Slashdot is powered by your submissions, so send in your scoop

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
GNU is Not Unix Operating Systems Linux

Ask Slashdot: Is It Linux or GNU/Linux? (linuxjournal.com) 521

An anonymous reader writes: Should the Linux operating system be called "Linux" or "GNU/Linux"? These days, asking that question might get as many blank stares returned as asking, "Is it live or is it Memorex?" Some may remember that the Linux naming convention was a controversy that raged from the late 1990s until about the end of the first decade of the 21st century. Back then, if you called it "Linux", the GNU/Linux crowd was sure to start a flame war with accusations that the GNU Project wasn't being given due credit for its contribution to the OS. And if you called it "GNU/Linux", accusations were made about political correctness, although operating systems are pretty much apolitical by nature as far as I can tell.

The brouhaha got started in the mid-1990s when Richard Stallman, among other things the founder of the Free Software Movement who penned the General Public License, began insisting on using the term "GNU/Linux" in recognition of the importance of the GNU Project to the OS. GNU was started by Stallman as an effort to build a free-in-every-way operating system based on the still-not-ready-for-prime-time Hurd microkernel. According to this take, Linux was merely the kernel, and GNU software was the sauce that made Linux work. Noting that the issue seems to have died down in recent years, and mindful of Shakespeare's observation on roses, names and smells, I wondered if anyone really cares anymore what Linux is called. For once and all, I wanted to ask Slashdot crowd what they think.

Ask Slashdot: Is It Linux or GNU/Linux?

Comments Filter:
  • by worf_mo ( 193770 ) on Sunday May 13, 2018 @01:02PM (#56603956)

    FFS, where did I put my popcorn!

    • Re: (Score:4, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 13, 2018 @01:42PM (#56604164)

      If GNU is not UNIX, why would it be Linux?

    • by raymorris ( 2726007 ) on Sunday May 13, 2018 @02:06PM (#56604282) Journal

      I'm tired of the "Gnu/Linux" discussion too.
      Anyone who cares to can call it "Apache/Mozilla/Gnu/X/Gnome/Linux" if that's their preference, I call it Linux.

      The submitter brought up an interesting tangent, though:

      > although operating systems are pretty much apolitical by nature as far as I can tell.

      For Richard Stallman and the FSF leaders, free software is very much political. In case anyone was unsure, he said it is just two weeks ago. For Stallman, it's about changing (part of) society, advancing a popularist ideology which has some things in common with Marxism. To Stallman,. proprietary software is EVIL, an evil which must be defeated.

      For Linus Torvalds and the "open source" folks generally, it's not really political, it's simply a way of producing quality software, a good way to produce software which has several advantages. To Linus, proprietary software isn't the best match to his needs - except when it is. The kernel source control was a proprietary system he bought called Bitkeeper. He could have used open source version control, but at the time he thought Bitkeeper, the proprietary system, fit his needs better. So he used it. Later, Linus wrote git to exactly fit his needs.

      What are people's thoughts on this? Free Software as a political movement, or Open Source as a better way to get software done?

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Everything that concerns the lives and daily activities of people is political. It must not be electoral to be political, that is an important distinction

      • by fred911 ( 83970 ) on Sunday May 13, 2018 @02:39PM (#56604454)

        ". To Stallman,. proprietary software is EVIL, an evil which must be defeated."

          Without freely distributed code we'd all be running windows fucking 10, sold and subjugated worse than BookFace. Proprietary software isn't evil, just a good proportion of the creators are. Without BSD's starting distribution of a high quality OS able to control X8* hardware, we'd all be fucked. As far as proprietary software needing to be defeated, well seems it's in the design.

      • Anyone who cares to can call it "Apache/Mozilla/Gnu/X/Gnome/Linux" if that's their preference, I call it Linux.

        Then how would you answer the following: Will an application made for "Linux" run on an Android system, which uses Linux as its kernel?

        I tend to use the terms "GNU/Linux" and "X11/Linux" when distinguishing the server and traditional desktop operating environment from Android.

        • Yes, applications written for LINUX, such as OpenVPN, will run on Android. Bash, Imagemagick, Perl, Python, ffmpeg, sed, awk, Emacs, vim, nano ... all this stuff runs fine on Android. Postgresql is a bit tricky to install.

          Applications written for X11 will run on systems with X11- which doesn't include most of the hundreds of Linux systems I've owned or administered, mostly servers, along with some VPN endpoints and other types of systems. Applications written for KDE will run on KDE systems, Gnome applica

          • Python

            Breaks if you try to import tkinter.

            Applications written for X11 will run on systems with X11- which doesn't include most of the hundreds of Linux systems I've owned or administered

            Among the subset of those Linux systems that you have administered that also have a graphical user interface, how many have X11?

            Applications written for KDE will run on KDE systems, Gnome applications on systems with Gnome, etc.

            Most popular KDE Plasma distributions will let the administrator easily install a package containing libraries to run GNOME applications or vice versa. As far as I can tell, Android is an outlier in this sense.

      • by Kjella ( 173770 )

        What are people's thoughts on this? Free Software as a political movement, or Open Source as a better way to get software done?

        I think for me it's mainly about transparency and adherence to standards where it matters. I must admit that I often find open source tools lacking, but open source is the only software I trust to only do what it says it does. And it's not perfect but since you can review the code you can figure out exactly where and how it doesn't do what it's supposed to do. Basically, I want open source when the data is much more important than the software, like documents, audiovisual formats and anything else "importan

        • by raymorris ( 2726007 ) on Sunday May 13, 2018 @04:15PM (#56604886) Journal

          > And it's not perfect but since you can review the code you can figure out exactly where and how it doesn't do what it's supposed to do.

          That's super important to me. I virtually ALWAYS find and fix any issue at all on an open source system by using one consistent method - trace the program, let look at the source to see exactly what's going on. If the issue is that I have to pass a different argument to the program, I can see that clearly. It'll say right in the source:

          if (option.be_sane) {
            do_what_ray_wants();
          }

          If there is a bug in the program, I can see it and fix it.
          Whatever the problem, the solution is always the same - go look at the portion of the code that handles that and see exactly what's going on.

          For the last couple of weeks a co-worker and I have been trying to enable WMI on a Windows 10 box. According to all the documentation we can find, that should be a simple 3-minute process. Yet it doesn't work. No matter what we try, Windows just returns an undocumented and apparently irrelevant error code. The Windows logs show nothing. All we can do at this point is make random guesses and try different things which are not documented to be needed. There is no process which will solve problems on Windows, or any proprietary software, because we can't look at the source and see what's going on. We can only guess at random and hope we eventually hit the Windows jackpot and happen across the lucky set of registry settings and reboots that makes it work, for no apparent reason.

      • I'm tired of the "Gnu/Linux" discussion too.

        No you're not. That's why you're continuing the discussion and asking people questions which further the discussion.

        For Richard Stallman and the FSF leaders, free software is very much political. [...] For Linus Torvalds and the "open source" folks generally, it's not really political, it's simply a way of producing quality software, a good way to produce software which has several advantages.

        You appear to be using the word "political" to advance your own views without defining what you think the word political means. Software certainly is political; as with so many things brought up on these corporate repeater sites Stallman was right (and typically people need a lot of time to come around to understanding that he got there well before the people you're allowed to hear from on corporate media).

        Frankly, your overmoderated post is all too typical of what passes for acceptable on sites like these: You also don't specify which "qualities" in software are being addressed when you try the reductionist approach by saying "simply a way of producing quality software". Which qualities are you talking about? After all, what's considered a valuable quality to someone looking to preserve their freedom to run, inspect, share, and modify the software on their computer often is the opposite of what a spy considers mandatory or what a DRM scheme requires to effectively restrict the user. Lots of proprietary software people run every day is malware when considered from the perspective of the user. These are political choices that are increasingly part of everyone's everyday life, regardless of whether they'd call that politics.

        When people call an OS by its kernel's name they're being remarkably inconsistent (other widely-used OSes aren't called this way; they get called by the names their proprietors assign to the OS), technically inaccurate (Linux has always been a kernel and never a complete OS), and for all the claims of being practical they're choosing a remarkably impractical nomenclature. A binary that runs on one architecture of an OS (be it GNU/Linux, Busybox/Linux, or something else) won't necessarily run on another system that also uses the Linux kernel. People led to believe that these systems are all "Linux" might believe otherwise because that's what the ill-chosen name plainly indicates.

        When it comes to the difference between the older free software social movement and younger open source developmental methodology, they're sometimes quite compatible (as Why "Free Software" is better than "Open Source" [gnu.org] has pointed out for a decade, people who agree with either philosophy "can and do work together on some practical projects". But they are distinct philosophies that sometimes reach radically different conclusions: free software never concludes that proprietary software is acceptable because proprietary software does not respect a user's software freedom. Open source development methodology was apparently designed to be thrown away or ignored when inconvenient because software developed not using that methodology (such as proprietary software) is accepted. Why Open Source misses the point of Free Software [gnu.org] has pointed this out for many years in the section named "Different Values Can Lead to Similar Conclusions...but Not Always".

        • You criticized me for pointing out that for Stillman, free software is a political issue, then you linked to one of his articles in which he says it's a "political camp" and that to "the Free Software movement, non-free software is a social problem".

          So you're upset that I said he thinks that, then you link to him saying that? I'm confused.

          > to advance your own views

          What views do you think those are? My views I'm trying to advance, you say, what views do you think I'm trying to advance?

          Would I be advan

        • The problem is that GNU elbowed its way into a lot of areas of the Operating System that its maintainers allowed but didn't really agree with. It was just more convenient to take over something that wasn't at 0% complete and run with it while the maintainers and contributors largely disagreed with GNU philosophy.

          If Stallman had put his foot down and insisted it was called GNU\Linux then many of the "GNU" contributors and leaders would have just forked the projects.

          How many people that have contributed to

      • by Quarters ( 18322 )

        I never understood why Stallman just stopped at software. Aren't all for-purchase tools evil? My hammer could have a GPS tracker in it. I have no way of knowing. My table saw that has 'that look' about it. Totally untrustworthy.

        I always find Stallman's 'GNU/Linux because Linux is *just* the kernel' argument funny, given that he and his haven't been able to produce 'just a kernel' in how many decades now?

  • I guess it didn't make my 'give a shit'-dar.
  • by Snotnose ( 212196 ) on Sunday May 13, 2018 @01:07PM (#56603978)
    Linus blew his chance for lasting immortality.
  • ...Some may remember that the Linux naming convention was a controversy that raged from the late 1990s until about the end of the first decade of the 21st century....

    I suspect many more are actively trying to forget the Linux naming convention controversy. So much energy wasted over so little. Must be a slow news day here...

  • Neither (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Hognoxious ( 631665 ) on Sunday May 13, 2018 @01:08PM (#56603982) Homepage Journal

    It's Systemd/Linux, at least for the next couple of years.

    By the way, does anyone think ginger goes well with broccoli?

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Tablizer ( 95088 )

      By the way, does anyone think ginger goes well with broccoli?

      I prefer Mary Ann. Now there's a flame-war.

    • by q_e_t ( 5104099 )
      Ginger with broccoli is great, as it's less obviously broccoli. It's like running cairodock on Linux, or GNU/Linux.
    • by plopez ( 54068 )

      I was thinking "Redhat OS".

      • On my Centos (Red Hat) system:

        $ uname
        Linux

        So we know what Red Hat thinks.

        • You gotta run the correct command:

          uname or uname -s
          Linux

          uname is the "kernel name" where "Linux" is correct.

          uname -o is Operating System, where GNU/Kernel is correct for most Linii.

          $ uname -o

          GNU/Linux

  • Both, of course (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Unknown User ( 4795349 ) on Sunday May 13, 2018 @01:12PM (#56604006)
    GNU/Linux since Linux is only the kernel and GNU has provided most of the programs that are crucial for a working GNU/Linux system. Linux for short.
    • Why stop there ? Why not Mozilla/GNU/Xorg/Oracle/Linux ?

      • Because GNU is still the base system. My servers don't have firefox, Xorg or Java on them because they don't need it. The base is still GNU/Linux.

    • by raynet ( 51803 )

      Saying just Linux or GNU/Linux is quite worthless, better to say Linux. That actually means something.

    • by dryeo ( 100693 )

      Can't most of the GNU tools be replaced by BSD tools along with rewriting some scripts to be portable?
      For many uses, I'd say X is the big one that is hard to replace. For other uses, it might be something like Apache.

  • Who fucking cares? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by silverkniveshotmail. ( 713965 ) on Sunday May 13, 2018 @01:14PM (#56604016) Journal
    Call it whatever you want, don't correct me and I won't correct you.
    • I am with you. It's splitting hairs. Call it Linux or call it GNU/Linux. We've got people out there with chainsaws and they're are people igniting flame wars over a fucking name? Wow, shaking my damn head.
    • by HiThere ( 15173 )

      Actually, by Zipf's law if it's used frequently the shorter form will win. Frequently used terms are preferred to be short. Even for infrequently used terms very few people prefer dimethyl-diphenyl-trichloro-ethane over DDT, of course that's a bit of an extreme difference in lengths.

  • by fferreres ( 525414 ) on Sunday May 13, 2018 @01:15PM (#56604020)

    ... little. Some cultures have their offsprints retain both their parents lastnames. Some others choose one parent, usually the father. Linus is the father of Linux. It's obvious GNU is the mother here, and wants her lastname attached as well. Actually, the DNA of a Linux system is so intermingled with GNU projects that even if Linux has some children with non GNU wives, and vice versa, we are talking about Linux, the one with GNU.

    Ultimately, it doesn't matter, but it's good to note that the wife seduced Linus here, and made her have the children that have raised to fame, in large part due to the wife's traits.

    Btw, my kids have both lastnames, and it's just so inconvenient for them. They have no doubts about how they came to be, the roles, but on the plus side, it's like having a tatoo, you never stop to bring to attention the fact that two different things combined to make something unique, for some specific reason.

  • by mupuf ( 2617831 ) on Sunday May 13, 2018 @01:17PM (#56604042) Homepage

    I purposefully avoid saying GNU/Linux because GNU is not responsible for much of the code of my machine anymore. If anything, it is dwarfed by Libre-office, Firefox/Chromium, the Linux kernel, or the X.Org-related code. So, why would GNU get credit when others do not?

    I am a Graphics Stack/Freedesktop developer and I sit on the X.Org board of directors, but you don't see me mandating people to call their system X.Org/Linux or Freedesktop/Linux, do you? To me, Linux either means the Linux kernel, or a Linux-based system (including or not GNU tools).

    • by MSG ( 12810 )

      So, why would GNU get credit when others do not?

      It may be simply a matter of being specific about what you mean. My phone runs a Linux system, as much as my laptop does. However, when I write software I'm typically targeting a POSIX OS. Linux is not, by itself, such a system, but any GNU/Linux system is.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 13, 2018 @01:20PM (#56604050)

    If its systemd its called Garbage.

  • INTERJECTED! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by CrAlt ( 3208 ) on Sunday May 13, 2018 @01:26PM (#56604070) Homepage Journal

    I'd just like to interject for a moment. What you're referring to as Linux,
    is in fact, GNU/Linux, or as I've recently taken to calling it, GNU plus Linux.
    Linux is not an operating system unto itself, but rather another free component
    of a fully functioning GNU system made useful by the GNU corelibs, shell
    utilities and vital system components comprising a full OS as defined by POSIX.

    Many computer users run a modified version of the GNU system every day,
    without realizing it. Through a peculiar turn of events, the version of GNU
    which is widely used today is often called "Linux", and many of its users are
    not aware that it is basically the GNU system, developed by the GNU Project.

    There really is a Linux, and these people are using it, but it is just a
    part of the system they use. Linux is the kernel: the program in the system
    that allocates the machine's resources to the other programs that you run.
    The kernel is an essential part of an operating system, but useless by itself;
    it can only function in the context of a complete operating system. Linux is
    normally used in combination with the GNU operating system: the whole system
    is basically GNU with Linux added, or GNU/Linux. All the so-called "Linux"
    distributions are really distributions of GNU/Linux.

  • by q_e_t ( 5104099 )
    Is the answer
  • by Kremmy ( 793693 ) on Sunday May 13, 2018 @01:27PM (#56604078)
    It hasn't been GNU/Linux for a long time. There are too many alternatives for the GNU Operating System components. Look at all those micro distributions using Busybox to provide what GNU used to. GNU remains a nice package but it fell markedly short of what it was supposed to be.
  • by WoodstockJeff ( 568111 ) on Sunday May 13, 2018 @01:30PM (#56604098) Homepage

    The basis of "GNU" was re-implementing Bell Lab's Unix. Extending Stallman's logic, if Linux is derived from GNU, and GNU was derived from Unix, the whole mess is the result of work done at Bell Labs, so it should take precedence over "GNU" in the name.

  • by Tranzistors ( 1180307 ) on Sunday May 13, 2018 @01:32PM (#56604108)
    Since Google made Android, the distinction between Linux and GNU/Linux has become rather obvious. Just name the thing appropriately. If you are talking about kernel, say Linux. If the subject matter is Ubuntu distribution, call it Ubuntu. If a game publisher says “Tomb rider now available on Linux”, they better have it on Android. This is why I like the approach that Steam takes, where tiles are available on Windows, Mac and SteamOS. It remove expectations that the game will work on my Linux From Scratch. The only saving grace for calling everything “Linux” is Linux Standard Base, but I am not sure this is relevant today.
    • Android is a Linux distribution. If you don't think so, then open up a terminal and go exploring. Notice that the proc directory is there, with all the usual Linux-only interfaces. Notice that the sys directory is there, again, with all the usual Linux-only interfaces. Notice that /sbin is there, like any Unix clone. In fact, Google just made a few arbitrary changes to filesystem layout, such as removing usr, but what remains is clearly Linux. Many Linux binaries run without modification on Android because

      • Android is a Linux distribution.

        Right.

        Android is an operating system in the same sense that KDE is an operating system. In other words, it isn't. Only in the minds of the marketing department. If you can't see that, then please hand in your geek card.

        A linux distribution is an operating system, which means services, an API, and a userland. Android is a Linux distribution, with all of those things. Android is therefore an operating system.

        Android is of course not GNU/Linux. They use busybox to provide the typical userland utilities. But it's clearly still Linux, because Linux means both the kernel, and a distribution wrapped around the kernel with a Unixlike userland. When it's not obvious from context which it is, then one should specify.

  • because not every piece of software in a Linux distribution's base install is from GNU.

    We don't have time to list the author of every component of the system in the name.

  • Linux being known as "free software" by just about everyone that cares about computers/IT is enough reason to skip the acronym. Besides, humans are lazy by nature, so why force people to tack on an acronym that many people can't even pronounce right?

    BTW - This is the best GNU definition [iu.edu] to give to anyone who doesn't know what GNU means. It's clean, concise, and very short - yet quite complete somehow.

  • Almost all efforts through history to force (or even merely encourage) people to use one word or phrase instead of another have been failures.
    Language is a fluid thing and its written on-the-fly by the people who speak it.

    People say "Linux" because it's easier than "GNU/Linux" and it really doesn't matter a damn whether you think the latter is right or wrong. You stand about as much chance of changing it than getting people to stop boldly splitting infinitives, to prevent them from saying "ATM Machine" or

  • REALLY OLD news for nerds.
  • by redelm ( 54142 )

    I had an email exchange with RMS around the time this all started ~20 years ago and the closest thing I got was it was not GNU/BSD or GNU/TomsRtBt but it was GNU/Linux for Slackware and Debian. Everybody used `gcc` at the time, so the closest differentiator I could determine was "user environment", essentially fileutils,etc. Neither clear nor satisfying.

    Personally, I prefer the term GNU/Linux for those who might need education on GNU. I firmly believe the GPL (esp.v2) is what enabled the fledgling 90s Li

  • This whole thing would have been so much easier if the FSF would have build a proper Linux distribution of their own and called it GNU, but they didn't (outside of that Hurd thing I booted up some 15+ years ago). So we have Debian, Ubuntu, Arch, Gentoo, SuSE, Redhat, Fedora and Co. instead and that's the names I tend to use when refering to my OS. GNU and Linux are just some small subset of software that is part of those distributions.

    The name GNU/Linux still has a bit of value, as it differentiated the des

    • This whole thing would have been so much easier if the FSF would have build a proper Linux distribution of their own and called it GNU, but they didn't (outside of that Hurd thing I booted up some 15+ years ago).

      Yes. If the FSF were smarter (collectively) it would have embraced Linux as the kernel for the GNU OS right away. HURD could have existed as a research project off the side of that, and would probably have gotten more attention in that form. Then they could have focused on making a complete system out of nothing but FSF-copyright software plus the Linux kernel, and achieved all the non-kernel goals that way.

      To be fair, it's not too late. And such a thing would be systemd-free by its nature, so there's a rea

  • I like pedantically correcting people, too. It's properly referred to as Solitaire/Windows.

  • Ubuntu/Linux (or Debian/Linux)
    RedHat/Linux
    Slackware/Linux (the few, the proud) ...etc...

    The name of the distro is far more informative to tell you about the nature of the system than just "GNU". Lots of distros include non-GNU software these days.

  • I want to get back to the debate that REALLY matters:

    How do you pronounce “Linux”?

  • Because I refuse to give credit to people who are nags. You gave away software for free, with a conditon to only share modified source and not to sing you praises. If people don't want to name their derived works as you like, tough! Amazon is not naming their tablet "Google Kindle" and they should have no obligation to, as it was not in Android source license. We need to put an end to passive aggressive tendencies among supposedly intelligent techies. Linus is all right, he doesn't go grumbling about Linux/

  • I've never really understood the point of calling Linux GNU/Linux beyond stroking Sallman & Co's ego...

    Most of the really fundamental GNU projects (GCC, glibc, etc.) were after all developed for proprietary Unix distros like Sun Unix and only started gaining real support after Sun stopped bundling their software development suite with the Sun Unix OS. As much as Stallman likes to talk about Free Software being "Free as in freedom and not free as in free beer" his most popular work became popular beca
  • or else why not call it GNU/GPL/FOSS/Linux
  • I guess I’d better start calling it GNU/macOS.

    (but only while using “gls” or “gcp” etc. rather than the native versions, I suppose)

  • While we're at it let's argue over hacking vs. cracking.

  • The kernel is Linux, the toolset is GNU. So if we're talking about Android or VMWare or Cisco or HPs line of SDN switches it's just Linux.

    If we're talking about Ubuntu and RedHat I would say it's GNU/Linux.

    The reason isn't necessary political there are huge technical and legal differences between just using the Linux kernel and using the GNU or other toolsets that may not even share the same license as Linux.

  • The OS name is the name of the distribution.

  • Historically there's been no Linux other than GNU/Linux, but now there's also Android/Linux so it's more important to specify if the context isn't already established.

  • by senatorpjt ( 709879 ) on Sunday May 13, 2018 @04:59PM (#56605028)

    Linux.

    Stallman is looking at the naming as an issue of who gets credit. For everyone else, the point of the OS having a name is primarily to denote where something can be run. If I have some software package that "runs on Linux" that means it runs on Linux, whether or not it depends on some other available software that also runs on Linux. That is why Android isn't "Linux", even though it uses the Linux kernel - Android software depends on things that are only available on Android. Likewise, "GNU" doesn't mean anything, software written for "GNU/Linux" will not run on Windows even if you have all the GNU tools installed, whereas it's likely to run on Linux with musl and busybox.

  • by Zobeid ( 314469 ) on Sunday May 13, 2018 @05:51PM (#56605228)

    We should continue honoring the importance of GNU and Linux to the systemd project.

Machines that have broken down will work perfectly when the repairman arrives.

Working...