GNU/something

[ Monday, 4 February 2008, Keyto ]


This article might seem to be not serious, or even a little bit heretical. Well, so be it. I’ll write what I think I should write and what I see as true. Whether is it the same in your case — dear Reader — we’ll see. First of all, let me ask you a basic question: Which system do you use? What are the possible answers? Windows, Linux, Solaris or Mac OS X of course. But let us try to think different for a moment. Maybe it is possible, that this answer would be, for example KDE?

Dragonia Magazine

Author: Keyto

Let me get this straight — this idea seems a little bit odd at the first glance. Everybody knows that KDE is a graphical environment just like GNOME, Aqua or Aero are. Graphical environment, and that means only a part of an operating system. But the the fact is that 99.9 percent of users are interested only in this small part. Maybe you’ll say that this is just beating the bush, but I seriously think that what counts for an average user is not an operating system but rather an environment they use to work with. A graphical environment of course.

GNU/Open Solaris

Please take a quick look at a picture below. It shows well known (and liked) GNOME desktop. What’s more, for a more experienced user it’ll look a little bit familiar — namely just like Ubuntu. Just like… because there’s only one little problem — it is not Ubuntu GNU/Linux. Especially it is not Linux at all. It is Nexenta GNU/OpenSolaris.


Nexenta desktop

Generally speaking, the idea is quite simple. Computer system is a complex organism. There’s a module assigned to each task. One can exchange those modules as long as new modules guarantee the same functionality. If KDE is not good enough for a given user it can be exchanged for GNOME. You can replace vim editor by Emacs; bash interpreter by tcsh and so on. There’s nothing wrong with saying that even the kernel might be exchanged for a different one (but no one seems to state that this is simple). Nexenta is based on Ubuntu (that is the actual reason why it looks “a little bit like” Ubuntu), whereas Linux has been replaced by OpenSolaris. And what happened? From an average user’s perspective — nothing, completely nothing. You can still browse web sites using Firefox, GIMP is still the same good old GIMP and black terminal window still understands well known commands of the bash interpreter. If we don’t mind that Nexenta is still in its alpha phase (which means it is quite unstable) and that icons are a little bit different than in Ubuntu, we may take risk and say that an average GNU/Linux user will not notice any difference between (just installed) Nexenta GNU/OpenSolaris system and Ubuntu.

We owe OpenSolaris kernel to Sun Microsystems. Since opening the source code by Netscape in March 1998 appeared as a really great idea, some companies decided to transform commercial licenses of their products to open ones. In 2005 Sun had at least one great success in this field on its account. I think of StarOffice, whose open source version — OpenOffice.org — I am using just now writing these words. Last year (exactly on January 25th, 2007) Sun began opening of its greatest work, namely Solaris operating system. On June 14th, 2007 source code was finally published and a special kind of license has been used (similar to the license made by Mozilla) — Common Development and Distribution License (CDDL).

The in-depth description of Solaris is a good subject for a couple of separate articles, but I believe that most of readers at least heard something about this OS. For those who heard only the name and know nothing about the system I owe a few words of explanation. Solaris, just like Linux, belongs to the UNIX family. In fact I should state this differently: Linux belongs to the UNIX family, just like Solaris does, since Solaris is much older than Torvalds’s child. It is the most stable and well designed product of information science’s thought. It is enough to say that it is used by NASA for its space shuttles and International Space Station (ISS). As for construction we may say, that generally Linux and Solaris’ kernels are almost the same. This is because both are so called monolithic kernels. What does it means?

Kernel

Kernel — technically speaking OS by itself — is a program that is active as long as computer runs. Kernel provides an environment for other applications to run. Abraham Silberschatz put this in the following way:

An operating system is similar to a government. Like a government, it performs no useful function by itself. It simply provides an environment within which other programs can do useful work.

The problem is that I don’t know exactly how I should understand this. You may choose any book you like on this subject and you’ll read there that operating system is something between hardware and software, managing the first one and the second one as well. But what does it really mean? Is OS a kind of semaphore, that just simply enables and disables the access to the resources, or is it the case that it can have some software to manage those resources? Let me illustrate this with a more precise example. Let us say, that GIMP wants to save an image. We have two options here.

  • The first one: GIMP communicates to the kernel that it needs some hard disk resources, and when access is granted it transfers the task of saving the file to some hypothetical hard disc management program.
  • In the second case, GIMP can manage hard disks on its own and just simply asks the kernel for permission to write a file and kernel does the rest (i.e. it saves the file).

The second example illustrates a monolithic kernel. Just like Linux, SunOS is exactly this kind of kernel. So replacing Linux by OpenSolaris was difficult, but possible (things go simpler if you remember that it is possible to run Linux apps on SunOS).

So to sum up this part: Nexenta’s authors “just replaced” one kernel by another. The rest of the system is based on GNU/Linux (namely Debian/Ubuntu), so there’s a chance that a user working with Nexenta will get the impression of dealing with Ubuntu. This is of course possible as long as our user will not come up with an idea of installing a new application. I shall tell later about this.

Indiana OpenSolaris, but not only…

OK, but one may ask whether Nexenta is the only such project? The answer is: no, but it seems to be the most advanced one. First of all I should mention the solution made by OpenSolaris. Works are still in progress, but you can see effect by downloading an ISO image of a system code named Indiana. We download it, run it and it appears that we’re dealing with GNOME again. TODO: And now for a little bit to much simplifying things. Imagine that we change wallpapers, icons and other look and feel stuff — our user still should not recognize the difference between Nexenta, Indiana or Ubuntu. Why? Because in each of these cases our user deals with GNOME interface, coreutils tools made by Free Software Foundation (and as for Indiana and Nexenta even with the same kernel).


Indiana desktop

It is worth mentioning that since a while there have been a few other projects based on OpenSolaris code. The most important ones are SchilliX and BeleniX.

SchilliX is the oldest one. It is based on a kernel prepared by Sun Microsystems. It is a Live CD distribution, that includes only free software. One interesting thing is that it was released (marked as 0.1 version) just three days after Sun published the source code.

BeleniX (developed by Indian Sun department) is also a Live CD (although it might be installed on a hard drive). When Indiana as the main product of OpenSolaris comes only with GNOME, in BeleniX we find KDE and XFCE environments as well. The name: BeleniX comes from the name of Celtic god Belenos, who was the god of sun. As for Sol it means sun of course. But let us leave Solaris for a while…


Belenix desktop

GNU/just simply GNU

The GNU system since its beginnings was meant to be an autonomous product. Software tools that we all well know, and which are used in distributions like OpenSolaris and Linux family distributions, were — according to the plans — supposed to be enabled to work by the Hurd kernel. To this day it is not so. But… Debian project includes a port of this system with Hurd kernel implemented. Differences between Sun’s child and the penguin OS are not so big, but when it comes to Hurd those differences become really huge.

First of all it has to be stressed that — from technical point of view — Hurd is a so called microkernel. Microkernel, just like the name suggests, is a minimalistic solution. It provides only the necessary functions like threads and processes management, inter-process communication and interrupts management. Other functionality is assured by servers. I only remind here that for programmer server is not “a huge computer with a lot of processors and hard disks”, but a program that enables resources sharing. So we have networking servers, display servers, process servers, device driver servers and so on. This idea is well expressed by Hurd’s logo — set of interconnected blocks. Hurd is often called “a server set”. One interesting feature of Hurd is that user can add his own servers, which influences operating system performance and functionality.


Hurd logo

When we are talking of Debian we should mention that except GNU/Hurd there are also Debian GNU/FreeBSD and Debian GNU/NetBSD projects. Yes, you got it right — GNU systems with BSD kernels.

So, where’s the catch?

As you may see there are a lot of systems with kernels other than Linux. So it seems that — at least in theory — one might replace “Linux” with Nexenta or Indiana and a user would not even notice that. The question arises — where’s the catch here? Oh, here’s the catch: quite a big one, I assure. There’s nothing much to write on, one word should do the trick, and that word is: drivers. A plural from driver. All Linux users know this problem very well, because it looks like the greatest problem for GNU systems. The lack of drivers for some rare printers or scanners, TV cards, network cards and so on. When we talk of drivers for Linux we may say that there are some — kindly speaking — problems, but as for drivers compatible with OpenSolaris kernel the situation looks much worse. I was able to run every system described in this article. I had only few problems with Nexenta. I’ve installed it on several machines and it worked well. But with the rest I had some serious problems. I managed to install BeleniX only on one out of four computers that I gathered for testing, but neither network card nor modem worked out of the box. I still have no idea how to force USB to work, and there’s no floppy drive on the machine. That is why there’s no BeleniX screenshot in this article, actually. They disappeared as I turned the power off. Indiana had also its humors. I didn’t manage to run network on any of the tested systems. SchilliX seemed to work without problems, but only until it crashed randomly. On all computers. I had to stress that probably all those systems can be fixed and configured to work properly, but a specialist would be needed to do this. For and average user those distributions are out of range. And I predict this will be the case for a long long time from now.

As for Debian GNU/Hurd installation I’ll call it a real adventure. I had a lot of work installing it. And just a note for you, my Dear Reader, who want to try this system — don’t copy my mistake and do read the documentation before performing the installation. I was a little bit lazy and I haven’t read it, and as the consequence — after a few missed tries — I had to study documentation very carefully. There are some differences even in the installation process. Just a short example. At the beginning I got “caught”, since I haven’t noticed that GNU/Hurd had no default boot-manager, and — despite successful installation — the system refused to boot. What’s more, on my machine it is highly unstable and it takes a lot of hard work to change it.

Yes, drivers are the biggest problem. The second one is how much additional software can you get for your system. In theory you can run Linux software on OpenSolaris, but…

First of all sometimes it happens that the theory comes true (libraries, dependencies, configuration, licenses and so on). Further, programs should be compiled for the environment in which they work — e.g. efficiency might be a good reason for this. Since I still defend my thesis emphasized at the beginning of this article, I stress that it is not users who should care, but the developers. If Nexenta had repository at least similar to Ubuntu’s (as it is planned for the stable version), there will be no difference for “average user” in using Nexenta or Ubuntu — it is still good old GNOME.

Summary

By writing this article I wanted to achieve two goals. First of them you may call a semantic one. GNU/Linux is often called just simply Linux. Generally all users are aware that this is a mistake. Linux is just a kernel. My opinion is that it is not a mistake — it is a big mistake. GNU/Linux system is basically GNU and then Linux. As you may see Linux is replaceable and people involved in Free Software Foundation are right when claiming that when a name of a distribution based on the Linux kernel is shortened to eliminate the ‘GNU’ part, it depreciates their work. I want to make it clear, I don’t want Linux users to add GNU to the name every time and all the time. We all know GNU/Linux as Linux. “Name shortening” is an ongoing and irreversible process. In my opinion however we should speak and write this ‘GNU’ to stress the meaning of it. You want to shorten the name of your system to “Linux”, fine, but be aware that it is a semantic mistake.

Now I’ll repeat, what I’ve put in the introduction. Average computer user needs no knowledge about “Linux system”. This user needs knowledge about graphical environment only (GNOME or KDE). It is not all, after becoming familiar with this working environment it has an open way to many operating systems. Is it really a difficult task for a user of Ubuntu LTS to start using Solaris 10? After all Sun Java Desktop environment is based on GNOME and very similar to it. It looks just the same for Kubuntu and PC-BSD. I mean here only a normal, every day work with your computer. Of course there are differences between kernels of Linux, FreeBDS or SunOS. Well, they are rather big ones! But do you, my Dear User, know the differences — please, be honest answering — between, let us say, threads management in those projects? If you do know what thread is (without checking it in Wikipedia) — congratulations. If you don’t, it makes no harm. What do you need this knowledge for, anyway? I assume that you are a great specialist in your domain, and not knowing anything about threads doesn’t depreciate your position as the specialist, and does not make GNOME work different, either.

References

  1. A. Silberschatz, P. Galvin Podstawy Systemów Operacyjnych (Operating System Concepts) WNT
  2. OpenSolaris — http://www.opensolaris.org/os/
  3. Indiana — http://www.opensolaris.org/os/project/indiana/resources/getit/
  4. Nexenta — http://www.nexenta.org/http://www.genunix.org/distributions/belenix_site/belenix_home.html
  5. BeleniX — http://www.genunix.org/distributions/belenix_site/belenix_home.html
  6. SchilliX — http://schillix.berlios.de/
  7. GNU — http://www.gnu.org/home.pl.html
  8. Hurd — http://www.gnu.org/software/hurd/
  9. Debian GNU/Hurd — http://www.debian.org/ports/hurd/
  10. Debian GNU/kFreeBSD — http://www.debian.org/ports/kfreebsd-gnu/
  11. Debian GNU/NetBSD — http://www.debian.org/ports/netbsd/
  12. Free Software Foundation — http://www.fsf.org/

Translated by Paweł Łupkowski, Proof-read by michuk


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28 Comments

fold this thread Vincent  Monday, 4 February 2008 o godz. 10:44 pm #  Add karma Subtract karma  +1

I’ve argued something similar yet different: call it by your distro’s name. Not Linux, not GNU/Linux, not GNU, but Xubuntu, Fedora or OpenSUSE.

The reason for this is because the user cares about *that* selection of packages. I wouldn’t want to recommend a system that consists of just GNU combined with Linux or whatever kernel; I want to recommend a system with Synaptic and gnome-app-install, with a lot of software available, that includes my favourite DE, and of which the developers aim for user-friendliness.

And even though your screenshot may look like Ubuntu, it still misses some of the things I like in Ubuntu, and yet more of the things I like in Xubuntu.

Yes, I do not know the differences between different kernels, nor do I really care. I do know the differences between the software selection/availability and the communities behind the different projects – all of which is summarised with the distro’s name.

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fold this thread Kivi  Tuesday, 5 February 2008 o godz. 12:15 am #  Add karma Subtract karma  --1

Ok, now translate this article back to polish because I couldn’t understand a word from it. Seriously, why does the english version of this site get all the interesting stuff while it’s polish counterpart gets some boring BS all the time ?

It’s POLISHlinux.org FFS !!!!111

Have a nice day

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fold this thread michuk  Tuesday, 5 February 2008 o godz. 12:20 am #  Add karma Subtract karma  --1

This article is available in Polish. Just download the latest Dragonia Magazine at: http://dragonia.pl [PDF]

 
 
fold this thread Moltonel  Tuesday, 5 February 2008 o godz. 11:34 am #  Add karma Subtract karma  +0

The “GNU/Linux” versus “Linux” argument has some merit, but is tiresome because – for something supposed to restore credit where credit is due – it is flawed :

Go ahead and check the installed package size of all packages on your desktop. Then put them in “GNU”, “Linux”, “KDE”, “Gnome”, “Xorg”, “Perl”, “openoffice”, “Mozilla”, etc buckets and make totals. YMMV, but in my case KDE comes out on top. “GNU” and “Linux” aren’t that big compared to the rest (although gcc *is* big).

So what’s my point ? When asked “what OS are you using” by a non-geek, maybe I should start answering “KDE” instead of “Linux”.
Name your OS either by its most high-level component, or by its most low-level one. But naming it by any other combination of components is either too biased or too exhaustive.

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fold this thread michuk  Tuesday, 5 February 2008 o godz. 11:51 am #  Add karma Subtract karma  --1

I think naming it by its name, namely: distribution name, it the way to go :)

 
 
fold this thread Victor  Tuesday, 5 February 2008 o godz. 7:29 pm #  Add karma Subtract karma  --1

on the 5th paragraph, it’s “Sun Microsystems”, not “Solaris Microsystems”

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fold this thread michuk  Tuesday, 5 February 2008 o godz. 9:44 pm #  Add karma Subtract karma  --1

Fixed. Thanks.

 
 
fold this thread suresh  Wednesday, 6 February 2008 o godz. 3:45 am #  Add karma Subtract karma  +1

It should be GNU/kFreeBSD not GNU/FreeBSD as only the kernel of the FreeBSD is used.

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fold this thread Bartek  Wednesday, 6 February 2008 o godz. 3:56 am #  Add karma Subtract karma  --1

I think that you all have forgot about something _very_ important: marketing. “Mozilla” or “Linux” sound computer-related but still cool. GNU sounds just too geek to a casual user.
Would Linux be as wide-spread as it is today if it’s name were just “GNU”, “KDE” or “GNOME”?

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fold this thread Richard  Wednesday, 6 February 2008 o godz. 4:34 am #  Add karma Subtract karma  --1

Sorry, I do not buy it. KDE is a window manager, not an operating system. it cannot stand alone but needs the OS to function. With the OS many window managers can be installed. With just the window manager you are non-functional.

It is like a notepad and pencil. They are the vehicle to get notes on paper, akin to the window manager. The author is the OS, akin to GNU/Linux.
Without the author the pad and pencil.(window manager) are non-functional. The author. (OS), can be augmented by any number of writing instruments. stone and chisel, pen and ledger, blood and stone.

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fold this thread Dan  Wednesday, 6 February 2008 o godz. 6:19 am #  Add karma Subtract karma  --1

@ Richard: It’s the window dressing. Do most end users care what kernel? No. Perhaps there will come a day where software is so modular that you can truly select a kernel fit for your needs (be it BSD, Solaris, Linux or maybe even a new one we don’t know of yet), a DE to put on it, and all the other stuff as well.

I would call myself a fairly technical user. I am a CS student, competent in several programing languages and working on a few pet projects for my linux system… but right now, I could care less about what kernel my OS has in comparison to the programs it can run. If you need to be far more on the technical end than I to truly care which kernel is used… perhaps examining a different nomenclature is in fact relevant?

I would say, however, that the lack of a unifying name hurts as far as recognition. Can a user recognize linux over BSD and Solaris? Does it hurt that people confuse them? Does it hurt that people see Ubuntu/Gnome and associate that with linux, then look at OpenSuse/KDE and don’t recognize it as linux? From purely a marketing/branding perspective, identifying the DE as opposed to the kernel is a far more sound tactic. I will leave you with an example: Think about the auto industry. VW and Audi (owned by VW) create cars built on the same chassis, with essentially the same guts inside. However, the look and feel is quite different (VW spartan and efficient, Audi more luxurious). The cars are then branded and priced according to the look and feel, even though the chassis and powertrain may well be the exact same. How is this different than the Linux/BSD/Solaris/etc situation? By generating an identity that consumers will recognize at sight, it’s easier to gain acceptance.

PS, @ suresh… BSD is not GNU, although they do use some of the GNU system (GCC for example)

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fold this thread Evgeny "nekr0z" Kuznetsov  Wednesday, 6 February 2008 o godz. 7:01 am #  Add karma Subtract karma  +1

Well, the actual question is: what is an OS? Is a window manager part of an OS? Or maybe a DE is part of an OS? Or are those just non-obligatory bells and whistles, and perhaps OS is the kernel — then it’s perfectly OK to call it just “Linux”, isn’t it? Or perhaps OS is the whole bunch of kernel, system utilities, DE and package management system together? Then we should call it “Debian” or “Gentoo” or whatever, but no way “GNU/something”, since GNU isn’t even 1/8 of what an OS is, and neither is Linux…

One may say that FSF guys did a huge job and we don’t pay them enough respect calling our systems Linux instead of GNU/Linux — well, we’re in Open Source world, aren’t we? Did Debian guys pay any respect to Mozilla Foundation, taking their Firefox and stripping it from logos and calling it Iceweasel? This is officially called a fork, though it ain’t no fork actually, just rebranding. Let’s say we’ve forked GNU and forget it — after all, we don’t violate GPL calling our systems whatever we want, do we?

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fold this thread Matt Lee  Sunday, 22 June 2008 o godz. 10:03 pm #  Add karma Subtract karma  +1

Actually, Debian were given the choice to either drop Firefox, or rename it.

They chose the best option for free software.

Focusing on free software is the best option, and that is not to ignore the GNU Project.

 
 
fold this thread dumper4311  Wednesday, 6 February 2008 o godz. 7:37 am #  Add karma Subtract karma  --2

Wow. I’ve never seen such an obtuse method of demonstrating yourself completely wrong. Lets clear up some basic facts.

operating system
–noun Computers.
the collection of software that directs a computer’s operations, controlling and scheduling the execution of other programs, and managing storage, input/output, and communication resources. Dictionary.com. Dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.1). Random House, Inc. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/operating system (accessed: February 05, 2008).

Pretty simple, isn’t it. Linux, BSD, Solaris KERNELS – each are Operating Systems. GNU utilities: JUST EXACTLY THAT – USERLAND UTILITIES.

Note that the Linux kernel (read: OPERATING SYSTEM) works just fine all by itself, no GNU utilities needed. Doesn’t matter how it was compiled, doesn’t matter what platform it runs on, doesn’t matter what utilities, apps, windowing environment, or other, it gets used with.

You’ve actually gone out of your way to demonstrate conclusively that the GNU userland utilities are just that – regardless of which OS they run on (JUST LIKE KDE, MOZILLA, OR OPENOFFICE.ORG).

What I can’t figure out is: have you genuinely been sucked into the swamp of FSF propaganda on this issue and just don’t see it? Or are you just one more of RMS’ over-zealous followers, so concerned with spreading “the good word” that you don’t have any problem equivocating to get the job done?

I find it deeply disappointing that the FSF camp has demonstrated such a deep narcissistic bent that they’d adopt the same kind of propaganda techniques as their sworn proprietary enemies (like Microsoft – we can’t remove IE, it’s part of the operating system).

What I’m really wondering is: are you still intellectually honest enough that you’ll let this comment stand on your site?

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fold this thread GLicense  Friday, 22 February 2008 o godz. 9:44 am #  Add karma Subtract karma  +3

@dumper4311,
it is the **GNU** General Public **LICENSE**

Without it, chaos would rein supreme in the “open source” and “free software” world. Just think about hundreds of poor-quality fragmented operating system kernels, a hundredfold device driver headaches, and most importantly,
**NO COMMUNITY of this size**

Please, for heaven’s sake, the License is a thousand times more valuable than the GNU tools/utilties themselves. GNU may well rewrite some of those from scratch for future computing systems, but the license stays.

You simply cannot argue with the fact that the most important product of the FSF is the movement and the GPL.

There’s no Solaris GPL, Linus Torvalds GPL or GNOME GPL, KDE GPL or Apache GPL.

It is the GNU GPL and that is the __single__ backbone of the huge “open source” or “free software” collection.

If you disagree with this, you show that you haven’t given 10% of the thought to the License, as you have to the technical details of the code.

The license is goddamn crucial!

THE Single most important thing.

And, it comes from GNU/FSF.

So, GNU/Linux is good. But of course, the marketing needs “Linux” and “Firefox”. Human breath is not too long, and humans are averse to long names for daily perceptions. Examples are – Rob, Dick, Tom, Ed, Larry, Jon, maddog, Joe, Bill, ….

Flame on!

 
fold this thread hipe  Tuesday, 24 June 2008 o godz. 3:01 pm #  Add karma Subtract karma  +0

Maybe you should read that dictionary entry yourself.

GNU utilities are an essential part of operating system. They work
with a lot of different kernels. I use GNU and Linux so I call it GNU/Linux.

Try replacing or removing GNU userland.

GPL has got a big job done and FSF has credit for it.

 
 
fold this thread Taco Buitenhuis  Wednesday, 6 February 2008 o godz. 11:18 am #  Add karma Subtract karma  +2

@dumper4311: do site admins delete your comments a lot? Perhaps a more polite style would help you.

Of course by some definition an operating system is only the kernel. Someone using that definition might answer “does it matter?” to the question “what OS do you use?”. By the way, if we’re going to use that definition, we really should call the thing Linux/X.

But let’s get a bit more sane here, and think of what people actually mean when they talk about operating systems. When someone says “I use MS Windows” or “I use MacOS”, they don’t mean they use the kernel of those OSes. They also mean the window decorator and the filemanager and whatnot – basically everything that is installed when one inserts the “operating system” install disk.
So in everyday language, an OS really is a kernel AND a set of utilities to make that kernel useful at all.

The question “what OS do you use?” is old-fashioned and outdated. OSes are disappearing behind the scenes. The question for this decade is “what desktop environment do you use?”.

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fold this thread Laika  Wednesday, 6 February 2008 o godz. 2:21 pm #  Add karma Subtract karma  +2

Let’s not forget that both the GNU operating system and the Linux kernel have been designed after the model of a traditional Unix system.

The idea behind the GNU operating system (first announced in 1983) is to build a Unix-like system that consists entirely of free software. The kernel of the GNU operating system, called HURD, is still under development and it’s not considered production-ready, but the core utilities of the GNU operating system have been ready for a long time now. In addition, the GNU operating system offers a fully working toolchain (including a compiler collection, debugger, and C libraries) for developers.

The Linux kernel (first version published in 1991) is a Unix-like kernel and it is free software.

A traditional Unix system consists of a kernel, a number of core utilities, and a “shell” as the user interface. Theoretically speaking, the Unix kernel is already an operating system in itself, but it also needs the core utilities and a user interface (shell) before users can actually start using the Unix system in practice.

Therefore, the Linux kernel is an operating system in a theoretical sense, but GNU/Linux is a fully working Unix-like system (plus a toolchain for developers) in the pragmatic sense.

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fold this thread ac  Wednesday, 6 February 2008 o godz. 3:17 pm #  Add karma Subtract karma  +0

GNOME is part of GNU for those who don’t know
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GNOME so a distro like debian (gnome default) can be called gnu/linux

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fold this thread Onan the Barbarian  Wednesday, 6 February 2008 o godz. 4:03 pm #  Add karma Subtract karma  +0

@Dan: suresh is correct. He is referring to the Debian “BSD port”. That uses the BSD kernel, but replaces the BSD userland with GNU userland. Hence “Debian GNU/kFreeBSD”.

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fold this thread Andrey  Wednesday, 6 February 2008 o godz. 11:50 pm #  Add karma Subtract karma  --2

When I reached the Summary, I was absolutely sure that the point is that Linux is Linux and GNU/Linux is a mistake. Possibly I cared more about drivers. It looks like the facts in the text support Gnu/Linux and just Linux equaly well.

However, I still prefer just Linux for 2 reasons. First, Linux is a tool to run applications. GNU is a tool to create Linux. Applications are that what is practically usefull. Gnu is one step less visible than Linux. Second, Linux is most commonly understood as an OS. Hurd is not ready yet, so there is no such thing as GNU OS.

I cannot understand this GNU/Linux talk at all since Hurd developers themselves confirm that if Linux emerged earlier, they would not start Hurd at all, since it would have been unnecessary and there were more urgent things to do. Speaking of microkernels, there is a very fine QNX Neutrino.

Since I run over GNU/Linux again and again, I feel like M$ influence here.

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fold this thread Adam  Thursday, 7 February 2008 o godz. 5:45 am #  Add karma Subtract karma  +0

I’m glad someone with the public outlet required finally posted to address this. I wrote almost the same article (though a much more amateur attempt) some time ago.

http://pseudogen.blogspot.com/2007/08/why-kernels-dont-matter.html
If anyone is interested. But solid article, I greatly enjoyed reading it. Kudos to the author :)

-Adam

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fold this thread boottux  Wednesday, 13 February 2008 o godz. 3:20 am #  Add karma Subtract karma  --1

Definitions didn’t seem to be the point of the article. I understood that the author was talking about perceptions not definitions.

There is nothing new here regarding the fact that people use the same word to refer to different conceptual understandings. There is no doubt about the technical meaning of operating system but as far as users are concerned they may not even know what an operating system is.

Even the notion of a desktop environment is passing into the realm of those more technologically knowledgeable and more often than not is used to refer to just the screen view that has icons on it.

“General users” (however one wants to draw those lines) use Windows or Apple or Excel or Office as some above have mentioned and one can hear if one is listening that people also use email, YouTube, Itunes, Google. One might look at a user as being at the highest level of abstraction (for those into OOP what would that be, a “super-class”?). Words like desktop environment,operating system, window manager are the words associated with lower levels of abstraction, they are like objects, black boxes, the details hidden.

We (those of use who read articles such as the one to which I am commenting) inhabit a world influenced by its Unix roots, technical, opinionated, self-reliant. But we occasionally should remember that we are a subset, a black box, an encapsulated object which the average user describes with a single word, geek. To which I say, no harm, no foul.

Now what was the author saying about monolithic and micro-kernels ?

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fold this thread hi  Wednesday, 20 February 2008 o godz. 9:03 am #  Add karma Subtract karma  +0

This is the coolest site ever! Seriously, there was absolutley no sarcasm in that last statement!!!

Regards to all geeks and nerds!

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fold this thread Matt Lee  Sunday, 22 June 2008 o godz. 4:12 pm #  Add karma Subtract karma  +1

I’ll dive in here quickly, and say this…

I’m the chief webmaster of the GNU operating system — and yes, there are many many versions of the GNU OS being used today.

To clear a few things up…

* GNOME is part of the GNU Project — one of those most, if not the most, common desktop for GNU/Linux

* While GNU did develop many programming tools, there are many many applications, from Gnumeric and GIMP, to GNU Cash and GNU Gnash — spreadsheets, image editors, financial applications and Flash players are all much more user focused than kernel or our programmer tools.

* For example, GNU packages accounts for 14.79% of the 16.5GB of source packages used to build the Main repository of the gNewSense GNU/Linux distribution (deltad). They also constitute 6.69% of the 27GBs of source packages from which the Universe repository is built. Linux weighs in at about 253MB and accounts for approximately 1.5% of the source code needed to build the Main repository.

* Furthermore, Linux itself is generally built using GNU libraries and GNU tools, and on many systems depends on them being there.

* However, it’s not just a matter of accuracy as it relates to lines of code. It’s about the motivation and goals that got those lines written. By mentioning GNU, you are foregrounding the ethical commitment its hackers have to free software. The foregrounding of these principles is exactly the reason why some would prefer we
omit GNU.

* Bear in mind, we’re not talking about a single operating system, but rather, a very large class of operating systems, all of which have Linux as their kernel and a suite of libraries, applications and utilities from the GNU operating system. All distributions also contain software that is not from the GNU operating system, and all distributions contain software that is not part of the Linux kernel.

* The name GNU refers to the fact that the system was built for freedom — “join us, value your freedom and together we can preserve it”. We refer to Linux in conjunction with GNU, because without it GNU would be unable to run on thousands of different hardware platforms, yet the Linux kernel itself is not fully committed to freedom. It distributes proprietary software in the kernel, in the form of firmware.

* Even if Linux was completely devoid of non-free firmware, it would still make sense to refer to the distribution as GNU/Linux, because many distributions contain, or offer proprietary software in their installers and repositories — the extent to which they can do this is severely tempered by the significance of the GNU name. This name is inseparable from the ethical motivations that led to the free software movement.

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fold this thread Greg  Monday, 23 June 2008 o godz. 3:06 am #  Add karma Subtract karma  --1

I call it “Linux” just because GNU is such a horrible name. I appreciate the GPL, I appreciate GCC, etc etc but I’m not going to tell my grandma “it’s pronounced ‘new’ but spelled G-N-U” I’m going to tell her to install Linux.

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fold this thread Greg  Monday, 23 June 2008 o godz. 3:09 am #  Add karma Subtract karma  --1

oh man it’s pronounced guhnew.. that’s even more horrible

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fold this thread Website Hosting  Wednesday, 7 August 2013 o godz. 6:50 am #  Add karma Subtract karma  +0

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Keyto

Keyto is a computer engineer living in Poland. In free time he likes to write longish stories about GNU, Linux and its users :)

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