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SubjectRe: Linux isn't an operating system
On Wed, 6 Mar 1996, Richard Stallman wrote:

> I learned to distinguish between an operating system and its kernel
> while working at MIT, since before starting the GNU project. That is
> why the GNU system is not the same as the GNU Hurd plus Mach.
> I was surprised to learn that some people consider "operating system"
> to be synonymous with "kernel". But they have quoted textbooks, so
> this usage seems to be well established.
> The other usage, which distinguishes the two terms, is also well
> established. Here's what the Feb 1966 issue of Linux Journal says, on
> page 7, in answer to the question "What is Linux?"
> Linux itself is the kernel, the "core" of the operating system,
> Most people use "Linux" to mean all of the software that goes along
> with the kernel to make a usable operating system.
> Many of the users of Linux have got their idea of the meaning of
> "operating system" from there. That explanation distinguishes clearly
> between the kernel and the whole collection of software you need to do
> actual work, but it suggests calling them both "Linux".
> So it appears that "operating system" is ambiguous. It can mean the
> whole collection of system software, or it can mean just the kernel.
> This ambiguity probably tends to encourage confusion between those two
> different entities.
> Most users who use Linux install whole collections of software, which
> contain Linux. These collections include Slackware, Debian,
> Plug-and-Play, RedHat, and so on. They are analogous to
> non-Linux-based collections such as NetBSD, SunOS, HPUX, and Unix. We
> can call such collections operating systems, or ready-to-use
> self-sufficient software distributions, or some other term. Whatever
> name we use, the difference between these collections and the kernel
> is clear.
> I call these collections "Linux-based GNU systems" to help promote
> unity and cooperation in the whole community. I hope some of you will
> join me in doing this.
What we need is a short, catchy, name that encompasses all of the above...




Bill Powers
Linux: Resistance is futile...

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