It’s Linux, Not GNU

I’m not a fan of using additional syllables where they’re not needed. I’m sick and bleeping tired of twits who insist I call every Linux distro “GNU/Linux.” Not every Linux distro uses GNU utilities. And many users’ experiences center on X, KDE, and other parts in userland that aren’t GNU or even GPL’ed.

I think one of the reasons people like Richard Stallman are so insistent on this point is to cover up the shortcomings of the GNU part. GNU is Not Unix — not by a mile. GNU is Not Usable, too. GNU is also not an operating system. It’s a half-assed, half-finished implementation that’s been hamstrung by the very people who insist on inserting “GNU” before Linux. Rather than embracing “free” software that already existed, Stallman, et al, chose to reinvent the wheel. They haven’t gotten very far and instead have wasted a lot of time in pissing matches about freedom and issues that are unrelated to free software (e.g., anti-DRM measures which are content- or data-centric rather than related to software, per se). Were it not for Linus Torvalds and his kernel, GNU would be even less Unix and usable and useful than it is now.

Some words take on meanings that are either broad or narrow. In the narrow sense, Linux is a kernel. In a broad sense, though, it encompasses a lot more than that — the broader ecosystem transmitted in the form of a distribution. In a way it’s analogous to trademarked names that become increasingly generic because of prevalence and familiarity. I know I’ve been given plenty of “xerox copies” from non-Xerox printers. I think Linux is like that and can be safely and accurately used in a broader sense to encompass not just the kernel but the full system of any given distro.

As I noted above, most users don’t experience the kernel or GNU utilities directly but rather through interfaces that are definitely not GNU. Without X, without desktop environments like KDE or window managers like enlightenment, Linux adoption would be even less than it is now (especially on desktops). But we don’t hear the X or KDE people insisting that it be called X/KDE/GNU/Linux. Thank goodness.

Moreover, not every distro uses the GNU utilities. Some use busybox  to replace GNU utilities and leave out a toolchain, but they still most definitely use the Linux kernel. This is where the arrogance of the FSF types and GNU/kooks prevails and cons developers into calling it GNU/Linux despite the lack of a GNU toolchain or utilities. I’m singling out Slitaz for using “GNU/Linux” when they’re really just Linux. Or busybox/Linux (which is even dumber than prepending GNU). How much GNU software is in Slitaz’ base? X isn’t GNU software. Neither is jwm or Xfce. Nor openbox. X isn’t even under the freaking GPL.

If it’s not GNU, why the stupid blanket insistence by the GNUtards that it be called what it isn’t? Dumb, dumb, dumb.

So this got me to thinking about how much of the GNU bloatware I might be able to replace. I already ditched bash for the free-er and more nimble ksh — mksh  to be precise. I considered the Linux port of OpenBSD’s ksh but the guy who ported it reflexively slapped GPL on it. I really hate that kind of thing but that’s an article for another day.

My latest de-GNU’ing came last week when I installed libarchive (from FreeBSD) and symlinked bsdtar and bsdcpio to be my de facto tar and cpio. I also added OpenBSD’s pax (with Debian’s patch). Can never have too many archiving utilities, especially when considering replacing one operating system (or one distro) with a better one.

I know I’m mostly stuck with GCC, which is unfortunate because it typifies the kitchen-sink bloat mentality of the GNU types. And there are some things like screen that I know I’ll continue to use whether it’s GNU or not — but that’s separate from the base utilities. I’m looking for more anti-GNU replacements for this just to see how little GNU I can have in my Linux. That way I can correct any lamer GNUtard who stupidly tries to correct me when I intentionally and willfully — and quite happily — leave GNU off Linux.


7 Responses to “It’s Linux, Not GNU”

  1. bbbmx Says:

    I disagree with you in many points. I think that you’re not concerned about the importance of the GNU Project’s labour and its crucial role in the different GNU/Linux distributions. You should know that without the GNU project, maybe we wouldn’t have any free software operating systems available now. neither “Linux” nor other ones like BSD, because of the lack of the GNU activist influence.

  2. lucky Says:

    You have the cart before the horse. If not for the Linux kernel, Richard Stallman, et al, would still be jacking off about what a treasure GNU will be. Sorry to put it in such graphic language, but that’s all there is to GNU: a bunch of wanking.

    The GPL wasn’t the start of free (as in freedom/as in speech) software. GPL is a restrictive, not free, license. BSD preceded GNU. BSD preceded Linux. BSD had a larger base than GNU because BSD was (is) Unix (GNU’s *Not* Unix). Most importantly, BSD actually worked. It took a third party — Linus Torvalds — to write a working and functional kernel that GNU could use. And Stallman (and some of his friends) weren’t all onboard with that at first. Regardless, Linux made GNU usable. Linux made GNU work.

    GNU = GNU’s Not Usable. A quarter of a century after Stallman notified the world of GNU, it STILL doesn’t work. One of my points above is that GNU’s not as necessary to Linux as Linux is to GNU. GNU is almost entirely irrelevant to Linux. It’s certainly irrelevant to the notion of free software — e.g., the BSDs and plenty of other free software under less restrictive licenses.

    Stallman and his merry band of zealots chose to not use or support BSD but rather to come up with their own more restrictive license and their own non-functional replacement for Unix. Linus said that he probably wouldn’t have started his kernel had BSD not been tied up in court in the AT&T suit. That would’ve left GNU where it is today: without its own kernel and with a bunch of blowhards like Stallman stupidly pontificating about bullshit rather than writing a working, functional, usable kernel.

    There would still be free software without FSF/GNU. It might actually be better without the impediments of the GPL and without the baggage of the anti-capitalist hippies at FSF.

  3. bbbmx Says:

    I know that Linux was also crucial for the ending of a completely free operating system, I was “the last major gap” for it. But that doesn’t mean that GNU wasn’t important for its development. Linux and GNU where the initial combination for comlplete a free operating system. If that time we had tried to use GNU without a kernel, it wouldn’t fuction. But actually I we had installed Linux by itself into a computer, it would have no sense, because a kernel itself doesn’t constitutes a whole operating system in the terms that we use it for. Actually, that’s what Linus Torvalds did after completing his kernel: he look for another software that will fuction with it, and he found that GNU was already available. He could build his own programs to complete his “Linux” OS, but he didn’t do this, he took the GNU OS to make his kernel “usable” for general purposes.

    Actually, in 1991, the GNU’s kernel was in development (the GNU Hurd), but Richard Stallman decided to put this project aside because of Linux. Ok, that was because of historical reasons, but it doesn’t mean that GNU wasn’t able to be finished. The important thing now is to support the improvement of the GNU/Linux distributions.

    It is also important to stress that there is a version of GNU/Hurd available to prove. It is not completely usabe (it is in alpha state), but remember that GNU/Linux was in the same situation some years ago.
    The link is:

    About BSD: ok, this is an elder operating system than GNU, and also I know that it was a variant of the original Unix operating system; but its license was propietary in the 80s. When the early 90s come, its license changed to a free one (BSD license) and the BSD developers actually did this because of the example of the GNU project. Besides this, BSD developers didn’t had the difficulties that the GNU project had to complete a free operating system: BSD was an university project, and also had AT&T facilities to take the Unix’s source code; GNU only had the support of many volunteers and some financial support through the FSF. What’s more, the GNU’s kernel wasn’t being finished in 1991 because it was very complicated to build (it consisted of many services, that would be coordinated by a microkernel). I know that Linux Torvalds was able to finish by itself a first release of a monolithic kernel, but note that it is very different to build a monolithic kernel that a collection of services coordinated by a microkernel (this is more complicated to build, but when finished, its more efficient).

    Again, I don’t believe that the free software world would de the same without the GNU Project. It represented the first effort against propietary issues. I know that the GPL license has its own limitations, but the reason of that is about preserve free software, free, i.e. its objective is not only to make programs free, but to preserve those liberties into modified versions. If you release a program onto a BSD license, another person or organization can take your program, modify it, and release their new version onto a privative license. That could be good in terms of functionality, but it’s not good in terms of ethics (ethics are which really matters when we talk about free software, not only functionality).

    Whatever, the FSF has provided another kind of license that is less restrictive in that terms (LGLP).

  4. lucky Says:

    A few clarifications to what you wrote…

    1. Berkeley’s own code was always “free,” AT&T’s wasn’t. Specifically, the networking stack was freely available so it could be incorporated by anyone without regard for release of code.
    2. The BSD license has more to do with the fact that those professors working on BSD were public employees. They didn’t think it would be appropriate to tie up code the taxpayers paid for.
    3. You and I have very different notions of ethics.

    Let’s tie these things together. BSD included a robust networking stack. It was available for anyone to use as anyone saw fit. That includes within a proprietary product. As a result, there was no need for anyone to come up with their own networking standards which wouldn’t work with myriad other operating systems’ networking stacks. That free code enabled Microsoft to play in the same world as Unix and Apple and anyone else. It became the standard. Was anyone harmed by Microsoft’s and Apple’s inclusion of this code? No. How was it unethical for those companies to include it in their operating systems, even if it required or included additional tweaks so it would work adequately in their own code bases? TCP/IP was available to all without any strings.

    A GNU version, under the ridiculous terms of the GPL, would make demands on those companies that choose to lock up their code that those companies may not care to assume. So if TCP/IP had been GPL’ed, it would be used by fewer operating systems rather than be universal. And you’d have Windows functioning with its own closed stack, Apple with theirs, and everyone scrambling to make their stacks operate with either or both. In a Windows world, it does matter. It would mean you wouldn’t have the ease of networking that you have today because the solutions would be kludges like those used to operate in areas where Microsoft hasn’t opened specs for interoperability. Not for document formatting, but for something as basic as networking.

    Moreover, freedom is a two way street. The GPL ignores this. It sets requirements for use and distribution, just like EULAs do. The BSD license allows those who want to use it to use it as they see fit. There’s nothing unethical about taking *free* (as opposed to restricted) code and using it. Nothing at all. It wasn’t unethical for Microsoft to use the BSD TCP/IP stack. It was laudable! It was desirable! It meant all those freaking Windows computers could network with any other operating system. GPL isn’t about freedom, it’s about restriction. BSD is about freedom. Period.

    I think your concerns about BSD code being locked up have been disproven in the real world. Many who use code from FreeBSD, NetBSD, and OpenBSD feed back their in-house patches. It saves them from having to go through and manually patch when new updates and releases are made. I don’t think BSD developers whine nearly as much or as often or as loudly as Linux developers do about this “unethical” problem. They get plenty of patches to review. It’s not take-take, it’s give and take. And, unlike in the GPL universe, it’s done without any coercion or any pressure or any bullshit about ethics.

    HURD isn’t a functional, robust operating system. It works only on a restricted set of hardware. It’s pre-alpha, it’s experimental. After a quarter century. Heh.

    Stallman didn’t come up with the idea of free software. He didn’t create the first free system. He tried to supplant that, to reinvent a wheel. He failed. Get over it.

  5. mirabilos Says:

    The mksh author says hi and remarks that mksh is derived from OpenBSD’s ksh and, with one deliberate exception (GNU bash style $PS1) and one technical exception (the ability to set/get multiple ulimits in one call breaks legacy scripts) a superset of it.

  6. lucky Says:

    Thanks for commenting, TG, and for your contributions to open source software. I continue to use mksh in Linux.

  7. teiresias Says:

    If you’re interested in an alternative to gcc, have a look at pcc.

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