[Top][All Lists]

[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

Why "GNU/Linux" is not accepted: an observation

From: Akira Urushibata
Subject: Why "GNU/Linux" is not accepted: an observation
Date: Fri, 8 Nov 2019 07:36:06 +0900 (added by address@hidden)

Observing recent events I notice that prejudice is at work.  Prejudice
is often invisible and hard to identify.  But it does harm to society,
especially when it is widespread.  When we sense that prejudice exists
we are forced to drop the assumption that people are thinking and
acting rationally.  Few people enjoy being told that they are acting
irrationally.  Most people don't like to admit that they are affected
by prejudice.  Prejudice exists nowhere but in people's minds but the
very minds that harbor it tend to refuse to accept that it exists. 

It is wrong to hold the victim of prejudice responsible for the
problems prejudice and consequential actions bring about.  Such blame
won't solve the problems.  On the other hand the victim of prejudice
must understand that it exists if he or she wants to improve the

Before discussing recent events I would like to tackle an issue that
all subscribers are aware of: "Why do most people say 'Linux' instead
of 'GNU/Linux'?"  I understand that prejudice plays an important role
in this long-standing problem.  I'd like to share this insight with
you in the hope that it will have an enlightening effect and
ultimately lead to new approaches of coping with vexing problems we
have at hand now.

If I see that many of you don't like this message I shall refrain from
discussing recent events.


What is GNU?  GNU is an operating system, and it is a clone of UNIX.
It is not UNIX in the sense that it borrows no code from the original
UNIX from Bell Labs.  Subscribers of this mailing list know what an
operating system is.  But the ordinary citizen does not.  I would like
to demonstrate how this lack of knowledge translates to a rejection
of the term "GNU/Linux."

Most people know the word "operating system" or "OS" in short.  What
they know is heavily influenced by the marketing practices of Microsoft,
which is the leading for-profit manufacturer of operating systems.
Microsoft wants people to know that the operating system is very, very
important.  Microsoft wants people to know that applications are useless
without the operating system: they won't work.  I observe that this
propaganda is not always conducted directly by Microsoft; PC makers
play an active role in spreading the message.

As we here all know Microsoft does not make public the source code or
internal specifications.  Thus people do not know what is inside an OS.

Less known is the fact that Microsoft does not desire to define the contours
of the operating system.  This strange behavior, considering the immense
profit of the OS business, requires explanation.

The computer business is still in its growth stage and nobody, not
even Microsoft, can be sure what the future holds.  Microsoft would
like to control the new growth field once it is identified.  The
obvious way to do that is to introduce a new product and promote it
using the vast funds available in its chests.  But Microsoft does not
want to do it that way.  Bundling the new product to the immensely
popular Windows OS is a more effective method, only that as we all
know, bundling is illegal.  One clever way to defy antitrust
regulations is to claim that the bundled product is not an independent
product but rather an extension or improvement of the existing OS.  A
statement on what an operating system is may imply what it is not and
this may be picked up by an opponent in a future court.

The ordinary computer user who has been educated through Microsoft's
marketing propaganda is likely to see the operating system as one
entity.  I notice that even among IT specialists who write books and
magazine articles for popular consumption there are people who hold
this view.

The problem with the term "GNU/Linux" is that it requires the
understanding that the operation system is not one single program but
rather a collection of programs with distinct functions.  The casual
computer user rejects the term for it goes against his vague but
persistent assumption that an operating system should be one single

The opponents of "GNU/Linux" can easily shoot it down.  One simple way
is to go to Linus Torvalds and ask whether Richard Stallman
contributed any code to Linux.  If Torvalds says "It is true that I
used certain tools made by Stallman to make Linux, but he did not
contribute any code" that settles matters for those who assume that
the operating system is a single, monolithic entity.  Another good
method is stress the date when Linux was born.  This is effective
because most people think that the operating system comes first and
must exist before anything other program can be written.

It is not my intention to state that the term "GNU/Linux" will never
be widely adopted and to urge GNU supporters to reckon that the effort
is fruitless and should be terminated.  My message is that through
careful observation of the current situation new approaches can be found,
ones that won't easily be dismissed as "politically-charged."

I observe that as more and more businesses become computer-reliant,
managers who know no more about operating systems than the average
hairdresser are drawn into situations in which they are held
responsible for problems.  Some of them are waking up to the idea
that they need to know more about computer software to discuss problems
and solutions, to assess cost estimates and hire competent specialists.
Introduce yourself to this kind of person as someone who knows OS
internals through development work and you may get an attentive hear.

I also recommend explaining Microsoft's desire to keep the concept of
"operating system" blurry at its edges, mentioned above.  Some of your
acquaintances including those who currently don't accept "GNU/Linux"
may find it amusing.  If it kindles interest, or curiosity, your tale
of what an operating system is would be better accepted.


  U.S. v. Microsoft: The Inside Story of the Landmark Case
  by Joel Brinkley and Steve Lohr

Thank you for reading.

Akira Urushibata

reply via email to

[Prev in Thread] Current Thread [Next in Thread]