Re: Linux isn't an operating system

Kai Henningsen (
10 Mar 1996 02:56:00 +0200 (Richard Stallman) wrote on 07.03.96 in <>:

> You've proposed that we agree on the term "Linux system" for the
> complete systems based on Linux, and give credit to GNU developers "in
> the second breath". That is a reasonable way of giving credit, but it
> has two drawbacks:
> * It is what most people have been doing, and that is what has led to
> our present problems.

The problem is that not many people besides yourself percieve any problem.
I certainly see no problem.

> * The real issue is not giving credit, but encouraging the cooperation
> that we all need.

With a name? Get real.

> I'm sure that if I let this issue drop, and let the issues of
> cooperation drift, we could all "get along" with no visible disputes.
> But this is because the substantive problems would quietly continue to
> grow. We need to do more than get along; we need to work together.

We already do.

And where the cooperation has problems, they seem to primarily stem from
different ways of doing development; I certainly know of no problem
related to naming, or giving credit.

As to the libc problem, a similar problem exists with the Linux m68k port
- divergence in the sources causing a lot of work. Just like libc, the
problem is not people not wanting to cooperate, but people using different
styles of development.

I'm sure similar problems are all over the world.

And none of these have anything at all to do with what we call the
software on our hard disks.

In my case, I use the following names (among others):

* the Linux kernel
* the GNU C compiler
* the Debian distribution, which is a Linux distrbution[1]

This alone is confusing enough for people not familiar with the system,
not last because each of these uses different version numbers. I certainly
don't want to complicate the issue with constructions like "GNU based
Linux system". That's ridiculous.

[1] Yes, it's a *Linux* distribution. I use Debian because it's a way (the
best way, IMHO) to use Linux. If I only wanted a way to use GNU software,
I'd probably use emx instead, on my OS/2 system. And Linux is a way
(again, IMHO, the best) to use Unix, so I sometimes even talk of using
Unix, though this isn't quite right, legalistic speaking.

On the other hand, there's a difference between those parts.

Linux is a nicely organized project.
Debian is a nicely organized project.
X is a nicely organized project.
The GNU software, on the other hand, isn't; it's lots of different
projects with barely more than a common name and copyright.

Not only does it seem different for the Linux libc people to get the glibc
people to cooperate, it seems that the FSF people have trouble cooperating
with each other as well! Look, for example, at the numerous versions of
basic libraries (like the readline lib) floating around in different

I suggest we don't have a Linux vs. FSF problem here, but simply a FSF
problem. Here's a free tip: having development take place on open mailing
lists has helped Linux and Debian a lot. You might consider something
similar for the FSF software.

> People using almost the same collection of software have defined two
> different community identities--"GNU user" and "Linux user". And the

I think that's not so much different _user_ communities, as different
_developer_ communities. Sometimes (as in this debate) _very_ different;
you certainly sound very different from a typical Linux developer - you
seem to be a lot less interested in freely available software for the
user, and a lot more in ideology, and playing corporation-type name games.

> people in one community tend not to make an effort to cooperate with
> those in the other. This suggests that the real root of the problem

I think this is plainly wrong, at least for the Linux side of things.

> To effect a change, we have to do something different from what we
> have done in the past.
> I've proposed the term "Linux-based GNU system" as a way of doing
> this, because I think it is an accurate description. Other people
> have suggested the term "GNU-based Linux system". That too would
> promote cooperation, if people use it often. Both terms emphasize the
> relationship rather than implying separation and isolation.

I suggest instead stopping the bickering about names, and putting effort
in coordinating the cooperation better.

MfG Kai