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SubjectRe: Article: IBM wants to "clean up the license" of Linux

On Tue, 22 Dec 1998, George Bonser wrote:
> TO be quite frank, it appears to me that you "ask" people to use the term
> GNU/Linux to capitalize on the success of Linux to attract more attention
> to your project. The GNU project is a good one and deserves more
> attention, but I do not think this is the best way to do that. The name of
> the kernel sould be whatever Linus Torvalds decides to call it and the
> name of a distribution should be whatever the distributor chooses to call
> it. It is, after all, free software. There is a distribution, Debian,
> that has chosen to call itself GNU/Linux ... though I think it should be
> Debian/GNU Linux and not Debian GNU/Linux but that is my own personal
> opinion and I do not try to correct them. GNU is free to produce a
> distribution but what would you call it? GNU GNU/Linux?

I actually like your proposed alternative (Debian/GNU Linux). You've come
much closer regarding how GNU software fits into the picture.

But I do not think it's a bad thing for FSF/GNU to benefit from the
popularity of Linux. Linux is a great kernel in very many ways but its
widespread use has depended hugely on GNU software. We know this, but
someone reading an intro article in a Ziff-Davis mag or buying a CD
probably has no idea. And they should. On the positive side I have seen
some press attention lately reporting on other free software successes
such as sendmail and apache.

This broadening of awareness helps spread the realization that Linux is
not a fluke, that the methodology behind Linux is, and has been for some
time, at work producing other quality software. Without that, a lot of
people will write it off as a short-term trend. Most tech people I talk
with know next to nothing about Linux or other free software. Their
exposure via (MS-centric) trade press forms the whole of their knowledge.
Of course I try to inform them when I can. But if they think free software
means haphazard, then it's a much harder sell. Better that they know just
how many developers are out there putting in real time.

> This is a key problem I have. GNU did not decide to use Linux, some
> people developing Linux decided to use some of the GNU tools. When was
> linux adopted as an official part of the GNU project? Why do you claim
> that Linux is somehow part of the GNU project as a whole? You make it
> sound as if Linux is somehow part of GNU's long-term strategy when my
> feeling is that Linux appeared and spread in spite of the GNU long-term
> strategy of developing HURD.

I have a problem with this too. I think Linux should have been endorsed by
GNU several years ago.

> When I talk to people that call it GNU/Linux I find that you are the ONLY
> one that influenced them or are the one that influenced that decision
> the most. A lot of people have, rightly, a lot of respect for you and what
> you have done with respect to free software and many will follow what you
> say without much thought. This is particularly true of the newbies. It
> seems to me that in this case you have made a mistake. You are free to
> produce GNU Linux but to try to tell someone what they should name their
> software is against everything you have stood for. For GNU to decide the
> "rightful" name of other people's software distributions seems not only
> out of character, it seems somehow wrong. It is about freedom. Be joyful
> that you know it is really GNU.

Please don't cross that line. By all means dispute what RMS is telling
people, if you disagree. But his right is to attempt to convince people of
his views. To question that is to question basic freedoms. If some people
blindly follow what he says, that's their fault. RMS doesn't have any
glamour to make people obey him. And I have heard of no threats or
extortions pending non-compliance. So if you don't buy the rhetoric, you
don't have to follow it.

Darrin Chandler
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Trifles make perfection, and perfection is no trifle.
-- Michelangelo

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