Q: Why don’t you call the system you use “Linux”?

I’m using the GNU system with the Linux kernel. Calling the system I use “Linux” would be spreading misinformation. Even Linus says that people use programs, not Linux. I don’t like spreading misinformation and realize that it can lead to confusion (perhaps that’s the teacher in me). Therefore, I call the system as a whole “GNU and Linux” when responding to questions like “What is <insert distribution name>?” and say “Linux” when referring to the kernel. When I type the name, it’s usually “GNU/Linux”. The fact is:

the GNU system is not the same as the collection of all GNU software. The GNU system includes programs that are not GNU software, programs that were developed by other people and projects for their own purposes, but which we can use because they are free software.

For example, Linux.



3 Responses to “Q: Why don’t you call the system you use “Linux”?”

  1. IP Freely Says:

    Makes sense. A heart of a body is called a heart. A biology teacher would not (I hope!) call a heart of a body a body. We use our bodies (and our bodies use our hearts). We do not use our hearts (except metaphorically).

  2. felicity Says:

    I thought Linus thinks calling the operating system GNU/Linux is stupid but if he said what you claim he said then he is contradicting himself. I haven’t seen the movie you linked to. What does he say exactly? Do you have a quote?

  3. gnuosphere Says:

    I haven’t heard Linus say that so I’m not sure of any contradiction. I would imagine Linus (like rms) would think it inaccurate to call the Linux kernel itself “GNU/Linux”. But while it makes sense to say, “I use Windows” or “I use Mac OS X”, it makes no sense to say, “I use Linux”. Regardless, I tracked down the quote from the film I linked to…

    Linus says:

    “To kind of explain what Linux is, you have to explain what an operating system is… and the thing about an operating system is that you’re never ever supposed to see it… nobody really uses an operating system, people use programs.”

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