lkml.org 
[lkml]   [1999]   [Apr]   [6]   [last100]   RSS Feed
Views: [wrap][no wrap]   [headers]  [forward] 
 
Messages in this thread
/
Date
From
SubjectRe: GNU/Linux
    I think you'd find many who would dispute the claim that "userland"
is dominated by GNU software.

Almost anything I say will find many people to dispute it, but this
happens to be true nonetheless. In the Yggdrasil distribution, GNU
software was some 28 percent of the code, a larger fraction than came
from any other project. And it includes many of the most essential
system components (which is no accident)--such as the C library
through which every user program talks to the kernel.

A recent count found that FSF-copyrighted software (which is just a
subset of GNU software) was 10% of the system, and the FSF was
apparently the largest single copyright holder. I wouldn't say that
being the largest single copyright holder is terribly important, but
it illustrates the point that the GNU Project is the principal
developer of the system.

And part of Linux (and I'm happy to be part of Linux), is the X Window
System, which started in 1984. It was never part of GNU.

Many people who know about the GNU Project are not aware that GNU is,
first of all, the name of one operating system. The GNU Project takes
its name from that system, it being the project to develop the system.
"GNU software" is the software we wrote as part of developing the GNU
system, plus other programs specifically contributed to the GNU system
by their developers.

The X Window System wasn't developed by the GNU Project, any more than
it was written by Linus Torvalds; but we could and did include it in
GNU, back in the 1980s. Thus, X is part of GNU, in the same sense
that you call it "part of Linux": it is included in the GNU operating
system. For this reason, we have since that time had the policy
that graphical programs used in GNU had to work with X.

Likewise for Sendmail and Bind, as well as TeX, which I believe was
developed starting in 1978. I incorporated TeX into the GNU system
right from the outset, by building Texinfo around it, and using it for
all GNU documentation. TeX is not GNU software, not even GPL-covered
software, but we added it to the GNU system.

Many other people and projects have contributed code to the system,
and some of this code is just as vital as anything the GNU Project
wrote. But the GNU Project did one other crucial thing which no one
else did: we made a complete free operating system our explicit goal.
While others were writing a program here or there, for various
laudable motives, we were systematically developing all the missing
components, doing whatever was needed to reach the goal. And we are
still doing this (much of the core of the system lacks free
documentation, and we are working on filling this gap).

Many other contributors did not share this goal, and while their code
is no less useful because of that, in most cases that the fact that it
was useful in this system is a lucky coincidence. For the GNU
Project, this was no coincidence--we wrote the software so that it
would be useful in this system.

As you see, this is often forgotten today. People think of the GNU
Project as if all we did was write a number of useful programs, like
the other projects.

So part of the reason I ask people to call the Linux-based system
GNU/Linux is to remind people of what really happened. Users should
know that the system exists because of the idealistic vision of the
GNU Project. Users should know that we worked for years towards this
goal, at a time when most people said it was impossible and foolish.

Then they will see that idealism is sometimes the only way to achieve
an important practical result. Some of them will take this idealism
seriously, and come to value their freedom strongly enough to help
defend it when it is threatened. And that is what our community needs
more than anything else.



-
To unsubscribe from this list: send the line "unsubscribe linux-kernel" in
the body of a message to majordomo@vger.rutgers.edu
Please read the FAQ at http://www.tux.org/lkml/

\
 
 \ /
  Last update: 2005-03-22 13:51    [from the cache]
©2003-2011 Jasper Spaans