Open Ballot: GNU/Linux or Linux?

Podcast

That dreaded question came up again recently in the magazine. Jason Irwin wrote to us protesting that we had used 'Linux' as opposed to 'GNU/Linux' in our beginners guide; Andrew replied with a robust defense of our usage. The issue was picked up on in the Linux Format forums, and now there's a poll running. Perfect timing, we thought, for our fortnightly open ballot. So, readers, let us know your thoughts in the comments, and do take the time to vote in the poll!

For those looking for a bit of background, you can check out the GNU/Linux FAQ on the GNU site, longer than the constitution of the USA according to Andrew. For the other side of things, there's some handy quotes on this Wikipedia page. Of course, you might think that even discussing this topic again is pointless, in which case we recommend going for a walk in the sunshine.

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Your comments

On the topic of proper naming......

On the topic of proper naming......
The word "Free" I think should not be used as non "GNU and/or Linux" users think Free Software means Freeware. This mistake happens all the time, I propose another Ballot of which term is more accurate "Free Software (FOSS) vs Libre Software"
Or even just calling it "GPL Software" could be even clearer.

Who cares? Not me.

It doesn't matter. Of the top 100 distros on Distrowatch only 5 have Linux as part of their name. Although they are all Linux or GNU/Linux distros the truth is that we probably are users of Fedora, Debian, OpenSuse, Ubuntu or Mint ... or whatever, before we are users of Linux or GNU/Linux.

Its Linux. Period.

Linux is Linux just as iPad is iPad.

My Point: The iPad contains parts from various companies. It includes chips made by Broadcom Corp., Texas Instruments, Cirrus Logic, Samsung and Toshiba and the Screen is made by LG Displays (not to mention all the software companies they used!) Oh, and it is assembled in China by Foxconn.

You do not call it the Broadcom/Texas Instruments/Cirrus Logic/Samsung/Toshiba/LG/Foxconn-iPad. Its just iPad.

Linux is just Linux.

Linux

Nobody I know calls it Gnu/Linux.

GNU/Linux? no, something else? yes...

RMS deserves recognition for being a MAJOR part in the birth of free software culture. However, using the name GNU/Linux is not going to catch on, and as such is not the best way to give him that recognition. So, I vote for using

"Freenux"

Tribute the free part to RMS and the rest to Linus. It's short, roles off the tongue, and sounds somewhat like Phoenix (not a bad thing).

RMS has an unquestioned place in software/computer evolution, don't let perceived inconvenience write him out of the history books. In true Foss fashion, if the name doesn't work change it.

to those who think this type of thing doesn't matter, I feel sure you haven't put yourself in his shoes. What would you want if you were him. Just a little respect is all.

Worst Long-Running Marketing Campaign Ever

Let's see: RMS has spent a couple of decades attempting to browbeat the world into "recognizing" GNU as a "principle designer" of the system that everyone except RMS and his dwindling number of minions refer to in a fashion which they feel unfairly "recognizes" Linus Torvalds. If people actually refer to it at all, which they largely don't.

Without notable success. Sometimes, you need to know when to call it a day and get on with life.

I would just like to interject for a moment.

1.
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.
2.
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.
3.
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.

I'd just like to interject for a moment.

1.
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.
2.
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.
3.
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.

GNU Linux

It's GNU Linux, the creator of most of the project(GNU) wants us to call it that, so you that's what you call it.

If you want to give it one name, GNU-OS is more appropriate then linux.

Linux refers to the kernel, so if your talking only about the kernel, then linux is fine.

If your talking about the OS which is mostly GNU, call it GNU Linux.

Why GNU first?

I think it's funny that after the breakthrough success of the Linux kernel, Stallman comes along and tags "GNU" on the front of his proposed title, GNU/Linux. Isn't that a bit arrogant?

I agree, GNU-OS is a better

I agree, GNU-OS is a better name. Linux doesn't need to be named, unless you are talking about the kernel specifically.

Linux is a fine name by

Linux is a fine name by itself. The name "GNU/Linux" is quite frankly intimidating, and sounds overly technical. Not a good first impression on newcomers.

The reasoning is not so nonsensical as some claim

To begin with I'd like to say that I just use the term "Linux" unless I have some special need to distinguish it from another operating system based on the Linux kernel or a need to distinguish between the kernel and the operating system (though often then I just say "Linux the kernel" and "Linux the operating system").

However, I would like to point out that the reasoning for calling it GNU/Linux is a lot simpler than some people are making out. Linux by itself is not an operating system; it's just a kernel that you need additional software in order to interact with. The minimal additional software required to turn it from a kernel into and operating system is the GNU utilities. You could alternatively add other software, like Busybox, but the operating system that you end up being compatible with started out with the GNU utilities.

Just the same, it's a lot simpler to just call it Linux till you have to explain what the difference is between a Linux system and an Android system since Android uses a Linux kernel.

How about just GNU

instead of Linux or GNU/LINUX. GNU is the operating system. Why would anyone call their system by its' kernel name.

I’d just like to interject for a moment.

What you’re refering to as LOONIX, is in fact, GANOO SLASH LOONIX, or as I’ve recently taken to calling it, GANOO plus LOONIX. LOONIX is not an operating system unto itself, but rather another free component of a fully functioning GANOO system made useful by the GANOO corelibs, shell utilities and vital system components comprising a full OS as defined by POSIX.
Many computer users run a modified version of the GANOO system every day, without realizing it. Through a peculiar turn of events, the version of GANOO which is widely used today is often called “LOONIX”, and many of its users are not aware that it is basically the GANOO system, developed by the GANOO Project.
There really is a LOONIX, and these people are using it, but it is just a part of the system they use. LOONIX 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. LOONIX is normally used in combination with the GANOO operating system: the whole system is basically GANOO with Linux added, or GANOO SLASH LOONIX. All the so-called “LOONIX” distributions are really distributions of GANOO SLASH LOONIX.

No, Richard, it's 'Linux', not 'GNU/Linux'.

The most important contributions that the FSF made to Linux were the creation of the GPL and the GCC compiler. Those are fine and inspired products. GCC is a monumental achievement and has earned you, RMS, and the Free Software Foundation countless kudos and much appreciation.

Following are some reasons for you to mull over, including some already answered in your FAQ.
One guy, Linus Torvalds (me), used GCC to make his operating system (yes, Linux is an OS -- more on this later). I named it 'Linux' with a little help from my friends. Why don't I call it GNU/Linux? Because I wrote it, with more help from my friends, not you. You named your stuff, I named my stuff. The proper name is Linux because I say so. I have spoken. Accept my authority. To do otherwise is to become a nag. You don't want to be known as a nag, do you?

(An operating system) != (a distribution). Linux is an operating system. By my definition, an operating system is that software which provides and limits access to hardware resources on a computer. That definition applies whereever you see Linux in use. However, Linux is usually distributed with a collection of utilities and applications to make it easily configurable as a desktop system, a server, a development box, or a graphics workstation, or whatever the user needs. In such a configuration, we have a Linux (based) distribution. Therein lies your strongest argument for the unwieldy title 'GNU/Linux' (when said bundled software is largely from the FSF). Go bug the distribution makers on that one. Take your beef to Red Hat, Mandrake, and Slackware. At least there you have an argument. Linux alone is an operating system that can be used in various applications without any GNU software whatsoever. Embedded applications come to mind as an obvious example.

Next, even if we limit the GNU/Linux title to the GNU-based Linux distributions, we run into another obvious problem. XFree86 may well be more important to a particular Linux installation than the sum of all the GNU contributions. More properly, shouldn't the distribution be called XFree86/Linux? Or, at a minimum, XFree86/GNU/Linux? Of course, it would be rather arbitrary to draw the line there when many other fine contributions go unlisted. Yes, I know you've heard this one before. Get used to it. You'll keep hearing it until you can cleanly counter it.

You seem to like the lines-of-code metric. There are many lines of GNU code in a typical Linux distribution. You seem to suggest that (more LOC) == (more important). However, I submit to you that raw LOC numbers do not directly correlate with importance. I would suggest that clock cycles spent on code is a better metric. For example, if my system spends 90% of its time executing XFree86 code, XFree86 is probably the single most important collection of code on my system. Even if I loaded ten times as many lines of useless bloatware on my system and I never excuted that bloatware, it certainly isn't more important code than XFree86. Obviously, this metric isn't perfect either, but LOC really, really sucks. Please refrain from using it ever again in supporting any argument.

Last, I'd like to point out that we Linux and GNU users shouldn't be fighting among ourselves over naming other people's software. But what the heck, I'm in a bad mood now. I think I'm feeling sufficiently obnoxious to make the point that GCC is so very famous and, yes, so very useful only because Linux was developed. In a show of proper respect and gratitude, shouldn't you and everyone refer to GCC as 'the Linux compiler'? Or at least, 'Linux GCC'? Seriously, where would your masterpiece be without Linux? Languishing with the HURD?

If there is a moral buried in this rant, maybe it is this:

Be grateful for your abilities and your incredible success and your considerable fame. Continue to use that success and fame for good, not evil. Also, be especially grateful for Linux' huge contribution to that success. You, RMS, the Free Software Foundation, and GNU software have reached their current high profiles largely on the back of Linux. You have changed the world. Now, go forth and don't be a nag.

Thanks for listening.

GNU/Linux vs. Linux

The Linux community is like a herd of cats, freedom seems to be an important issue which appears in naming. RMS loves GNU/Linux & GNU+Linux, So many like Linux including Linus Torvalds.
Ubuntu dropped the suffix Linux, and Android seems quite secretive about its Linux roots. For a newbie 'Linux' sounds just right one word, like Mac, Windows, Android, I don't think I heard a lot someone saying Apple Macintosh (recently) or Microsoft Windows 8. Similarly, it may be equally hard to say Minix->Linux<-GNU<-Hurd.

Anyway, each is entitled to call it whatever s/he prefers. If it's all about credits. I don't think that anyone would ever underestimate the role RMS in GNU/Linux, he is cardinal to it, and naming does not mean ignoring credit, it's more of a convention.

Amerigo Vespucci, may not be happy when we say the States, Jay Miner did not like 'Amiga'. The man who invented the Walkman did not like it's name. Does any of these names mean discrediting. NO, it's just convention

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