking about what most folks call "Linux," a Linux
> distribution.

If you start out by assuming that Linux means that, then any proof
you'll come back to will be the result of circular logic, thus

> I am about getting Free and Open Source Software adopted in the
> mainstream, and thereby growing the community.  As far as I'm
> concerned, I am working towards increasing freedom.

See, that's a key difference.  Increasing is not the same as
achieving.  Increasing by sacrificing the last mile, so it becomes
unachievable and may eventually be eroded back is fundamentally
incompatible with the ultimate goal of the Free Software movement.

> that you will apparently accept no pragmatism.

Pragmatism only makes sense within a set of values and goals, taking
into account what you're willing to sacrifice to achieve the goals.

Some people think it's ok to sacrifice freedom one bit at a time while
hand-waving about getting a critical mass of people who tolerate loss
of freedom and then somehow getting them to start demanding freedom
without having ever heard about it.

That kind of wishful thinking doesn't even begin to make sense to me.
I wouldn't call it pragmatic, I'd call it self-defeating, at least as
far as my set of values and goals is concerned.

>> And where would have Linux been if it wasn't running under the GNU
>> operating system?

> /me rolls his eyes.  I've already conceded that point.  Why are you
> arguing in circles?

Because you still regard it as asinine rather than just fair.

> And Linux (as in a typical Linux distro) uses far more of other
> projects' code than it uses of GNU.

Linux is a kernel.  Let's please avoid the circular logic.

It doesn't matter what other projects go into a GNU+Linux distro.
That there are other large projects, maybe even larger than GNU,
doesn't justify calling it Linux and omitting GNU, because Linux is
less relevant than GNU in this whole.

> Therefore, to my original point (which you are ignoring), it makes
> no sense to call a Linux distro "GNU/Linux."

I agree.  It would make more sense to call it KDE/GNU, for example.
Or OOo/GNU.  Linux just doesn't fit.  And that's *exactly* the point.

Now, I don't ask people to refrain from naming Linux.  I just ask
that, out of fairness, GNU *also* be named when the Linux term is
abused to refer to the operating system or the distribution, because
GNU is more relevant than Linux in these contexts.

>> > *all* of them came together for the success of what the vast
>> > majority of the community and the industry calls "Linux."

> I'm talking about the call for Linux to be called GNU/Linux.

Where you perceive "success" and "glory", what I see is "still a long
way to go".  That's what I'm responding to.  And refraining from
promoting the software freedom philosophy will not help advance it.
So, if you do want to help advance the cause, if you feel aligned with
it, pretty please help spread awareness about the philosophy, because
it's far more important than the actual software.  And that's what the
request for people to refer to GNU/Linux rather than just Linux is

>> The people who most strongly oppose this correction are precisely
>> those who stole the "glory" of GNU's success.

> Um, hold on a sec, there.  "Stole?"  To steal typically means to have
> the intent to deprive another of property.

Not necessarily property, but yes, unfortunately that's precisely what
happened.  Remember the lignux/malignux fiasco?  Remember the
reactions brought up by those who fiercely opposed the FSF and its
attempt to "steal Linux's merit"?  Those people seem to be it's ok for
them to rename someone else's work, but then that it's highly
objectionable, even malignant, for someone else to rightfully rename
it back.

> I've been using Linux since 1995, and I've never, ever seen anyone
> in the Linux community indicate that they intended to deprive GNU of
> any property or even credit for all they've done.

Maybe you haven't been around long enough, or haven't taken part in
these debates with the kind of people I'm talking about.

> That the Linux kernel was what accelerated F/OSS popularity was
> happenstance mixed with cool code.

Sure, Linux was the piece that was missing for a complete Free
operating system.  No doubt it was earth-shattering: the other pieces
were in place already.  And, see, I'm not trying to diminish the merit
of Linus et al, it's quite laudable that Linus decided to relicense
Linux under a Free Software license back in 1992.  I'm just putting it
in perspective.  As Newton said, he only saw as far as he did because
he was on the shoulders of giants.

I guess it can be summed up as credit where credit is honestly due, if
promoting freedom is not enough of a moral imperative for you to name
GNU.  It's not just a rose, the philosophy that matters is tied to
that particular name.

> That the general public saw Linux distributions rise up in
> popularity and they chose to call them "Linux" instead of
> "GNU/Linux" is not theft, it's just the way things shook out.

You seem to assume there was no intent to push GNU to a back seat.
You haven't been around long enough.

> Accusations of theft are pretty serious.  I don't buy it at all.

That's fine, I'm not charging for it :-)

>> But that's not the case.  The case at hand is that by rejecting the
>> idea of mentioning GNU, a very different set of values is promoted.
>> And this set of values denigrates our movement, works against our
>> movement, and makes our task, that was already difficult, even more
>> difficult.  Pretending it doesn't, waving it off as childish, that's
>> what's ridiculous.  And offensive.  And disrespectful.  Please don't
>> do that.

> Ah, OK, I get it now.  Yours is the One True Way, and everyone else is
> heretical.

Heh.  Yeah.  "Good" argument.

I'm not demanding you to agree with our goals or join our movement.
*You* claimed you were part of it.  But still, you don't seem to care
enough about promoting its core values.  Something is clearly amiss.

You obviously don't have to do as I ask.  That's what makes it a
request rather than a demand.  But in case you do care about promoting
the values you say you want to promote, then please believe me, using
a name that helps you do that helps.

> Extremism in any form is bad.

Moderation is good for temper, not for virtue.

Consider that motto of that famous Internet company, "do no harm".

How would that sound if it were "moderated" to "do little harm", or
"do no more harm than reasoanble"? :-)

> You're being extremist here, sorry, no other way to call it.

No need to be sorry.  I happily regard myself as a Free Radical.  I
don't have any problem whatsoever with that.

> Wow - talk about biting the hand that feeds you.  Don't you work for Red
> Hat, a company best known for... Linux?

Yeah, well.  I was hired by Cygnus, a company best known for making
Free Software affordable.  I still work on developing exclusively that
kind of Free Software.  Why should I not take Red Hat pay for
something I enjoy doing and that is fully compatible with my personal
values?  If I chose to work at another place, doing the same thing,
Red Hat would still get the benefit of the work in just the same way,
so what would the point be of quitting?

Now, you make it seem like Red Hat is doing me a favor for letting me
work on software it wants to offer its customers, for letting me solve
problems its customers run into.  That's quite a twisted view of the
world.  Ever wondered why salary and benefits are called compensation?
You honesty believe Red Hat is getting less from this business
relationship than I am?

And, FTR, I don't have any gripes whatsoever about Red Hat's profit; I
actually try to work hard to keep them growing, because Red Hat, in
spite of not being a perfect Free Software company, is far more
committed to respecting its users' freedoms than any other company
I've ever considered working for.  So I *am* happy to be part of it,
but I work on the inside and the outside to improve it further.

> Again, I think you are going to extremes.  I think that by penetrating
> enterprise computing environments (as you call it, 'making Linux
> popular'), we *are* increasing freedom.  The more people who are exposed
> to Free/Open Source Software, the more those people will participate in
> the community.  The bigger the community, the more penetration we can
> get, and the bigger the community becomes again.  Apparently that's not
> good enough for you, and that's fine.  For me, it's great.

It is great, indeed, as long as we don't sacrifice the ultimate goals
in the process.

I don't see how refraining from calling GNU/Linux by its legitimate
name makes any difference as to the effects in the paragraph above.

I do see that not doing so has detrimental effects to the "Free/" in
"Free/Open Source Software".

> Now I'm done with this thread.  By sidestepping and redirecting the
> conversation or flat ignoring what I've said, you've reminded me of that
> old saying about wrestling with a pig.  The pig enjoys it and you just
> get dirty.

Nice.  From asinine to pig.  I guess that's progress.  Soon my organs
will be used in humans, and I'll glow green in the dark thanks to
genetic engineering.

Alexandre Oliva
Free Software Evangelist  [email protected]{,}
FSFLA Board Member       ¡Sé Libre! =>
Red Hat Compiler Engineer   [email protected]{,}

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