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

From: Marcel
Subject: Re: Why "GNU/Linux" is not accepted: an observation
Date: Fri, 8 Nov 2019 13:07:55 +0700
User-agent: Mozilla/5.0 (X11; Linux x86_64; rv:68.0) Gecko/20100101 Thunderbird/68.2.0

Hi Akira,

On 11/8/19 5:36 AM, Akira Urushibata wrote:
> 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
> situation.
> 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
> thing.
> 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.
>   References:
>   U.S. v. Microsoft: The Inside Story of the Landmark Case
>   by Joel Brinkley and Steve Lohr
> Thank you for reading.
> Akira Urushibata

These are interesting observations, thank you for sharing.

Continuing you line of thought, it is interesting to me that to
proponents of "open source" as a development methodology, the exact
opposite is advantageous (i.e. the definition of the operating system as
the kernel and dismissal of everything else as applications).

My own conclusion is there is no easy solution to any of these problems
except to be clear about about the philosophy from a personal
perspective and to contribute to efforts to further education; with
long-term goals in mind.

In the end though--as long as we continue to live under our current
socioeconomic configuration--those who have more resources and who align
themselves better with the ruling ideology, will continue to exercise
hegemony (which we can of course make efforts to counteract).

In the realm of computers, I feel that the strategies followed by the
Free Software movement have been effective; I see them as the only
reliable long-term space for freedom in computing. On the one hand, to
educate users on the meaning and importance of Free Software, and on the
other, to provide an alternative to the proprietary software paradigm.

I do agree with you; trying to force people to notice and get rid what
we see as their "prejudices" is counterproductive. Most people will no
doubt think that it is the exact opposite from their own perspective,
and will become defensive.

It is a much better idea to formulate well reasoned arguments and try to
get as many people as possible to listen/read them and discuss or
counter them intelligently. This seems like the most likely win-win
strategy if we manage to respect their ideas. I think one of the main
roadblocks to this is when we believe others to have hidden agendas and
ulterior motives (whether perceived or real).

We all interact with reality through an ideology, and ideology is most
powerful when we think we are free from it. From my perspective, it is
always most recommendable to try to understand our own ideology--the
values, beliefs, biases and prejudices that structure our perception of
reality--than to try to force others to adopt ours.


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