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Re: A matter of manners

From: Michael D. Adams
Subject: Re: A matter of manners
Date: Sat, 24 Sep 2005 15:04:28 -0500

On 9/24/05, Soren Jonsson <address@hidden> wrote:
> Hello,
> First I would like to apologize to everyone who feel insulted for me calling 
> Debian GNU/Linux 3.1 just Debian Linux 3.1 in my question about your version 
> of autoconf. It was not my intention to be insulting, and I am sorry that I 
> was that unintentionaly.
> But I would like to explain my reasoning, even if i don't defend it. I will 
> therefore ask you if you allways use the same formalism regarding other 
> products?
> For example: if your car is a Ford Focus 4-Dr Sedan ZX4, do you allways refer 
> to it as a "Ford Focus 4-Dr Sedan ZX4"?
> Focus is a registerd trademark for Ford Inc, with the consequence that no 
> other car manufacturer can name their car a Focus. So if you refer to the car 
> as a Focus, it is implicated in the inforamtion that it is a Ford.
> In the same way there are just two operating systems available from Debian, 
> and now I am using the full formalism, Debian GNU/Linux and Debian GNU/HURD. 
> Debian GNU/Linux has versions as an added specification, but I am unaware of 
> any version numbring for Debian GNU/Hurd. Therefore I felt at the time that I 
> was writing my original mail that it was implicated from the information that 
> I was using GNU/Linux, and therefore I did not state this explicitly.
> At least here in Sweden that kind of shortening a product name is fairly 
> common, so I might have fallen into a cultural trap. If this has given 
> offence, I apologize for this.

While you did fall into a cultural trap it wasn't a US vs Swedish
issue it was a Free Software vs Open Source issue.

The GNU project was started almost seven years before Linux was
started, but in that time failed to produce a usable kernel.  Linus
took the userland applications from the GNU system to combine with his
kernel to make a complete OS.  While the GNU project was founded to
support the Free Software moral ideals [1], Linux was was started from
a more convenience oriented perspective that is identified with the
Open Source movement [2].  The press and the Open Source community
often refer to the combination of the Linux kernel and GNU userland as
just "Linux", but Free Software people tend to feel that it should be
referred to as GNU/Linux and will be offended if you call it just
"Linux" (unless of course if you're just referring to the kernel in
which case the GNU userland applications aren't part of the picture so
it should be just "Linux").

The Hurd tends to attract more Free Software people than Open Source
people because Free Software people will go to the Hurd be cause it is
part of the GNU project (the GNU project explicitly supports the Free
Software ideals) and Open Source people who don't care about all that
will go to the more popular Linux kernel.

Bottom line, most people don't care if you call it GNU/Linux or Linux,
but a lot of Hurd people and more generally most Free Software people
do care about that particular distiction.

Michael D. Adams

[1] http://www.fsf.org/licensing/essays/free-sw.html
[2] http://www.opensource.org/docs/definition.php

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