Linux and the GNU system by Richard Stallman

Linux and the GNU system by Richard Stallman

Post by Leonard H. Tower J » Sat, 01 Jun 1996 04:00:00



Here is the text of the file etc/LINUX-GNU from the GNU Emacs
distribution.

I am posting it in the hope those concerned about this issue will read
and consider what rms actually has to say, instead of what people are
claiming he said.

New thoughts about additional ways to accomplish his objectives
welcome.

I am posting it to these newsgroups:
        gnu.misc.discuss
        comp.os.linux.misc
        comp.os.linux.development.apps
        comp.os.linux.advocacy
If discussion about this issue is also occurring in other newsgroups, I
ask that you re-post this article in them.

thanx -len                     http://www.ai.mit.edu/~tower/home.html
Director, Free Software Foundation
Member, League for Programming Freedom,

----------------------------------------------------------------------

                       Linux and the GNU system

The GNU project started 12 years ago with the goal of developing a
complete free Unix-like operating system.  "Free" refers to freedom,
not price; it means you are free to run, copy, distribute, study,
change, and improve the software.

A Unix-like system consists of many different programs.  We found some
components already available as free software--for example, X Windows
and TeX.  We obtained other components by helping to convince their
developers to make them free--for example, the Berkeley network
utilities.  Other components we wrote specifically for GNU--for
example, GNU Emacs, the GNU C compiler, the GNU C library, Bash, and
Ghostscript.  The components in this last category are "GNU software".
The GNU system consists of all three categories together.

The GNU project is not just about developing and distributing free
software.  The heart of the GNU project is an idea: that software
should be free, and that the users' freedom is worth defending.  For
if people have freedom but do not value it, they will not keep it for
long.  In order to make freedom last, we have to teach people to value
it.

The GNU project's method is that free software and the idea of users'
freedom support each other.  We develop GNU software, and as people
encounter GNU programs or the GNU system and start to use them, they
also think about the GNU idea.  The software shows that the idea can
work in practice.  People who come to agree with the idea are likely
to write additional free software.  Thus, the software embodies the
idea, spreads the idea, and grows from the idea.

This method was working well--until someone combined the Linux kernel
with the GNU system (which still lacked a kernel), and called the
combination a "Linux system."

The Linux kernel is a free Unix-compatible kernel written by Linus
Torvalds.  It was not written specifically for the GNU project, but
the Linux kernel and the GNU system work together well.  In fact,
adding Linux to the GNU system brought the system to completion: it
made a free Unix-compatible operating system available for use.

But ironically, the practice of calling it a "Linux system" undermines
our method of communicating the GNU idea.  At first impression, a
"Linux system" sounds like something completely distinct from the "GNU
system."  And that is what most users think it is.

Most introductions to the "Linux system" acknowledge the role played
by the GNU software components.  But they don't say that the system as
a whole is more or less the same GNU system that the GNU project has
been compiling for a decade.  They don't say that the idea of a free
Unix-like system originates from the GNU project.  So most users don't
know these things.

This leads many of those users to identify themselves as a separate
community of "Linux users", distinct from the GNU user community.
They use all of the GNU software; in fact, they use almost all of the
GNU system; but they don't think of themselves as GNU users, and they
may not think about the GNU idea.

It leads to other problems as well--even hampering cooperation on
software maintenance.  Normally when users change a GNU program to
make it work better on a particular system, they send the change to
the maintainer of that program; then they work with the maintainer,
explaining the change, arguing for it and sometimes rewriting it, to
get it installed.

But people who think of themselves as "Linux users" are more likely to
release a forked "Linux-only" version of the GNU program, and consider
the job done.  We want each and every GNU program to work "out of the
box" on Linux-based systems; but if the users do not help, that goal
becomes much harder to achieve.

So how should the GNU project respond?  What should we do now to
spread the idea that freedom for computer users is important?

We should continue to talk about the freedom to share and change
software--and to teach other users to value these freedoms.  If we
enjoy having a free operating system, it makes sense for us to think
about preserving those freedoms for the long term.  If we enjoy having
a variety of free software, it makes sense for to think about
encouraging others to write additional free software, instead of
additional proprietary software.

We should not accept the splitting of the community in two.  Instead
we should spread the word that "Linux systems" are variant GNU
systems--that users of these systems are GNU users, and that they
ought to consider the GNU philosophy which brought these systems into
existence.

This article is one way of doing that.  Another way is to use the
terms "Linux-based GNU system" (or "GNU/Linux system" or "Lignux" for
short) to refer to the combination of the Linux kernel and the GNU
system.

Copyright 1996 Richard Stallman
Verbatim copying and redistribution is permitted
without royalty as long as this notice is preserved.

----------------------------------------------------------------------

 
 
 

Linux and the GNU system by Richard Stallman

Post by Howard Goldste » Sun, 02 Jun 1996 04:00:00


Wonder to what extent "lignus" is a bona fide serious proposal, and
whether its floating is merely a device to render as palatable the
controversial (but less offensive) "GNU/Linux" moniker...

--
Above sentence donated to the public domain

 
 
 

Linux and the GNU system by Richard Stallman

Post by Bob Nels » Sun, 02 Jun 1996 04:00:00



Quote:>> Most introductions to the "Linux system" acknowledge the role played
>> by the GNU software components.  But they don't say that the system as
>> a whole is more or less the same GNU system that the GNU project has
>> been compiling for a decade.  They don't say that the idea of a free
>> Unix-like system originates from the GNU project.  So most users don't
>> know these things.

The operative phrase is: "...compiling for a decade". It took a college
kid from Helsinki to make it happen without waiting a decade or longer.
Maybe the GNU gnomes were spending more than ten hours per week on
required tasks like "...asteroid prospecting...".

Hey, RMS -- while you're at it -- why not just go ahead run for
president of the United States. We're sure your "software tax" proposal
will propel you to success. (And to think people are actually worried
about Bill Gates and *his* worldview). RMS' master plan no doubt includes
a renaming of the nation to the GNUnited States...complete with an
audio file on the 'net with its approved pronunciation.

--
=============================================================================

      Linux for fun, M$ for $$$...and the NFL for what really counts!
=============================================================================

 
 
 

Linux and the GNU system by Richard Stallman

Post by Liang-Shing » Sun, 02 Jun 1996 04:00:00


Leslie Lamport (author of LaTeX) used to implied that GNU is the name of
a species of animal.

How can one then allow the word Lignux to exist!

I think RMS's article has its point, until the last sentence of
mentioning the word Lignux which became too much and degratory to the
man who created Linux in the first place - Linux is derived from Linus
Torvalds' name - to change it is disrespectful.

I gather from RMS's article that he is arguing that a subset of most
distributable Linux system should be known as Linux/GNU system, rather
than just Linux system. But then if we are to give credit to GNU, we
should give credit to TeX (and derivatives) and XFree and so on .....
Where does it stop?

To me, Linux is the kernel. Linux plus GNU utilties make up most of a
working Linux system - minus GNU Emacs (I only use MicroEmacs). But
there is no fun at all at this point. One must have X and TeX/Metafont
too to make life really useful.

Can RMS give us a figure as to how many Linux/GNU systems there are?
(just Linux GNU, nothing else, no X, no TeX)

The slogan 'Linux, the choice of the GNU generation' seems sufficient to
spell all RMS has to say. GNU/Linux is fine. But Lignux is a no-go.

LSN

 
 
 

Linux and the GNU system by Richard Stallman

Post by Matthew Vandergrif » Sun, 02 Jun 1996 04:00:00



> The operative phrase is: "...compiling for a decade". It took a college
> kid from Helsinki to make it happen without waiting a decade or longer.
> Maybe the GNU gnomes were spending more than ten hours per week on
> required tasks like "...asteroid prospecting...".

Or maybe they were busy writing compilers, shells, editors, debugers,
text/file/compression utilities, and dozens of other programs that you
most likely use on your machine.

With no disrespect to Linus, it would have taken a lot longer for Linux
to emrge without the GNU tools.

Matthew

 
 
 

Linux and the GNU system by Richard Stallman

Post by Darin Johns » Sun, 02 Jun 1996 04:00:00


> I am posting it in the hope those concerned about this issue will read
> and consider what rms actually has to say, instead of what people are
> claiming he said.

I have read this before, I understand exactly what he's saying.
Understanding what he's saying, and agreeing that he is right are
different things.

> The GNU project is not just about developing and distributing free
> software.  The heart of the GNU project is an idea: that software
> should be free, and that the users' freedom is worth defending.  For
> if people have freedom but do not value it, they will not keep it for
> long.  In order to make freedom last, we have to teach people to value
> it.

The problem here is that you can easily make the logical mistake of
going the other way - that the idea implies GNU.  Not all free
software, and not all software with the stated goals that GNU has are
necessarily GNU (part of the problem being the unstated goals and
politics of GNU).

In this sense, all the various free software groups and individuals
can be thought of as political parties, in the sense of many non-US
countries.  Thus the parties may all be striving to move in the same
direction and are all somewhat in opposition to the ruling party, but
who still don't subsume each other and become a single party.  Thus,
you can be a BSD fan, and be gungho for free software and still
disagree with FSF in many details.  You can be for free software and
still write commercial code.

Free software != GNU.  One big problem with FSF and GNU and RMS is
the assumption that all free software fans should become FSF fans,
and would be if only they would look at things the right way.  But
it ain't necessarily so.

> This method was working well--until someone combined the Linux kernel
> with the GNU system (which still lacked a kernel), and called the
> combination a "Linux system."

Incorrect.  Someone combined the Linux kernel, with some GNU software,
and some BSD software, and some XFree86 software, and some software
with a GPL but not FSF affiliated, and some software unaffiliated with
either.  But instead of cheering "hurray for free software", they
wanted to say "hurray for GNU software", and were bummed that no one
else was cheering the same way.  FSF still thinks there can't be free
software without FSF being involved or promoted.

There was no GNU system as implied, in the sense that it was all done
and merely a kernel was missing.  I don't know of any distribution
either that was released as a pure linux and gnu-only release.  (not
even debian)

> But ironically, the practice of calling it a "Linux system" undermines
> our method of communicating the GNU idea.

Yeah, so what?  Linux is not GNU, Linux has no obligation to be a FSF
promoter and advertiser (that requirement never actually got into the
GPL).  Free software does not have to communicate the GNU idea, and
lots of free software does not (there's too much political baggage and
junk in the GPL and the GNU manifesto).

(my theory is that the real reason for sour grapes is that the FSF
does not appreciate the fact that Linux does not solve their political
goals, that commercial vendors, or hoarders in their lingo, can make
use of it and write software for it and so forth)

> At first impression, a
> "Linux system" sounds like something completely distinct from the "GNU
> system."  And that is what most users think it is.

And indeed, a "Linux system" *is* something completely distinct from
the "GNU system."  Yes, I understand RMS's feelings on this.  His
response is what is wrong.  Instead of just resigning himself to this,
or resigning himself to thinking that everyone is wrong but at least
we're all moving in the same direction, he gets sour grapes instead.
So what, even if Linux is a gnu system after all, why this immature
insistence of being vindicated?  And just like political parties, the
ruling party stays in power because the multitude of opposition
parties squabble over details among themselves.

Yes, we read RMS's reasoning, we all know what his feelings are.  He
was never denied his opportunity to speak his mind.

> Most introductions to the "Linux system" acknowledge the role played
> by the GNU software components.  But they don't say that the system as
> a whole is more or less the same GNU system that the GNU project has
> been compiling for a decade.  They don't say that the idea of a free
> Unix-like system originates from the GNU project.  So most users don't
> know these things.

Yes, GNU and FSF has always gotten lots of credit and lots of
acknowledgment from Linux.  GNU and FSF were never snubbed by Linux.

However, the idea of a free Unix-like system did not necessarily
originate from the GNU project.  What should it matter anyway?  Should
NetBSD swear fealty to FSF just because the GNU manifesto was written
before BSD became free?  Of course not.  FSF had a long fight opposed to
look-and-feel copyrights; but isn't this insistence that they get
credit no matter who finishes the free unix system because they
published this idea first the same as look-and-feel?

So Linux and BSD come out with a free unix kernel before GNU does.
Linux bundles up big pieces of GNU, along with pieces from elsewhere.
FSF should have been *thrilled* at this.  Instead they say "that was
our idea, so please put our name in the title".

> This leads many of those users to identify themselves as a separate
> community of "Linux users", distinct from the GNU user community.
> They use all of the GNU software; in fact, they use almost all of the
> GNU system; but they don't think of themselves as GNU users, and they
> may not think about the GNU idea.

Yeah, big deal.  I've thought about the GNU idea, and it conflicts
with my views of free software.  But I can use GNU without swearing
loyalty to FSF or the GPL, everyone else should be able to as well,
that's what "freedom" means.  Free software is about freedom for the
users, not just freedom for the programmers.

I use GNU software on commercial unix systems.  Other users can too.
I don't call these GNU systems, and I don't have to think about the
GNU idea to use the software either.

> So how should the GNU project respond?  What should we do now to
> spread the idea that freedom for computer users is important?

You should respond by supporting free software.  Not get bummed
because others have free software without bundling GNU restrictions
or labelling the entire work as a GNU work.

> If we enjoy having
> a variety of free software, it makes sense for to think about
> encouraging others to write additional free software, instead of
> additional proprietary software.

Amazing.  RMS is treating GNU as proprietary software himself, that's
his whole reason for bitching.

> We should not accept the splitting of the community in two.  Instead
> we should spread the word that "Linux systems" are variant GNU
> systems--that users of these systems are GNU users, and that they
> ought to consider the GNU philosophy which brought these systems into
> existence.

The community is already split.  This is because the FSF is
intransigent that free software can not exist apart from the GPL.  It
is split because the FSF wishes to be the only free software
community, they do not want to work alongside others that support free
software but who have different views of what that means.  The
community is split because FSF cannot understand that the community
and the FSF are different entities.  FSF does not want a democracy, at
least not one where people have differing views.

> This article is one way of doing that.  Another way is to use the
> terms "Linux-based GNU system" (or "GNU/Linux system" or "Lignux" for
> short) to refer to the combination of the Linux kernel and the GNU
> system.

One way to show that the FSF has gotten an over inflated ego and that
they are not the sole proprietors of free software is to continue
using the term "Linux system", or "Linux/GNU/BSD/XFree/etc system",
or even "Linux et al system".

> Copyright 1996 Richard Stallman
> Verbatim copying and redistribution is permitted
> without royalty as long as this notice is preserved.

Heck, you can do whatever you want with my posting, you can even put
your own name on it, publish it in a magazine and make money and not
send me a cent, and so forth.  I don't care.  However, Stallman may
consider this posting a derivative work.  I have in good faith copied
sections of the article verbatim, and have not presented portions out
of context.  I have claimed these portions of his article as my own.
The complete article is available in the article
<4onulk$...@life.ai.mit.edu>, it is NOT available from me and I will
NOT supply copies for 5 years from this date for the cost of
distribution only.  The program and newsreader used to generate this
article are available from prep.ai.mit.edu, ftp it yourself.
--
Darin Johnson
djohn...@ucsd.edu        O-
       Support your right to own gnus.
 
 
 

Linux and the GNU system by Richard Stallman

Post by HASDI RODZMANN HASH » Mon, 03 Jun 1996 04:00:00


: I think RMS's article has its point, until the last sentence of
: mentioning the word Lignux which became too much and degratory to the
: man who created Linux in the first place - Linux is derived from Linus
: Torvalds' name - to change it is disrespectful.

You have my support. :)

: I gather from RMS's article that he is arguing that a subset of most
: distributable Linux system should be known as Linux/GNU system, rather
: than just Linux system. But then if we are to give credit to GNU, we
: should give credit to TeX (and derivatives) and XFree and so on .....
: Where does it stop?

Linux is a kernel. Fine, everybody agrees with that. Because of non-GNU
stuff in the distributed Linux system, I wouldn't go so far to call it
Linux/GNU system or Lignux.

I call it Slackware. ;)

Sheesh. Just how much publicity on GNU RMS and his advocates want to get?
If I didn't know about Linux, you think I would care about GNU tools? I was
shocked when I learned that Linux is not a GNU kernel even though I knew
well enough at first that Linux is covered under GPL.

IMVHO, through Linux, Linus made GPL popular. I don't understand why some
people want to discredit him. They think he got more credit than he
deserves?

Regards,

Hasdi

 
 
 

Linux and the GNU system by Richard Stallman

Post by Andy T » Mon, 03 Jun 1996 04:00:00


With what the FSF is doing, one wonders if FSF is going to kill
itself?  If the FSF fails, can the free software community keeps the
current GNU software maintained and extended, in a coherent way?
Maybe it is time to plan for organizing a FSF II?

 
 
 

1. Linux and the GNU system by Richard Stallman


[...]

Unfortunately what he said (afterwards IIRC) is not quite the same as
what he _did_.

From what he says you would expect config.guess to do something like:

        if (kernel detected == linux)
        {
                if (user tools detected == gnu)
                        report system as lignux / linux-gnu
                else if (user tools detected == bsd)

                ... etc.
        }

What he actually did was:

        if (kernel detected == linux)
                report system as lignux

AFAIR it was what he did much more than what he said which caused the
upset.

ray

--

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