Subject: Re: GNU License for Hardware
From: "Derek J. Balling" <>
Date: Fri, 15 Oct 1999 15:35:47 -0700

[ This was a VERY long piece and I've tried to cut it down in relevant 
sections without destroying the intent or missing important bits. ]

>You really ought to grant a bit more leeway to the pertinent opinions
>held by those who've put in the blood, sweat, and tears to get things
>done than you seem to.  At least you should avoid going off into
>writing about losing your freedoms because of the mere *opinions* they
>express, or about how they're hypocritical because they express
>opinions about how others should exercise the very freedoms they've
>been granted!

>Linux was named Linux by the people working on the *kernel*.  I
>don't recall any votes on who got to name, or what the name would be for,
>the largish collection of GNU software *plus* that kernel, but it's
>always been my impression that the name "Linux" got stuck to that
>because "Linux" was such a cool name.

So, ... why would anyone call it GNU/Linux? The name that got applied to it 
by those who Were There was "Linux", for reasons of (apparently) simplicity 
and coolness.

>(IMO anyone who thinks "Linux" is the name of the whole OS, not just
>the kernel+kernelutils, and considers themselves a "Linux" hacker,
>should work on the non-kernel elements just as faithfully as they
>do the kernel.  I.e. they should work on GCC, binutils, etc., and
>be as faithful about cooperating with the official maintainers of
>those programs as they are with Linus.  The cooperation should go
>both ways, of course.)

Personally I try to tinker with the whole thing, participating in Sendmail 
betas, everything I can get my hands on. I may not be a coder, but I try to 
make the entire "whole" a better place.

> >That's an ideological issue, not really relevant to this discussion,
> >although I agree with all of your points except the last sentence.
>Do you mean last sentence *fragment*?  Because, as usual, I wrote a
>paragraph consisting of a single sentence.

yes. :)

>Prove me wrong.  Though I gather from the remainder of your post that
>you aren't actually worried about the issue, as much as you seemed
>to be earlier!

I'm worried about the damage that RMS's continued ranting on the topic 
causes the movement(s). Will his ranting about "Linux vs. GNU/Linux" at 
anyone who will give him column-inches make someone who was a fence-sitter 
decide to "stick with closed source stuff" because it is less of a hassle 
to deal with "than those guys who complain if you actually incorporate the 
code like they say you can."

>Still, assuming RMS *will* continue to "insist" the name "GNU/Linux"
>be used, you'll have to do one of the following to avoid losing face:
>   -  Agree with me that his insistences are not hypocritical, because
>      they don't take away any freedoms, so there's no need to "free"
>      Linux from GNU software.

I would say that it continues to be hypocritical. It is hypocritical for 
him to grant someone a right and then insist that they are wrong for using it.

If exercising that right was so wrong, then he should never have granted it 
in the first place.

>When they encounter "bugs" in GNU code, they see them as just bugs
>in the Linux variants of some random chunks of source code, and they
>fix them, too often with no regard to whether those fixes will
>make sense in the GNU project -- the *source* for all that GNU code.
>They don't see themselves as GNU people, but as Linux people, so
>they don't care about how well GNU works on Solaris, on AIX, on
>BSD, etc.

Exactly my point I've been making all along. They aren't GNU people, 
they're Linux people.

>That happens because they're less aware of GNU as a "going concern",
>a worthwhile project that still needs lots of work.

Nor do they need to be. They have found the code they needed, edited it, 
patched it, modified it, etc., all in accordance with the rights granted 
them by the GPL.

 >Now, if the distributions including Linux had been named "SLS GNU/Linux",
>"Slackware GNU/Linux", and so on, *some* of that might not have happened.

Agreed. But those who started things off didn't call it that, and anything 
else is strictly hypothetical.

> >My objection is to the FSF's insistence that
> >people who use the word "Linux" to refer to the operating system are 
> "WRONG".
>I have no objection to your objection, stated as such.  Go for it!
>But realize that your claim that this "insistence" constituted a
>removal of your freedom, or the freedom to use GNU software under
>the terms of the GPL, is what *I* was objecting to.  You implied
>this by saying RMS was hypocritical to promote freedom and at the
>same time state his opinions regarding naming.  I have no idea
>how else you could interpret what you said.

I never claim he "negates" or "removes" my freedom to call Linux whatever I 
like. My point is that one has to wonder why he is so vehemently opposed to 
people exercising their right to call the collection whatever they want. If 
he is so all-gung-ho for freedom, he shouldn't be complaining that they're 
exercising that freedom.

>The second sentence I don't agree with -- much, and not in this instance.
>His ideology includes giving people the freedom to use and modify
>GNU software and call it basically anything they want.  His actions
>include insisting they use the names he likes.  Those actions do
>not *contradict* his ideology nor the GPL.

Wait wait wait.. your logic here makes no sense. "calling it whatver you 
want" and "call it what I like" are contradictory. Thus, his ideology (the 
former) does contradict the actions (the latter).

>I raise this to illustrate the importance of a freedom-*loving* movement
>like Linux, GNU, Open Source, whatever, also having a strong freedom-
>*making* contingent, to avoid long-term decay of the freedoms they

I can accept that logic.

>RMS has done more than anyone I can think of offhand to promote
>freedom-*making* in the free-software/OSS community over the past
>20+ years, the past 10, even the past 5.

20 and 10... ok.
5? I don't know if I'd agree with that statement. I think perhaps ESR and 
others may have had more of a lasting influence in this timeframe.

>But what RMS does, in his own inimitable way, is to convince a few
>people here and there of the importance of, in essence, *fighting* for

And that freedom includes fighting against someone who tries to control 
what you call your product (note that I did not say EXERCISES CONTROL, but 

>That means being prepared to *continue* making freedom by, in this
>case, writing more free software, and especially making it *not*
>useful in the battle *against* free software by putting it under
>the GPL.

... or any other Open Source license. Plenty of them are written in a 
manner that does not allow it to be turned against itself.

>Knowing they are using "GNU/Linux"
>instead of just "Linux"

Here again... who says they are using "GNU/Linux"?

>(ESR's writings on OSS probably rank quite high among creating freedom-
>makers, when I think about it more.  But I do wonder how many of those
>might be eroded if the apparent practical benefits of OSS, upon which he
>largely bases his arguments, are themselves eroded, somehow, down the

The practical benefits of freedom have been eroded for years, but the love 
of freedom remains. Likewise, the love of OSS will continue to remain as 
well, methinks.

>No, again, the scenario I meant is where the vote is taken, the nine
>pepperoni-lovers raise their hands, they say "majority wins", the
>anchovie-lover whips out a semi-automatic and says "but I *really* want
>an anchovie pizza [and we can afford only one]".
>At that point, unless the nine pepperoni-lovers are *fanatics* about
>pepperoni *or* about democracy, the probable response will be "well,
>okay, anchovies it is!", as if the vote was just retaken.

Sounds like a relevant example: When a company I worked for was about to 
make a Very Stupid Decision, it was me (a Lead NOC Engineer), some VP's, 
some Directors, some mgr's, etc.  I refused to go along with their V.S.D. 
and tendered my resignation effectively immediately, and excused myself so 
I could pack up my desk. As you say, an unspoken revote is taken in moments 
like those.

>Why are you wasting time insisting RMS is "hypocritical" to have
>given people freedom to do X and then to ask them to *not* do X,
>when that is, after all, pretty much the only way anyone can
>credibly be said to have *given* freedom to anyone?  (I.e. the
>freedom to not do what they say to do later on.)
>The only way that would be hypocritical is if RMS first gave that
>freedom, then *took it back*.

To give the freedom and then complain that you use it is fairly 
hypocritical to most peoples' eyes.

>I mean, yes, RMS tried "lignux" and especially "GNU/Linux" too late,
>but AFAICT Linux enthusiasts tried the "we're really building our
>own operating system, not just a kernel that fits into GNU" line
>*much* later (in the pertinent timeline) by comparison.

I think that statement comes much later in life because it had seemed 
patently obvious until RMS came along with the "GNU/Linux" abomination.

>In other words: just because you disagree 100% with RMS on *this* issue,
>if you (whoever you are) can suspend your emotional response just long
>enough to see *why* he might have at least *thought* he had good reason
>to do what he did, you'll then be *free* to recognize that he wasn't
>doing something *just* to claim credit, *just* to steal mindshare, *just*
>because he's insane, or whatever.

I think that's an overly optimistic viewpoint, as evidenced by the wide 
number of people even within the OSS community he has alienated, let alone 
people who aren't nearly as familiar with the situation as they.

>And that, if he tries to do so, he'll have even less ground to stand
>on, and thus even less support then he had for "lignux" and "GNU/Linux",
>which is especially important when you consider how little support
>he had among some of his biggest supporters on those issues.

... which is why I think he'd do himself, the FSF, and the entire 
programming world a great deal of assistance by stopping his posturing on 
that topic.