Subject: Re: GNU License for Hardware
From: "Derek J. Balling" <>
Date: Fri, 15 Oct 1999 09:55:56 -0700

At 03:50 PM 10/15/99 +0000, wrote:
>If you claim that his mere "insistence", or request, to call it by a
>name that he believes more properly credits Project GNU, constitutes
>such a trampling on your "freedom" that you must "divest [yourself] of the
>GNU project for one that truly believes in freedom", then by all means
>go ahead and do the 10+ years of hard work to realize that dream.

But that's not what he says. You haven't read his writings very clearly. 
His claim is that its name isn't Linux at all. What he is saying is "The 
people who named their product are wrong. The name of their product is 
this."  RMS can certainly stress that "[he] wants people to use name 
such-and-such", or "the FSF would prefer if you called it <blah> to 
recognize our work", etc. etc., but that's what he does. What he does is 
tell people "You're not using the right name. That's not what the name of 
the OS is, it is called GNU/Linux", which is not the case. The people who 
first assembled the OS never called it that and do not to this day call it 

>Then, after the 10+ years of hard work you, along with all your friends and
>supporters do, which will surely be under the umbrella of some name *you*
>come up with to denote "true freedom"...

Actually, I personally would not have a problem with it. It seems that 
certain people with the FSF have an ego about the topic, though.

>The point is that RMS, for all his faults (some of which contributed
>to this naming controversy, IMO), cares *vastly* more about freedom than
>you know or, probably, do yourself.
>Why do I say that?  Because, based on your post, all you seem to care
>about is to call something what you want, and you have a fit because
>somebody (who has *no* legal authority to impose his will on you, something
>you are too clueless to understand or too desperate to engage in arguments
>to admit) suggests you use a different name.

My claim is that it is fine for him to tell people he would like them to 
use it, or that he would prefer that they use it, but NOT for him to say 
"That is not the name of the OS" (Which he does quite frequently, and has 
done in this forum as well). The name of the product is not for him to decide.

>Whereas, based on RMS' history, what *he's* done is not only *insist*
>on freedom, and *write* lots of code (including some famous code, like
>GCC and Emacs) that actually *was* free, he's even undertaken the vastly
>more difficult task of creating and nurturing a community that *values*
>those freedoms, *talks* about them (constantly, if not overmuch ;-), and
>defends them even against carrot-style persuasions to give them up in
>specific instances for short-term benefits.

That's an ideological issue, not really relevant to this discussion, 
although I agree with all of your points except the last sentence.

>In the end, I know that RMS will have contributed far more actual *freedom*
>to the computing community in an average *year* of his life than you will
>in your entire life, because you seem to care more about whining about
>minor things that are done (sometimes necessarily) to achieve major things.
>(I'd love to be proved wrong, of course.)

Ah, I knew we'd come to a personal attack somewhere in that diatribe. So 
disagreeing with His Royal Highness Richard is "whining" now?

>   Though I
>expect most X users know they are using something called X, I very
>much doubt most "Linux" users are aware they are using software highly
>dependent on GNU components, components that *will* need care and
>feeding over the next many years, just like the kernel.  Someday X
>will be "just there" for lots of users the way kernels, libraries,
>compilers, and assemblers are -- part of the wallpaper underlying
>whatever they *think* they're interacting with -- at which point
>they might think they're just using Enlightenment, or whatever, and
>not realize they're also using X, glibc, Linux, GCC, etc.  (I realize
>it's a problem that name games alone cannot hope to solve.)

How many Windows users know that they use software dependent upon [insert 
name of the original software that Bill Gates bought and sold as MS-DOS 1.0 
here because I can't remember it]?

Just because something is absorbed into the whole doesn't mean that it has 
to be formally recognized by words and titles.

>In the meantime, if you want to really start on the de-GNU-ing Linux
>project -- which I wholeheartedly endorse, for reasons going well beyond
>promising an end to this naming fiasco (and ridding the GNU project of
>much of the resentment directed at it by Linux enthusiasts) -- I suggest
>you start by modifying Linux itself so it can be effectively compiled
>by *any* C compiler, not just GCC, and getting Linus to accept your
>patches.  (It won't be easy, but it's probably the most important thing
>to do, in terms of getting widespread acceptance that you *have* created
>a truly GNU-free Linux-based system.)

Personally, I have no desire to use anything but the GNU stuff, because 
they are fine tools. They are fine tools which are put out there for all 
the world to use by the FSF. My objection is to the FSF's insistence that 
people who use the word "Linux" to refer to the operating system are "WRONG".

>In other words: Project GNU is, like it or not, populated by lots of
>people who actually *care* enough about freedom to *do* something about
>it.  (That's, IMO, partly due to RMS' obsessions about *true* freedoms:
>people who don't care about them enough to do something about them are
>*likely* to be put off by RMS' obsessiveness.  Though some who do care
>enough might be put off by other things and go off and work on other
>projects anyway, so I'm not saying *all* freedom-loving people work
>for scary would *that* be...shudder.  ;-)

I think its scary that ANYONE follows him, ideologically. His ideology and 
his actions seem inconsistent with each other. His followers tend towards 
attributing messianic qualities to his teachings. He's a great coder, but a 
VERY poor leader, IMHO.

>And people who are aware that they might well *do* something about
>a lack of freedom generally have more than a clue about exactly what
>freedom *is*, and what it *isn't* -- because when it comes to *doing*
>something, most people become a lot more rational about what is worth
>doing, how difficult it might be to do, and what the risks are, than
>when they care merely about having something done *for* them by others,
>as GNU, Linux, and X was done for you.

Hey, if I could code C worth a damn, I'd be down in the trenches tinkering 
alongside the masses.

>(This is, by the way, why I expect 2nd-amendment supporters to win out over
>gun-control advocates in the USA -- I believe a much larger portion of
>the former are willing to take a bullet for their cause than of the
>latter, who generally expect *others*, i.e. hired men with guns, to
>do their dirty work.

Hey! We agree on something. :)  I know I would take a bullet to keep my 
guns. :)

>This is an aspect of something schools don't
>teach about democracy: 9 people wanting pepperoni pizza versus 1 person
>who wants anchovies does *not* mean pepperoni gets ordered if that
>one person is willing to die, or at least kill, for those anchovies.

Actually, no, that would be an accurate statement for democracy. Democracy 
is where every person has an equal say in what happens and majority rules.

Now, if the minority has the means to effective reduce the number of people 
in the majority, then they are simply using democracy to their advantage.

If you're describing a situation where you end up with a pizza that is 90% 
pepperoni and 10% anchovies, let me point you at the Libertarian Party, 
where that would seem to be more in line with their thinking.

If you want to order 9 pepperoni pizzas and 1 anchovy pizza, that's an 
anarchy, and there's groups for that too (even if that is a contradiction 
in terms) *G*

>But I doubt *those* people whine that RMS, when he pushes the "GNU/Linux"
>name, is somehow "taking away their freedom".  They might just ignore
>his requests, or loudly reject them, but they probably have a better
>notion of what "freedom" is than you do -- after all, they've *worked*
>for it.

I never claimed he was "taking away my freedom". My claim has been that for 
him to say that people are WRONG for using Linux's given name, then he is 
himself wrong.

>Yes, I'd prefer RMS (and GNU and everyone else generally) respect names
>more than people tend to.  The abuse of names (whether to insult others,
>as in "MS-DOG" or to claim mindshare that isn't deserved, as in "Windows"
>or ""), to me, violates the Golden Rule.  It seemed pretty
>clear to me that "GNU/Linux" came along too late to change the *actual*
>name (as in "the name everyone uses") for "Linux", and, if it hadn't,
>the "Lignux" debacle that preceded "GNU/Linux" tipped it over the edge.

Exactly, exactly, exactly. I don't care what RMS calls Linux. He can call 
it "FoobarOS 6.9" for all I care. But when he tells someone else "You are 
wrong, that is not Linux, that is FooBar OS!", then THAT is wrong. He's 
more than welcome to say "I don't think you should call it that, you should 
call it FooBarOS, and here's why I do that", but not to tell journalists 
"you're wrong, that's not its name".

>That being said, I've felt the "GNU/Linux" naming proposal is, putting
>aside the specifics of the campaign, among the *least* offensive attempts
>I've seen to change the name of a thing.  (Especially given that,
>at least for awhile, apparently, many people who said they were "hacking
>Linux" were actually hacking GNU code in Linux-specific ways and not
>caring one whit about interoperability with other systems.  I hope that's
>no longer the case, if it ever was, but IIRC it was cited as evidence
>for the need to make it clear that Linux is basically just a *kernel*
>plus kernel-specific utilities, while GNU is a huge collection of codes
>that are required to work properly on more than just Linux-based systems.)

Clear evidence that Linux does not strive to be the GNU system RMS talks 
about. The Linux users were more than willing to cannibalize code from the 
GNU system, but didn't care if it still worked with other OS's. Why? 
Because they were building THEIR OWN operating system, Linux.

>But the "GNU/Linux" campaign would probably have worked a lot better if
>it had constituted creating an FSF distribution of a complete GNU system
>with a choice of Linux (perhaps as well as a BSD or Hurd) kernel and
>promoting *that* so strongly that the "GNU/Linux" name would take over
>only to the extent that the distribution was well-done.

Ayup ayup ayup as has been mentioned many times here before.

><long discussion about scaring people away from projects>

Agreed wholeheartedly. I think RMS, and by extension the FSF, did 
themselves far more harm than good in the debacle. I think that by the 
FSF's leader CONTINUING the debacle prolongs the damage it causes. The 
FSF/GNU project as well as RMS, would be far better off "letting go" of the 
code. As it stands, they tend to come across as "my code my code my code 
give me credit dammit" types. Not an attack, just a reality. When SEEING 
that kind of response, people may pause to wonder about OTHER GPL'ed 
software, wondering "If I incorporate THAT GNU product into my project, am 
I going to face this nightmare like the Linux folks did", which may scare 
them away from the GPL. This does not, one would think, further RMS's goals 
of freedom and such.