sábado, 30 de enero de 2010

There's nothing wrong with being thankful (or why I say GNU/Linux)

When I was a little kid (not that I'm too big, anyway... 5'10/~150lbs or 1,75/74Ks.... whatever you get better) I was taught to be thankful for things that I get. There's nothing wrong with saying "thank you" when someone has fulfilled one's need/wish for something... even more if the person who fulfilled it was not in any way forced to do it for us.

In the FLOSS community there's this old argument about whether we should call the OS that people usually call "linux" as GNU/Linux or plain linux.

The ones who defend "plain linux" say it's out of simplicity, being more catchy, undoubtfully easier to pronounce than GNU (at least in english... in spanish we convert GN to Ñ... or at least, I do it), and a long etc.

But there are many sides to this story that, at least to me, don't add up.

For example, simplicity for newcomers: What about when you have a distro that doesn't have Linux inside of it? Say, Debian's hurd or kFreeBSD or NetBSD ports? Those are distros, but Linux is not to be found inside cause it (the kernel) has been replaced for another kernel. What are we gonna call them? Debian Non-Linux? Go figure how you will explain that to newcomers ("sure... it's Debian Linux... but it has no linux... yet it is linux". Priceless).

Some people have said that it's out of Stallman's big ego that he wants everybody to call it GNU. Well, I think Stallman hits the nail (at least on the funny part) when he says that "sure... and that's why I ask people to call it Stallmanix". So I think it's not out of ego... but maybe if he had named the OS Stallmanix in the first place, we wouldn't be having this argument as it (too) is more catchy than GNU. :-)

Then we have the people who say that then we should call distros Kubuntu KDE/X/GNU/Linux, for example... but I think there's a line where we can say that KDE/X/GNU/Linux is just too much and GNU/Linux is ok: The minimum usable machine by a user would require GNU/Linux (I can work perfectly well on a GNU/Linux computer with bash and no KDE/X, so that makes the basic machine for me) while a machine with just linux (the kernel) would be pretty pointless as there's laking a system so that I could interact with it (the shell of the OS, at least).

Also I don't like to call things something they are not. For example, I wouldn't say "I like driving my wife's V4 16-valve 1.4 engine to work" as just the engine doesn't make up the whole car (yeah right, like she actually allows me to drive her car :-)). Of course, you can hear people bragging about their 5.0s, but sure as hell these people actually want to talk about _the engine_, not the whole car.

Linux (the kernel) is quite a nice thing. I'm still overwhelmed by its capability to run on the tiniest machines and the biggest supercomputers as well. How it's capable of running on all this different architectures, how you can basically hack it whatever ways you fill like to fit whatever need you have. To all of that (and more), I take my hat off and fill humble (and, trust me, that's not something I can say of many things or people:-)). But I think (that's me, personally, I'm not asking anyone to do something agains their will) GNU deserves being named alongside linux.

I'm thankful to all the people who have helped develop GNU (and linux) into what it is and so I call it GNU/Linux just like, though I use Kubuntu, I proudly wear a Debian cap (cause I know where Etcbuntu gets a lot of what makes it what it is)... and you will pry it off my cold dead hands.

And finally, to bring this chapter to an end from where it started: Thank you!

PS The cat in the picture is Tomás (after Tom from Tom & Jerry), my wife's pet.

4 comentarios:

  1. I don't share your point of view...
    Indeed, Linux now is not just a Kernel, is a Plataform of a Framework to me.

  2. GNU also makes up way more of the system than Linux -- all the core utilities, compilers, even BASH and GNOME are GNU projects. I hope to see the Hurd become more usable in the future so I can use GNU without Linux and avoid this whole mess.

  3. The bad news here is that GNU Hurd is so much delayed. Even Torvalds has admitted that "a kernel by itself gets you nowhere", and that he wouldn't have written Linux if GNU Hurd, or BSD had been useful at the time; or if Tanembaum had originally licensed Minix without commercial restrictions. Of course Linux wasn't the glorious one-fits-all piece of software it is nowadays. Anyways, Torvald's entrepreneurship and Linux growth is so much admired, and deserves credit.

    Nonetheless, there's no reason to say only "Linux" when referring to the whole system. I cannot stand nor support the ambiguous use of Linux for naming like 3 different things or so. It isn't a matter of selfishness or popularity, but about nice semantics and technical correctness. That being said, I guess GNU/Linux is the best term (as well as free-libre software over open-source), since the GNU project was the first which actually brought the idea of a freely usable, distributable and modifiable operating system. They invented copyleft and started a whole revolution regarding copyright, which led to stuff like Wikipedia, Creative Commons... and their system utilities are amongst the most vital FLOSS software (gcc, bash, glibc, gdb, etc).

    That makes Linux look like the sidekick of this heroic duo.