Okay, I say "linux". I admit it. However, if I'm writing something up, like documentation, I'll use its full "You're in trouble mister" name, "GNU/Linux". But when I'm just talking, it's far to much of a mouthful, and far too vestigial to worry about much. GNU/Linux is its full and rightful name, but I would also compare it to always referring to the car you drive as "2001 Ford Focus ZX3".

Look at it this way, if you will: If you know enough about it to know its full name is GNU/Linux, then you know it is anyway, so you shouldn't need to fully qualify to say it.

And the corollary: If you don't know it is full name is GNU/Linux then you probably don't know what the GNU Foundation is, and so having people add "GNU/" to the front of it will just serve to confuse and irritate you.

I've often wanted to ask a question of RMS: "Sir, if you insist that everyone call it 'GNU/Linux', do you also insist that everyone address you 'Mister Richard (whatever the M stands for) Stallman' without exception? By your own logic, you should."

This whole GNU/Linux thing is silly.

It is really kind of pretentious for RMS to claim that any Linux distribution other than the non-existent GNU/Linux distribution is GNU/Linux.

Calling it GNU/Linux implies that it is GNU software plus the Linux kernel, only. I don't think this kind of system exists, because there are many pieces that are not GNU included.

The biggest obvious piece, of course, is the X Window System, which while originated by MIT and later transfered to the X Consortium, and now the Open Group, was never owned by GNU. Therefore, if it includes X, it can't be a pure GNU/Linux system.

Actually, if you count lines of code in Redhat 6.2, code using the GPL or LGPL amounts to about 60%. This doesn't mean that 60% of linux is GNU, as lots of people are using the GNU license without assigning rights for their code to the FSF. RMS likes to claim their work as his anyway. (I can't agree with Mr. Wheeler's conclusions because of this.) Actually, no system is pure. Redhat even includes pieces written for or by Debian, and it would be clearly wrong to call it the RedHat/Debian distribution.

So, to summarize my worthless opinion on this:

  • GNU/Linux is awkward to read, say, and write.
  • GNU/Linux leaves out at least 40% of the other authors, and is therefore just as inaccurate as just saying "Linux."
  • The suggestion that a project be named after the largest contributer is absurd, considering that GNU was around long before Linux, and didn't catch on nearly as wildly. The project should be named after what most contributed to its success--the Linux kernel. That's why it's called Vespucciland and not Vikingland.
  • I think it is safe to say that close to 100% of the linux source code (kernel or not) is GNU influenced. We may not have been as successful without Linus Torvalds, but without GNU, we wouldn't be here.
  • RMS wishes he had completed a project as cool as Linux. Maybe some day he will, and then the tables will be reversed. Meanwhile, he's just got sour grapes that he isn't getting credit for the success he inspired but was unable to create.
  • I acknowledge RMS and the work of the FSF. I appreciate the implications of the GPL. They didn't write Linux. They didn't put together a distribution that can be clearly labeled GNU--they even offended Debian. Yes, their work was used. I thank them. Out of convenience, I don't include their name (or any other of the many contributors) when naming a Linux Distribution. Calling it GNU/Linux is pretentious and wrong, because it makes it look like RMS/FSF deserves all the rest of the credit. It'd be silly to call it the GNU/BSD/MIT/Redhat/Debian/Slackware/Linux distribution. People would be confused and not know what you mean. Calling it Linux is much clearer. Calling it Linux Distribution or Linux Kernel is less ambiguous.

Update: Since writing this, Redhat 7 was released, and David Wheeler has re-estimated stuff. Now, according to his SLOC, the largest three packages (kernel, Mozilla, and X) are not GNU. Neither Mozilla nor X use GPL--each has their own license. GPL or LGPL covers about 63% of the code. Visit the SLOC for details.

Wheeler, David A., Counting Lines of Code, http://www.dwheeler.com/sloc

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