Re: Linux isn't an operating system

Richard Stallman (
Wed, 6 Mar 1996 15:12:15 -0500

> There are a number of whole operating systems using the Linux kernel,
> Most of them are more or less close variants of the GNU system, so I
> recommend the term "Linux-based GNU system" for them.

Which we can call just plain ``Linux'' for short.

Certainly you can--you just did. But it isn't really a good idea,
because this practice tends to divide the community. "Linux-based GNU
system" (or "GNU/Linux", for short) helps to unify the community, and
it's worth typing an extra word or two from time to time to achieve

Richard, you can't make ``hacker'' respectable again, and you can't
change the name of Linux.

Statements like these are would-be self-fulfilling prophecies. They
are neither true nor false in the factual sense when they are stated,
but if people believe them, that can make them true.

I usually ignore prophecies of failure, unless they are backed by
physical law. When I started developing a free Unix-like operating
system, people said that too was impossible. Fortunately, I ignored
them, and as a result, we have such systems now.

The whole world has not converted to free software. Maybe it never
will. But that doesn't mean my work on free software has failed.
Success which is less than total can still be worth while.

I probably won't convince all the "Linux users" to use the term
"Linux-based GNU system". But I will convince some, and they by using
this term will contribute to unifying the community. Even a little
more unity is worth the effort of writing these messages.

(I'm trying new approaches for correcting the media distortion of
"hacker", too. I don't give up on a worthy cause!)

So instead of speculating about precisely how much change is possible,
how about pitching in? Even a long shot is worth a very small amount
of work, and that's all it takes to use "Linux-based GNU system".