[olug] Why it's okay to say "Linux" and not specifically "GNU/Linux"

Anthony Base yeloboltc at gmail.com
Thu Jul 8 04:25:21 UTC 2010

To (mercifully) sum this writing up so that it isn't such a big read,
Linux (as a name) covers the scope of all distros using a technology,
GNU/Linux does not, but it's nice to do so. People really should know
that Linux is just a program, a kernel, and the operating system as a
general whole doesn't exactly have a name, so you should call it by the
distro name. The full text is below.

Please pardon me.

I'm sure you all are aware of Richard Stallman's writing about GNU/Linux

    Why We Say GNU/Linux and Not Just "Linux".
<cid:part1.00030205.07010507 at gmail.com> (By Richard Stallman).

The belief held in the writing seems to assume that people speak of
Linux as if it were an operating system, and people do in ignorance,
unfortunately, but even this reasoning is a tad unwarranted. Stallman
and his followers of GNU like to assume that they have created an
operating system or vital aspects of a Linux OS and feel that their work
should be credited to the extent of this Operating System including
their name.

Now, mind, it isn't warranted in the sense that such is justified,
because it isn't, and I will explain this in a second, but not without
telling the other side of the story, how it /is /warranted, in the sense
that it is possible to explain the reasoning, that there are bases (on
the fact that the followers /did/ develop a vast amount of technology
for themselves and Linux operating systems) of reasoning in themselves,
but that still does not meet the point that it is /not /a reason to
necessarily call the OS "GNU/Linux" as a standard. They do see a reason
for leaving it out:

When you think of Linux operating systems, you don't think of an
operating system named "Linux" (although some unfortunately do), but you
think of an OS that /uses /a little program that contributes to an
operating system. There is no such thing as an "operating system"
besides any conceptual definition. It's a term, and nothing more, a
short name for a collection of programs that interact with each other
(or are ordered according to permissions, but you get the idea). To
think that GNU deserves any right to be included in the title of a Linux
operating system only covers the scope of Linux operating system distros
that use GNU technology (which is a lot, and this is a possible and
somewhat valid reason for assuming such a ridiculous claim, but somewhat
does not mean factually valid, and this is because truly there can be an
operating system that uses zero GNU technology, even licenses, in fact).

This article isn't designed to tell people to stop calling GNU/Linux
what it is for Linux distros that use GNU technology, because GNU
technology will hold the same claim to fame as Linux due to being
programs, themselves. Distros that use GNU should be titled such.
Distros that use Kdenlive should be titled Kdenlive/Linux. They don't
have to, but as Kdenlive and GNU developers would like such, perhaps you
should title it Linux/Ubuntu/Kdenlive/GNU/GIMP/Thunderbird/Skype.
Calling it Linux does not imply that Linux is an operating system, it is
up to people and the community to understand that difference.

The article isn't designed to tell people that they should call
GNU/Linux such, either. The name "Linux" covers the scope of all Linux
distros, so if you have a Linux distribution, it's okay to call it that.
A more accurate name for the system in general would be your distro's
name. Those are the real operating systems, technically.

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