"There is no system but GNU and Linux is one of it's kernels"

The subject line is a quote from Richard Stallman the founder of the GNU operating system,

personally I find him a facinating, clever & intelligent man who seems to mirror so many things I believe in
particularly regarding the way we are manipulated by big business and big government

Having listened to him on various you tube videos etc he gives me the impression of a lone crusader who isn’t given the credit he deserves
not only for his contribution to the operating system we all use on this forum but also his fight for our our freedom to use it.

So I have a few questions

(1) would I be wrong in saying that if it was not for Richard Stallman we would not have our beloved Linux operating system today

(2) Would I be wrong in saying that Richard Stallman is the true founder of “Linux” (the operating system) not Linus Torvalds

(3) Would I be wrong in saying that we do Richard Stallman an injustice by not always referring to “Linux” as GNU/Linux

I’m asking these questions because there are many things about this subject I would like to understandand and would just like to know the views of the the more knowledgable people on this forum


(1) would I be wrong in saying that if it was not for Richard Stallman we would not have our beloved Linux operating system today

First of all Linux is NOT an OS … never was … it’s an integral part of what’s become commonly called a Linux distribution.

Would Linux distributions have happened without Stallman … hard to say for sure, I gather there are/were other compilers available … but without gcc/coreutils the road to what’s “popularly” known as a Linux distribution would have probably been very different.

(2) Would I be wrong in saying that Richard Stallman is the true founder of "Linux" (the operating system) not Linus Torvalds

Erm, YES, you’d be wrong … Linux is NOT an OS but OS’s that use the Linux kernel are popularly known as Linux distributions … Stallman wrote gcc with a GNU “OS” in mind which was supposed to use the GNU HURD kernel which still doesn’t exist.

The father of the Linux kernel is Linus Torvalds … so you might be able to pick a “distribution” and say Linus and Richard are equal fathers (along with some others), but you can’t say Stallman is the father of Linux.

(3) Would I be wrong in saying that we do Richard Stallman an injustice by not always referring to "Linux" as GNU/Linux

Now this can only be an opinion, but to my way of thinking NO, the GNU toolchain is an integral part of pretty much every Linux distribution out there (certainly and AFAIK coreutils), but it could equally be argued that Xorg, ALSA, GIMP/Gnome, SAMBA, and a host of other projects deserve the same recognition, but nobody wants to call it GNU/Xorg/ALSA/GIMP/Gnome/SAMBA/Linux/etc./etc.

Or do we name it after the hundreds of thousands of contributors ?

And before someone jumps in and says none of those are necessary … try doing much with just the Linux kernel and coreutils

Nearly everyone recognises RMS’s contribution to Linux, but it had to be named fairly sensible after something … and that just turned out to be the kernel, as far as I know there was no plan for that to happen … it just happened, and is just a “popular” term for an OS with a Linux kernel … but Stallman is free to call it whatever he wants, as is everyone else … hell, call it Fred if you like :slight_smile:

IMHO, Linux does just fine as a blanket term that popularly encompasses all the projects that make up a Linux distribution … and it’s popular usage doesn’t detract one bit from the other projects contribution unless their input is actively denied or hidden.
(Canonical, I’m looking at you)

RMS is a genius, and modern computing would be a poorer place without him … but whilst I acknowledge his previous and continued input to Linux and FOSS as a whole, I think he’d garner more respect if he stopped stamping his feet and demanding it, and reigned in some of the more eccentric rants he goes off on from time to time :slight_smile:

As I said, this is just MY opinion … others are free to see things quite differently.

RMS seems to get his drive from being bitter about something … so long may he be bitter …

OK, I’ll stop doing a “Stallman” now, and this being an emotive subject, wait for someone to refute every one of my opinions :wink:


"First of all Linux is NOT an OS .. never was .. it's an integral part of what's become commonly called a Linux distribution."

I understand that I just made a poor job of wording my question I should have used the word distribution rather than operating system

Erm, YES, you'd be wrong .. Linux is NOT an OS but OS's that use the Linux kernel are popularly known as Linux distributions .. Stallman wrote gcc with a GNU "OS" in mind which was supposed to use the GNU HURD kernel which still doesn't exist.

I understand that also but I’m talking from an ideological standpoint rather than a technical one, both Stallman and Torvalds contributed technically to what is now called “Linux distributions” along with other projects as you pointed out, but the idealistic concept of putting the compoment parts together and creating a free operating system (free as in speech) is that of Richard Stallman not Linus Torvalds.

From what I understand Linus Torvalds wrote the Linux kernel for purely personal/practical reasons, in fact I read somewhere that he said if he had known the BSD kernel was available he wouldn’t have wrote his own, but the ideal of a free operating system is Richard Stallmans and that ideal is the true creater of the Linux distributions we use today, all the other projects you mentioned such as Xorg, ALSA, GIMP/Gnome, SAMBA, etc even the Linux kernel itself are accessories after the fact at least that’s how I see it.

I don’t want to take anything away from Linus Torvalds, I think he’s a brilliant man and we all have a lot to thank him for, I just feel that he gets an unfair share of the limelight possibly because he comes across as nicer guy than Richard Stallman or because Linux is a sexier name than GNU.

By the way Fred would be a dreadful name for an operating system and I wouldn’t use anything called Fred no matter how good it was :slight_smile:

RMS is great.
He really lays it on the line and is usually right.
He’s not popular because he tells it how it is and such people are rarely popular.
Most people do not want to hear about the power and pervasiveness of Corporations, their rather nasty practices or their agendas for market and customer control. They want to believe the adverts - that all is well, all is lovely and shiny and that Corporations and Governments have your best interests at heart.

He’s a kind of voice in the wilderness, crying out “repent”.

There is an intersting entry on Wikipedia titled GNU/Linux naming controversy.

Free software legally guarantees the freedom-rights to use, to share, and to modify, in the license. This definition of free software that refers to end user freedoms (and not monetary cost), was coined by Richard Stallman (as early as February 1986), who founded the Free Software Foundation to promote the concept. The concept is often encapsulated in the phrase - 'free' as in '[b]free speech[/b]', not as in 'free beer.'

Stallman uses phrases like “free as in speech”, and “free as in freedom” a lot … yet he wants to IMPOSE a naming convention.

Linus doesn’t jump up and down demanding it’s called Linux/Ubuntu or Linux/Fedora.

The term “Linux” to describe more than the kernel is just a “popular” naming convention used by the masses … ironically thanks to Stallman you have the RIGHT to call it whatever you want … so people did just that :slight_smile:

To say the other components came “after the fact” seems to me irrelevant … they are all as necessary components of a modern Linux distribution as the GNU toolchain so the same argument Stallman uses (recognition) applies to them too, but the name would quickly get out of hand.

Point is Stallman is trying to get people to rename something that really doesn’t exist … the “Linux OS” … and doing it against the background of his own ideology of “freedom” to do with it as you want.

If getting rid of confusion over component contribution is his goal, reading SeZo’s link will show that the only common component in ALL Linux based OS’s/Distros is the Linux kernel … if your routers or Androiid phone is commonly referred to as “Linux” wouldn’t the term GNU/Linux cause confusion there (where there are little or no GNU components) ? … RMS/FSF agree the line has to be drawn somewhere (so we don’t end up with GNU/X11/Apache/Linux/TeX/Perl/Python/FreeCiv) … so it’s my contention that as the only common component is the Linux kernel, it should be known as “Linux” … or Fred … or maybe Mary Lou :wink:

He’s free to call anything that uses the HURD kernel, a HURD based OS :wink:

I like RMS he’s a grumpy old idealist tw*t, much like myself … but nobody ever listens to me either, particularly when I’m being a hypocrite. :wink:


The problem with “free as in speech” not “free as in beer” is that Linux, for the most part, is free. You can download it and install it and do pretty much what you like with it and that, by most people’s standards, is “free”. So it does add to the confusion when he says “it’s not free as in beer” but free as in speech.

Linux users realise that what he means is “it wasn’t free to produce”, time was spent, resources consumed and so on and that he’s trying to get people to appreciate the time and effort that it cost and maybe even make a donation or find some way to contribute something back.

Sometimes it reminds me of the Life of Brian. Are you the People’s Front of Judea, the Judean People’s Front or the Judean Popular People’s Front?

I’d (kinda) agree … what’s in a name.

I see no harm generally in “GNU/Linux” … if that’s how you want to refer to it.

But the fact that your router and Android phone don’t (necessarily) use the GNU toolchain but do use the Linux kernel, suggests that the title of this topic is indeed not totally correct :o … and along with the state of the HURD kernel (after 20 years in development), it also goes some way to suggesting it’s may be easier to write/gather together a toolchain than to write/maintain a working stable kernel.

So call it whatever you wish, just don’t demand I do too … I must add I’m growing kinda fond of “Mary Lou” myself … reminds me of a line from Cheech & Chong’s Big Bamboo … “and what about Mary Lou ?”.



1. would I be wrong in saying that if it was not for Richard Stallman we would not have our beloved Linux operating system today

You would be correct to say things would have been a little different, but incorrect to assume that there would not be something “like” Linux or indeed called “Linux”.

(2) Would I be wrong in saying that Richard Stallman is the true founder of "Linux" (the operating system) not Linus Torvalds

Yes you would.

(3) Would I be wrong in saying that we do Richard Stallman an injustice by not always referring to "Linux" as GNU/Linux

Yes you would.

There’s an easy way to look at this, without the wheel, we would not have cars. Given the wheel was invented by “Ug” the caveman, should (a) assume that without Ug there would be no cars, and (b) rename Ford Motors to Ug/Ford Motors?

We’re taking nothing away from Ug’s achievement, but at some point, someone was going to invent the wheel, it was just going to happen, so should we all be beholden to Ug forever-more or indeed attribute all future work, inventions and developments to Ug, just because he got there first? No. The first men on the moon are famous, but they neither own the moon or take credit for all space exploration undertaken since their exploits - even though they were the pioneers.

In my mind RMS’s greatest achievement was his ‘C’ compiler, which is the compiler Linus used to develop Linux and the compiler still used today to compile the Linux Kernel and all associated applications. It’s there because it was the first, not because it’s rocket science. Writing compilers isn’t easy, but then again it’s not “that” difficult - again good skills, good choice of project, right time as opposed to “if he didn’t do it, the world would have stood still”.

Conversely RMS is also responsible for the existence of EMACS. I’m not saying this totally negates all the good work he did on gcc, however … :wink:

Linux itself was modelled on a “free” system called “MINIX”, and when I say “free” I mean the source code was freely available, rather than it being re-usable under a GNU type license. (indeed the fact that it wasn’t free was one of the reasons Linus started on Linux) Without wanting to take anything away from Linus, “anyone” could take that code, see how it worked and have a crack, given the time skills and inclination. What I’m getting at is that at that time there was a demand, so “something” was going to happen - hats off to Linus for being the one to do it.

Around this time there was a system called “Coherent” which was a “from scratch” Unix by “Mark Williams Company”. The documentation for this was incredible and I used their manual for years while working on Linux. Although this was closed source it was literally as cheap as chips, bit it was discontinued in 1994 because (unlike SCO for example) MWC could see the writing on the wall re; Linux. i.e. a cheap commercial Unix wasn’t going to compete with a free one, any more than an expensive commercial Unix was.
[but if someone offered you a copy of “Unix” for $50 with a 2000 page high quality manual, at the time, if it weren’t for Linux, I’m pretty sure it would’ve taken off]

And there were other alternatives like Plan9, BSD/FreeBSD which could quite possibly have “become” free, not to mention that if it weren’t for Linux GNU/HURD would’ve been finished and out there long ago.

Isaac Newton: If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.

Sure, those who’ve gone before and contributed deserve credit, but you can only say they helped speed progress, not that without them we’d still be running round in bear skins carrying clubs …

It looks like the consensus of opinion is that I’m wrong on all 3 counts, but I don’t suppose it matters what you call it and is a question of personal opinion, however I still believe Richard Stallman is not given the the recognition he deserves for his vision and what he has done and is still doing for all of us.

ps “Marylou” is definitely better that “Fred” but I think GNU/Linux is better :slight_smile:

I think we’re revisiting existing threads here, but calling a Linux distro a GNU/Linux distro is 100% accurate. However calling Linux itself GNU/Linux is about as valid as calling it Ug/Linux. Linux is an OS and not a distro and RMS will happily tell you that Linux is NOT the GNU kernel, that would be something called HURD.

Before you be ‘too’ beholden to RMS, just bear in mind how much damage Linux has done to the HURD kernel. If I were him, might be just a little ticked off … I do seem to recall reading comments to that effect in the past (!)

Sent from my Nexus S using Tapatalk 2

Personally I think RMS “deserves” a lot of credit … it’s just a pity he “demands” it.

But I’ll never call it GNU/Linux:-

a) it sounds/looks stupid.

and more importantly …

b) changing now to using that name without including all other projects would IMHO be as unfair as he claims “Linux” is.


c) recursive acronyms are only amusing for so long ::slight_smile:


I just had a quick read of the Wikipedia page, and my initial reaction was RMS’s attitude seemed a little narcissistic with regards to GNU./Linux … but reading on his current perference seems to be GNU Plus Linux, which seems more accurate and in terms of order , historically correct. However, the fact that the most important item of the combination doesn’t come first does lead me back to my first reaction (!)

I suppose my exposure to RMS has been limited over the years, what I can say is that he’s a good coder and had been responsible for things I would consider to be good, and bad (in context) … I can also say that there are a number of core issues that relate to Open Source where I think he is just totally wrong and has the attitude of a pure academic … and unfortunately I have had a fair bit of exposure to academics who’ve never lived in the real world and have no clue as to how it works - so my opinion may be a little tainted on that score.

Monday Morning Silliness

The biggest issue for RMS is people’s total refusal to be autistic about names.

To “google” now means to search, even if you don’t use google and despite Google’s pleas for people not to use their name in that manner.
To “hoover” means to vacuum clean a room, even if you don’t actually own a Hoover Vacuum Cleaner. No one says “I’m off to dyson the lounge”.

Thus, we use Linux and we don’t give a rodent’s rear end what it should rightly be called. In fact I’d go so far as to say that there is a semi-conscious refusal to use the correct name, particularly when it’s a bit of a mouthful.

We could get into a debate about whether it’s pronounced Lin-ux or Leye-nux. Linus might be pronounced as Linn-us overseas but this is England and we say “Leye-nus”. I’ve been using Linux for just over 10 years now and I still hesitate to say it the way it’s “supposed” to be said. “Foreign pronunciations” just don’t come out properly, least of all from a Brummie (though I barely have the accent).

The saddest truth of all for those of us who have found a way to express our morality and politics through the OS we use, is that 99% of the world’s population couldn’t care less. They’re not interested, not impressed and remain unmoved. It’s been said that one can get the entire world’s population on the Isle of White (if everyone stands still and there’s no pushing at the back). By that standard I wonder if we might not get all the world’s Linux users into an Olympic sized swimming pool (being a favoured measure of quantity in the media). :wink:

Peace and seasonal nonsense to y’all.

In 1993 (I think, might’ve been '94) Linus inserted a .wav file into the Linux source distribution to clarify the pronunciation, and so far as I know it’s still there. It was a sound clip of him saying “My name is Linux Torvalds and I pronounce Linux, Linux”. To my recollection he made no mention of “GNU” (!) and unless he’s changed that, given Linus is the author and maintainer, I don’t think renaming by anyone including RMS holds any water.

my thinking is how much can you do with just a kernel what can you do without it
but then bsd is known as just bsd but gnu/hurd is known as gnu/hurd as a working pc needs both to work it’s a coalition so i think gnu/linux is only fair

Riiiiiight … just like we call FreeBSD GNU/FreeBSD … ya’know, that BSD kernel that comes with a complete set of GNU tools. … not to mention GNU/OSX … should I go on?

Linux and GNU … two different things … why do you think RMS now wants to use “GNU plus Linux”? Not because he no longer wants the credit for something that isn’t his, but because HURD is nearing release so he can push his own OS instead.

RMS helped to enable Linux in the same way NASA enabled the BBC micro… that was great, but It’s still the BBC micro, not the NASA micro!

Sent from my Nexus S using Tapatalk 2

debian in the past has worked on a gnu/netbsd and is still working on gnu/hurd
they have never call anything but what things are imho


HURD is a part of GNU, it’s developed and supported by GNU, so let’s just ignore that one for a second.

If you put Linux with GNU tools, it would seem normal to brand the combination GNU/Linux. (or Linux/GNU)
If you take NetBSD and put it with GNU tools, the same would apply, but NetBSD is NetBSD, it’s not GNU/NetBSD, please check the website here;

They do not mention GNU anywhere on the page.

Visit the Linux Kernel home page;

You will find it’s a website for the “LINUX KERNEL”, not the “GNU/Linux Kernel”.
GNU is mentioned “ONCE” on the home page, and it’s a reference to “gcc”, which is used to compile the kernel (!)

Linux.org - mentions of GNU on the home page - zero.
Linux.com - mentions of GNU on the home page - zero.
Linux.co.uk - mentions of GNU on the home page - one, as in “supported by”
Ubuntu.com - zero

Lets just tell it how it is, “GNU/Linux” is an attempted hijacking by people working on the GNU project who want their contributions to the Open Software movement displayed for the world to see in the name of the most popular free Open Source operating system.

Now we’re hitting the core of what’s wrong with some of the beliefs held some some members of the GNU movement.

Just because you did something great that someone else then used to make something else, also great, does not mean that you have any entitlement to their work - read up on the different versions of the GPL and why version 3 wasn’t exactly welcomed with open arms !!

RMS developed something great, but if you look at some of the things in GPLv3, it seems the GNU movement it trying to control what people try to do with the original work, and indeed any work based on this work - which is the OPPOSITE of what many people believe to be the ethos behind Open Source.

Why is this damaging??

At the moment I’m developing some software and am having to go to GREAT lengths to write my own code to duplicate the work of a number of what people consider to be “standard” libraries, simply because the licensing on those libraries has become “blurred”. It had slowed down the time it’s taking me to write the code by a factor of 10.

There is an argument for saying that if this is the way GNU is going, we might be better off without it !!

This is quite interesting, I was beginning to wonder if it was just me …

Quote from Eric Raymond;

Some people object that the name "Linux" should be used to refer only to the kernel, not the entire operating system. This claim is a proxy for an underlying territorial dispute; people who insist on the term GNU/Linux want the FSF to get most of the credit for Linux because [Stallman] and friends wrote many of its user-level tools. Neither this theory nor the term GNU/Linux has gained more than minority acceptance.
And from Linus;
Well, I think it's justified, but it's justified if you actually make a GNU distribution of Linux ... the same way that I think that "Red Hat Linux" is fine, or "SuSE Linux" or "Debian Linux", because if you actually make your own distribution of Linux, you get to name the thing, but calling Linux in general "GNU Linux" I think is just ridiculous.
I guess it depends on whether we're going to go with the author or the guys who just want the credit?? What do you think - should Linus get the credit for his work, or should he be made to give the credit to the FSF because he used their compiler?? (RMS and Linus don't seem to get on so well, wonder why eh?!)