GNU/Linux or just Linux?

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Fri, 2007-04-27 21:56 -- admin

You know our stance, but that doesn't mean it's the only one. Tell us what you think. Should the operating system including the GNU set of tools be referred to as GNU/Linux or just Linux? Richard Stallman says GNU/Linux; Linus Torvalds says Linux... what do you say?

alejandroz's picture

My desktop proudly says GNULINUX, next to a stylized Wildebeest head. So I use GNU/Linux. However, calling the whole platform GNU/Linux (and, particularly, pronouncing the slash) sounds a bit too much. I appreciate the work the FSF does, and whenever someone asks me questions like "What company makes Linux" I tell them about GNU first. But there's no such thing as a GNU/Linux OS. GNU/Linux might be considered an OS family, which itself is a part of the larger Linux OS family. There are distros with little to no GNU in them (like DeLi), and we still consider them a part of the larger "Linux" world.

In the end, the name of the OS isn't Linux or GNU/Linux, it's Debian, Ubuntu, Fedora, Gentoo or whatever distro you use. It's just that these OSes are compatible to a large degree, just like different versions of other OSes.

(Plus, rms isn't entirely honest when he says "the kernel was just the final part of the OS"... it's the single most important program!)

lcafiero's picture
Submitted by lcafiero on

Whether or not "the kernel was just the final part of the OS" as RMS states (rightfully, in my opinion), the fact that GNU contributes significantly to the working of the operating system commonly called "Linux" warrants that the operating system as a whole should be referred to as GNU/Linux (even if each OS is more commonly known by their distro names).

At Open Source Reporter, we refer to the operating system in general terms as GNU/Linux, and we pronounce it "GNU Linux" (with no slash). Naturally, we don't do this for specific distros that have "Linux" as part of their name (for example, we would refer to Fluxbuntu Linux as Fluxbuntu Linux because that's the name the developers gave it. However, in a news story, we might write "Fluxbuntu Linux, an Ubuntu-based GNU/Linux distribution, released its latest update today . . .").

GNU deserves its due: It's GNU/Linux.

Larry Cafiero
Open Source Reporter

Danboy's picture
Submitted by Danboy on

I like acknowledging the hard work of GNU team. But I often forget to say GNU/Linux.

I don't think that RMS insists on the "GNU" bit to be pompous though as some have said. Nor out of any sort of pride. I think he does it a) to get recognition for the GNU team (as Icafiero pointed out) and b) to remind people of the 4 freedoms.

Linus just doesn't seem to care about the freedoms as much as he does the open source-ness of his project.

I can also see how annoying it would be for the GNU team to have been almost there and then have Linux come along and take the naming rights to the whole system. I think most would agree.

However, I do agree that Linux has now become the defacto name for the OS as a whole and I think perhaps RMS and GNU should just let it lie. The mob has spoken. But we know how stupid people are when they are in large groups.

I understand that FSM uses GNU/Linux and Linux as terms for the OS and kernel, respectively. And, that this is done for consistency, clarity, correctness and probably because RMS had an early hand in promoting the magazine. He of course would have insisted on it. If you look, you will see his blogs have been reprinted in the early issues. Wasn't FSM originally going to be called "The Open Voice". If so I imagine he requested the magazine change names too.

So consistency and clarity I understand. Correctness is going to be subjective. And you can understand that a fledgling magazine might go with RMS's flow if it meant getting page rank and advertising. I imagine that, even now that RMS isn't backing them by linking from the home page of anymore, they still will have to stick with free software and GNU/Linux for consistency anyway.

I just wish I could remember to say GNU when I say Linux more often and that, either way, there wouldn't be so much emphasis put on the name of such a great OS.

guydjohnston's picture

I agree with the FSF and GNU project's arguments at that "GNU/Linux" is one of the many correct names for it (the others are longer, crediting more of the contributing projects), and "Linux" is an incorrect name for it. I also agree with their reasons why it's important to call it by one of the right names.

GNU - free as in freedom

pvdg's picture
Submitted by pvdg on

I don't think this is the most important question, as I've heard Richard Stallman himself remark two days ago in Lisbon. It is by far more important that people know what free software stands for and, in this context, what role the GNU project and the Linux kernel have played.

Here is a suggestion, in the form of dialog:

- What is that you're using instead of Windows?

- Debian! (replace by the name of your distro)

- Debian? What's that? Never heard of it.

- It's a GNU/Linux (pronounced GNU Linux) free operating system.

- Ah! Linux!

- No. GNU/Linux .

- Gnu?

- Yes, the GNU project. Once upon a time, in the 1970s, Richard Stallman...