[nSLUG] Richard Stallman in Halifax

Daniel Morrison draker at gmail.com
Thu Jan 29 14:05:54 AST 2009

2009/1/29 Joshua B. <juggins at gmail.com>:
>> On Wed, 28 Jan 2009, Daniel Morrison wrote:
>>> to bog down a little during the "Gnu-slash-Linux" plea).

> If he wasn't such an extremist I probably would have found this part
> annoying but he managed to convince me that it's at least consistent
> for him to keep harping on this point. However it does raise a
> paradox. If "open source" wasn't such a pragmatic and ethically
> agnostic movement would it have been as successful?

> RMS [...] should admit at least that that bastard is
> making him famous.

RMS and FSF were very, very famous long before the term "open source"
was invented.

I completely agree with him: calling it GNU/Linux is more appropriate
and better reflects the origins of the whole system. It's not going to
happen though, for a large number of reasons, and this means he's
fighting a losing battle. That makes him sound a bit petulant in his
plea. It is unfortunate.

I also think it would be more fruitful of him to explain just what the
major GNU parts of a complete GNU/Linux system are.  He didn't get
that point across; only that everything else was done but the kernel.
This makes it sound like the kernel is the hardest part.  "Not even
the great coder RMS could finish his magnum opus until a brilliant kid
hacker from Finland did the job for him".  In reality, glibc is a far
bigger work than the kernel (remember that the vast bulk of the kernel
is device drivers, 90% of which are disabled in any given build.  Only
a small portion is actual "kernel".  Linus freely admits that probably
less than 1% of the modern kernel is his code).  gcc is an incredible
feat of portable, efficient, and mind-bendingly difficult coding. If
that weren't enough, RMS wrote make, to drive the compiler. And emacs,
indispensable tool (for some, I'm a vim guy) which was used for so
much of this coding. Then there's bash. I'm not saying that there
aren't other, non-GNU shell interpreters that could be used, but the
fact is (aside from some tcsh heretics!), people do use bash. Note
also that all of this GNU software works just fine on many other OSs,
not just Linux. The Linux kernel by itself is much less useful than a
complete GNU O/S infrastructure without a kernel.

I think I worked out why I got into the habit of calling it "Linux".
It's because the kernel loads the operating system from the get-go.
Long before I knew anything at all about free software, I put a
"Linux" floppy in a drive and turned on the power, and then first
thing I saw after the standard PC POST messages was:

Loading Linux..........

As compared with today's CDROM loaders with graphical splash screens,
back then I had a lot more time to sit and watch those dots slowly
extend across the screen as the entire floppy was read one sector at a
time... loading "Linux".


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