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Linux vs. Bullshit (linuxjournal.com)
145 points by Mithrandir on Sept 7, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 80 comments

I found this article confusing because the introduction -- the title, the SunOS history, the Longfellow quote, and Morton's quote -- all suggest a self-righteous position around technical integrity and engineering choices. (Such a position would be poorly-founded anyway, since economics are a crucial part of engineering, even engineering that starts from a principle of technical integrity above all else. Besides that, various sources peg the percentage of Linux kernel contributions coming from commercial entities upwards of 75% -- which is a great thing, but can hardly be said to be free of commercial influence.)

The meat outlines some good points about modern advertising, but I don't get what it has to do with Linux. (Which "Linux" is this? The system? The community? Something else?)

It's also wrong to say that software systems don't lie: that's what virtual memory is, for example. Obviously educated people know the truth, but there's a real sense in which the system is presenting one thing as though it's really another, when the system is actually just going through great pains to make things look that way. This is often a good thing in software, unless the system gets caught in the lie (e.g., when it has to page things out or deploy the OOM killer), at which point real people are often surprised at what was going on all along.

Yeah, the organization's a mess, but there are some gems in there, like:

> Trader Joe's [in avoiding loyalty programs, coupons, and retailer trade fairs] spares itself the cognitive overhead required to rationalize complicating the living shit out of everything

Should have maybe been broken into a series of two paragraph articles.

This was a really bad example. Trader Joe's repackages (almost) everything under their own brand so you can't recognize and buy the product elsewhere. So technically it's (almost) all BS.

You've got this backwards. TJ sells name brand products at a discount that can be fairly steep. The product manufacturers are incentivized to camouflage this (via the TJ label) so as not to cannibalize their higher margin brand name sales.

This is what Trade Joe's says, but our experience is that the bill is higher at TJ's than at, say, Walmart or Safeway, for the same shopping list.

Sorry, I'm not following, why is that BS? It sounds like you're saying it's BS since other stores are not Trader Joe's.

It's BS because you can't compare prices even though you're basically buying the same product.

Maybe you can't compare the exact same product, but you can certainly compare the type of product.

> This was a really bad example.

Yeah, fair point, I don't cut coupons or sign up for every loyalty program, but I've still always been sort of underwhelmed at TJs.

Maybe Aldi would have been a better example.

Spot on. I couldn't finish it to be honest. The author could have broken this article into at least two different essays to flesh out his ideas more. There was just so much going on.

I really appreciate this article. Searls has put to words a concept that has long bothered me on an intuitive level. Namely that all of these bullshit marketing techniques create a cognitive load that is not in proportion to any value that I as a customer receive from them.

I think it is self-evident that when it comes to matters of taste there is no really "right" answer, but these middle-men are all about muddying the waters for the (short term) benefit of their clients at my personal expense. That is really in contradiction to the premise of a market-based economy - that every transaction benefits both sides. These techniques are all about shifting as much of the benefit to the seller rather than improving the outcomes for both participants.

> Namely that all of these bullshit marketing techniques create a cognitive load that is not in proportion to any value that I as a customer receive from them.

The problem is that companies don't exist in a vacuum, and soon as one adopts these marketing techniques, everybody has to adopt to "stay competitive", even though they end up wasting money and bullshitting the customer. It's a prisoner's dilemma.

That's one reason why advertising makes so much money. Advertising is one of the rare industries that generates demand for itself.

> The problem is that companies don't exist in a vacuum, and soon as one adopts these marketing techniques, everybody has to adopt to "stay competitive"

I was wondering the same thing, although Searls takes an example of Trader Joe's and tries to illustrate how avoiding marketing actually helps this business. I'm not from the US, so have never heard of Trader Joe's. I can't help but wonder how competitive it is compared to other businesses who do employ those huge marketing / big data operations. I am also curious how the customer experience itself differs between companies in this market.

Trader Joes has a very loyal customer base, sometimes described as fanatical. Based on their continuing expansion ( http://www.traderjoes.com/stores/index.asp ) they appear to be very successful. They are owned by Aldi Nord.

In my case it wasn't really that I was attracted to shopping at Trader Joes, so much as the bullshit at all the other grocery stores pushed me away. For example, a couple of them now have advertising videos (with loud audio) running right in your face as you stand in the checkout line. That sent my aggravation level through the roof. The very last time I was in one of those stores I literally abandoned my cart in the line and walked out because of it. I simply could not take it.

Trader Joes isn't perfect, but they don't come across as contemptuous the way the extreme bullshitters do. I think there is at least a lesson here about the "arms race" of marketing bullshit.

For decades, maybe centuries, stores have run sales. They are a level of bullshit, it adds to the cognitive load by making customers decide to buy now or wait for a possible sale in the future. But it's low-level enough that few people are annoyed by weekly sales.

It is only in the recent ~20 years that we've seen a major escalation of bullshit at grocery stores. Technology has enabled things like loyalty cards, targeted marketing, individualized flyers in the mail, purchase-specific coupons on check-out, blaring videos through-out the store, etc. This marketing bullshit may well be feeding itself. But the greater the bullshit, the more obvious to the customers just how much better opting out would be. At some point it becomes obvious to the majority of customers that "the only winning move is not to play."

At least I hope so because that end game means the real bullshitters get punished for it, rather than rewarded as hcarvalhoalves postulated.

Thanks for the detailed info. By the name alone I assumed it was some kind of a hardware store :)

Slightly on a tangent, but it makes me wondering if things like screens with audio in-store is exactly the kind of marketing spiel that backfires. Short-term, if you put one, I bet it could increase sale. The novelty, the attention grabbing potential etc. But this is a very short-term, short-sighted win, because when it becomes prevalent everywhere, it's just a nuisance and probably decreases sales. (just my non-scientific, half rant random thoughts on the subject).

In any case, I'm glad to hear there are some successful alternatives out there, that realize the potential of not jumping on the marketing bandwagon.

I shop at Trader Joe's because there is one very near my house, and the produce is much, much better than anything you'd get at Safeway, Target, Wal*Mart, Giant Eagle, etc. Cutting open a bell pepper to find mold inside is not an experience I want to have again. Nor is buying bagged spinach and realizing that it's already turning brown and soggy.

Let's not over-idealize the situation. Trader Joe's does advertise (they keep sending me paper mail) and they do put things on sale from time to time. Thankfully, they don't have any loyalty card bullshit-- that kind of thing is always a big pain. TJ's also carries a fairly limited selection of items compared to most stores. But it turns out that having a limited selection of items that are not shit is preferable to being a giant warehouse of questionable items.

> and they do put things on sale from time to time

I think you are mistaken. From their FAQ:

"Sale" is a four-letter word to us. We have low prices, every day. No coupons, no membership cards, no discounts. You won't find any glitzy promotions or couponing wars at our stores. If it makes you feel any better, think of it as all our items are on sale, day in and day out.



I live in the bay area, and I wouldn't buy anything from Safeway that wasn't already in a can or a jar when they got it. And sometimes not even that.

In 2012, Consumer reports did a study where only a few "extra virgin olive oils" turned out to actually be extra virgin. Trader Joes has them; Safeway does not. http://www.phoenixhelix.com/2013/03/04/would-the-real-olive-...

Simiarly, would you buy honey from Safeway? It's not actually pure honey. The FDA doesn't enforce any standards as to what can be labelled honey (although they do provide a grade which tells you what color it is) http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2011/11/tests-show-most-store-... Trader Joe's has real honey.

Spinach I buy from TJ's keeps for two weeks, but spinach I buy from Target is already wilted after a few days. I don't know if there's anyone out there measuring produce quality, so I can't give you a link.

Sometimes, it really is about having a better product, not about marketing, positioning, or other bullshit. (And I guess now we're back on topic?)

Trader Joe's only works in a world where everyone is already using these tactics. Imagine a world where everyone was like Trader Joe's. The first grocer with a loyalty program that offered discounts, etc. would suddenly seem new and interesting. That grocer could easily position themselves as caring more about their customer than the others who have no such program.

Branding and market positioning isn't an absolute thing. It's done relative to other folks already in the market.

For a European example, this profile of Zara is interesting. Its very much lean startup applied to retail, so about what customers want not manipulating demand http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/11/magazine/how-zara-grew-int...

> I'm not from the US, so have never heard of Trader Joe's.

Probably most Americans haven't heard of Trader Joe's since most of its stores are in Southern California.

But it's a really cool grocery chain, and I say that as someone who generally hates shopping. Still one of the things we miss most about California since we moved to Australia.

Probably most Americans haven't heard of Trader Joe's since most of its stores are in Southern California.

You must have blinked! They started there, but have expanded rapidly across the US in recent years. They now have 400+ stores in 35 states: http://www.traderjoes.com/pdf/locations/all-llocations.pdf

There's a bunch in Massachusetts, at least.

They're kind of everywhere now. I was introduced to them when I was living in Chicago 5 years ago.

"The problem is that companies don't exist in a vacuum, and soon as one adopts these marketing techniques, everybody has to adopt to "stay competitive", even though they end up wasting money and bullshitting the customer. It's a prisoner's dilemma."

I like this way of putting it. It really is a classic prisoner's dilemma.

That doesn't help anyone to make money without wasteful and irrational practices but at least it explains exactly what is going on.

It's not a new issue, unfortunately. Plato wrote about it [0].

[0] http://classics.mit.edu/Plato/gorgias.html (or at Project Gutenberg: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/1672 )

Advertising and Human resource departments...

these middle-men are all about muddying the waters for the (short term) benefit of their clients at my personal expense.

I'm not sure. It often seems they muddy the water for their own benefit, at the expense of their client, with any damage to you the shopper being merely incidental. I thought this was one of the things Searls' was getting at in the article:

In fact, advertising and marketing have always been good at bullshitting themselves. Consider, for example, the old saying (often attributed to John Wanamaker, who is not known to have actually said it) "I know half my advertising is wasted, I just don't know which half." The correct answer is that most of it is wasted, and the industry has known that for the duration. They just don't want to talk about it.

>...but these middle-men are all about muddying the waters for the (short term) benefit of their clients at my personal expense.

I think that they are misleading their clients just as much as prospective buyers. The resultant cloud of garish, rainbow hued fog intruding between buyer and seller reduces the efficiency of the market, and brings only short term illusory benefit to the advertising industry (at least until their credibility dissipates).

It boils down to "Bullshit, damned bullshit, and marketing".

I read the article, and I don't see what the thesis is.

The article is disorganized. You can't tell where it's going, and when it gets there, you can't tell where you are.

It also seems to contain a lot of pretentious pseudo-intellectual posturing.

Maybe I'm missing something, though. Someone feel free to enlighten me.

EDIT: Also, I should state that I find the scatalogical references to be vulgar, juvenile, and a big turn-off.

The thesis is that things like Linux belong to a category of human endeavours that are opposite in nature to most of what regular consumers are exposed to nowadays. Furthermore, it analyses the increasingly strong "economy of bullshit" that we live under.

It's hard to avoid the scatological references without diluting the message. When I read "bullshit" for the first time, I knew immediately what the author meant. Had he said "intentional misrepresentation and/or exaggeration of facts for the purpose of personal gain", the whole thing would be harder to read. And the author even bothered to explain the analogy.

I don't think pseudo-intellectual posturing is a problem here. The author is quoting philosophers, but he does that in a way that is relevant to the main thesis. I understand that a lot of people groan the moment they see a reference to Philosophy. Philosophers might be to blame for that, but let's not throw away the baby with the bath water.

I would make the opposite accusation towards many articles we see on HN these days: they are too simplistic, too conformist and lack deep thinking.

>The thesis is that things like Linux belong to a category of >human endeavours that are opposite in nature to most of what >regular consumers are exposed to nowadays

But this is true for any open source project, why just Linux ? That said, I feel Linux too can't escape the "economy of bullshit" - commercial companies have interest and contribute to different parts of the Linux kernel for a reason. Heck even MS works on the hyper-v code base, not for the betterment of Linux but for the good of their own product. The "enterprise focus" of LKML activity is proof enough.

> But this is true for any open source project

Not in my opinion. In my opinion, Gnome, KDE, Ubuntu and many others are self-destructing in an effort to imitate Apple's design without understanding it, and generating a good amount of bullshit in the process.

I don't think anyone here is suggesting that companies==bullshit. There's nothing wrong with smart employees of big companies contributing to the kernel. In many cases it's mutually beneficial so it's the rational thing to do. On the other hand, it seems to be very hard to create a big corporation without letting bullshit fester. Linux is not controlled by the sort of people that thrive on bullshit. But could it fall under their control in the future? Sure.

> Gnome, KDE, Ubuntu and many others are self-destructing in an effort to imitate Apple's design without understanding it

I'd go so far to say that the desktop App Store is a BAD idea.

1. It was meant to make mobile more free, and now makes desktops less free.

It was born out of things like Brew on the old, old cellular market. Mobile content used to be as free as a concentration camp, and in order to appease them, Apple said "we'll do your content management for you". That was a huge deal step forward, but it obviously wasn't enough or people wouldn't jailbreak their phones.

2. It is not sustainable over the long haul.

Centralized app management is not a long-sustainable model for the desktop, or anything for that matter. You cannot continue to micromanage that much software without things eventually deteriorating. Apps require maintenance or removed as hardware and the OS changes.

3. The user experience sucks.

It puts all the installed apps in its own area (LaunchPad) in addition to the AppStore app where you see what you bought, and both in addition to the previously widely known Applications directory/folder. That's just stupid. Why do people want to emulate that mess?

3. But it survives for now because it is profitable.

I've bought more apps in OS X using the App Store than I would have in a store or via some other online delivery mechanism or Amazon, etc.

But, none of all of that would have been as terrible, if it hadn't spread to Ubuntu. Seeing similar there was a huge WTF moment.

Which are all Linux distros, of course.

If we are talking about the Linux kernel, specifically, then of course it's not consumer bullshit, because the Linux kernel is a technical product in a B2B market. You might as well say that Intel CPUs or Samsung flash chips or Nikon steppers are not consumer bullshit.

On Bullshit is an essay written in 1986 by philosopher Harry G. Frankfurt. Whilst bullshit is a swear word, it is immediately recognisable and gets the readers attention immediately.

However, I had to read Doc Searles essay twice myself. I think it appears disorganized because it starts discussing the Linux kernel but it is about advertising. The big idea is tat most on,one advertising is wasteful, and unnecessarily violates privacy for no real good reason. The second time I read the article, I suddenly realised why he juxtaposed the Linux kernel with advertising. The Trader Joes example makes it quite clear.

Thanks for that. Not only is the article pretentious bullshit, it's also factually wrong. There are loads of companies directly supplying developers to Linux and all of them have a strong motive to push development in the companies' own directions.

True, but they don't always get it in the way they want it. The Android work took a long time to be incorporated into the kernel. Google is a pretty big player!

"We now know that the Feds and marketing mills are both harvesting massive amounts of personal data without revealing to us what they know, and that the two are actually in cahoots, at least some of the time. This is especially vexing, because the feds should be the ones protecting us from bad actors, rather than bad actors themselves."

This quote nails it for me. The waste involved with universal surveillance.

Further down this discussion, some participants are arguing about terminology ('Linux' or 'GNU/Linux') which is the other side of the free software/open source process...

I was previously unaware of the work of Harry Frankfurt, and the original journal version of the On Bullshit essay is available online as a .pdf. There goes the morning...

  "To be fair, both the DAA and the IAB would like 
   advertising to be as wrought as possible, and for 
   consumers to appreciate the good intentions and effects 
   of their business. I know that because I've talked to 
   them about it. Those organizations see themselves, 
   correctly, as advocates for good behavior in a business 
   rife with the opposite. "
this paragraph stuck with me. I rigorously ad block, on everything. I make sure my relatives have PVR's and I train them to pause and skip effectively so that they never see advertisements. I install ad block on not just my computer, but my families as well. I actively avoid content that has advertisements in it (I don't play free to play games, for example).

I do all this for two reasons.

1. I don't trust them. I honestly believe that if an advertisement ever states anything, the opposite is likely to be true. eg. "Our product helps you lose weight!" I am now convinced this product makes you gain weight.

2. I fear that advertisements really alter the way I perceive the world. part of that fear discussed here: http://www.reddit.com/r/explainlikeimfive/comments/14y695/el...

I worry that advertisements gradually change the people that watch them.

but the paragraph mentioned above gave me pause. I can't help but feel, if there were advertisements that didn't lie or actively mislead, that didn't have a terrible and dishonest history, that didn't exist purely as a form of mass manipulation, that I would be more amenable to them.

Of course, that will NEVER happen EVER.

so I will continue to block them at every vector. Maybe when the advertising industry is completely squeltched, desperate, and trying to claw itself from its own dug grave, will they play by the users rules. I wouldn't hold your breath.

> 1. I don't trust them. I honestly believe that if an advertisement ever states anything, the opposite is likely to be true. eg. "Our product helps you lose weight!" I am now convinced this product makes you gain weight.

Uh, ok.

I don't like ads and prefer content without them, however I've never thought that the act of avoiding them was taking a stand or anything like that. It's interesting though to hear someone's justification for it. What are your thoughts on pirating content? I would guess you also hold some strong views on the righteousness of that.

pirating content really helps to prevent free software from being adopted. So... I guess that would be considered pretty righteous, right?

*edit: clarity.

or were you thinking along the lines media piracy?

I have no justifications or rationalizations there. There's a giant bureaucracy that will never move, and never let me watch their content. So more or less, I don't.

> Linux doesn't lie

Until you ask it to allocate some memory.

echo 2 > /proc/sys/vm/overcommit_memory

But be warned, a lot of applications also lie on how much memory they need.

It's mostly about copy-on-write memory due to forks.

> allocate some memory.

Think of it as allocating address space, not memory.

Great article. It can expand further than Linux and turn into a piece of it's own. Bullshitting is the disease of the decade.

linux development is majorly funded by those same old school (with some new entries) companies with the same agenda of pushing linux in a friendly direction.

the "community" has long since ceased to be what most people think it is.

Absolutely, most of the work being done is for self serving reasons, which happen to be shared by a number of organizations.

Due to the GPL "infection", though, the bullshit can only go so far. If it went too far, somebody would make a "ReDoIx" fork/distribution from the unbroken parts, and build something that people could tolerate.

I started with Slackware Linux in the mid 90s, jumped to RedHat for a while, couldn't figure out what to make of "Fedora", so I jumped to Ubuntu. While both my current and previous employer use RedHat in production (the previous employer was on Debian until being acquired by BigCo), I have no problem with jumping again when something better comes around.

I guess business-to-business supported software has to come with a certain level of bullshit or FUD.

Things I think are bullshit:

1. Ubuntu's decision to include ads

Linux got a real black eye from that imo, and turned me off of the normal Ubuntu distro for the forseeable future. Even for my lightweight distro I use Mint XCFE now just to stay the hell away from an organization that would do that.

2. Corporate Linux

I liked RedHat in 1997-98, but they went corporate quickly, and since then I personally don't like paying anyone for Linux. I want to support the hacker ethos that made Linux great, not some big corporate head.

I don't use Adblock. I could, obviously. All my friends and coworkers seem to. Honestly, the main reason I don't is because I want to support Google. Sure, they're only a large portion if ads, not all of them, but given the insane amount of value they provide to me, I'd feel downright guilty not allowing them to make money off of me.

Do you click them?

If not then google aren't making money.

If yes then you might have to feel guilty about robbing small businesses to make money for google.

I'm quite for supporting Google at their pages.

But don't count on me to enable third party scripts and cookies. I'm quite against having somebody tracking all the sites I visit, and running random software on my computer.

You can choose which ads to block, some people only block the most annoying ones at pages they frequent.

If you have an older computer, flash ads really do slow things down considerably, for instance.

Yup, I use the Trader Joe's analogy too. I love them. There's no contrived nonsense. It's so refreshing. It's so obvious how all the rest are manipulative bullshitters. Hooray for integrity. Why they hell do 70% of GNU/Linux users still not use AdBlock????

I am a developer who works in advertising and I can say this article is bullshit (different agenda, but bullshit just the same).

Most of the literature out there makes the marketing world out to be the NSA. The truth is there are some very easy ways to control the ads you see on your screen if you take the time to understand how it works. Basically, not logging into Google while searching and periodically clearing your cookies will keep your searches for sex toys from showing you ads for butt-plugs. Most of this information is stored in cookies, except for when dealing with companies with large stakes in advertising that have user accounts where they can store your history with their service (Google). I find storing search information connected to a user in a database to be invasive so I don't log into Google. I have little reason to log into Google and do so very infrequently. If your argument for logging in is gmail, just don't use the web client. Cookies are protected by domain so the only visibility into the ads you're delivered via a cookied ad network is via your eyeballs.

Many of the technologies listed in the article are hair splitting variants and some are not advertising at all (Web Analytics are used mainly to determine where people go and what they are interested in in your website to drive changes that benefit users and keep your website profitable, whether that be through ad placement or order form flow). Additionally, ad buying for newspapers and television are only slightly less complicated and involve only slightly fewer middle men than internet advertising and these days those are considered "traditional" advertising media. CRM is listed here as well, which is basically the online equivalent of leaving your business card at someone's office and is mostly used by companies as an alternative to cold calling.

Much of the diversity listed here is about monetization. IE, does the publisher get paid for impressions (views of the ad) or clicks, or completed tasks (sign-ups, orders, etc). This is better for the advertisers because they can pay only for effective ad placements, and puts a lot of focus then on how the ads are placed effectively (so those who display them can make money from those who traffic them). Without going into it too deeply, this is how money from a company (like Aspen Solutions, who's ads I see on the article page for example) trickles down to linuxjournal.com to pay their staff and hosting bills. If you prefer paywalls on your news outlets and blogs or are willing to pay Google for access to their search database (or worse need to log in so they can collect data about your searches to sell to parties undisclosed), I'm sure that could be arranged, but I will go on avoiding traps and diverting my eyes because I understand that this is the middle-ground. At some point you have to accept that the services we enjoy on the internet are built by people with families that like to eat and your selfish desire for public search privacy and screens uncluttered by advertising are secondary to their well being. Are there people making a lot of money off of advertising? Yes, but much fewer than make money off of professional sports which is also funded by advertising and gets a hell of a lot less negative press.

And this: "The truth is there are some very easy ways to control the ads you see on your screen if you take the time to understand how it works."

Is the entire problem. One of Searl's points is that cognitive overload results in abuse. Let me create a straw man and see if it works as illustration.

I've got a restaurant and on a white board I write a word, then when the waitstaff says that word, customers merely have to lay their heads on the table, because those that don't will be slapped. Periodically, and without sound, I will erase the word on the board and replace it with a new one.

Now eating at this restaurant is a lot harder because while I'm eating I have to keep an eye on the white board and duck when I hear the word that is written on it, and still eat.

You've increased the "cognitive load" of eating artificially. So something that I would give my whole attention too now only gets 80% or less because this other distraction. The alternative is to eat while being slapped. Which ruins the entire experience.

As more and more of our activities involve tools or products that can be remotely controlled, people exploiting that control to inject advertising impute a tax on our usage which is not appreciated.

I like the way he makes it sound like the issue here is that I want to easily "control the ads you see on your screen" in order to hide my perversions from family members and shoulder-surfers.

Yes, I believe this person is in advertising.

Minor point: could the prevalence of ad-blocking on Linux be mostly because ad-blocking makes the Web significantly faster because Flash is dog-slow on Linux, rather than any particular philosophical objection to ads?

Could be, but careful observation and personal research has revealed that Flash runs dog slow in OS/X and Windows also.

"GNU/Linux" is the OS, "Linux" is just the kernel. The GNU project is responsible for many of the crucial parts responsible for making a complete OS, save for the kernel. Abbreviating the OS with "Linux", for the sake of convenience, should be avoided in order to give the GNU project its due credit.

That's not how OS naming works.

Historically, naming rights for an OS go to whoever actually puts together and distributes the complete system. For instance, if a workstation company licensed Unix from AT&T and ported it to their workstation, they got to name that OS whatever they wanted. A couple examples of this were Uniplus+, which was UniSoft's Unix, and 386/ix, which was Interactive System Corporation's Unix. Both were Unix systems--they used a Unix kernel and Unix utilities--but that wasn't their names. Half the fun working at a Unix workstation company in the early '80s was thinking of a neat name for your Unix port. :-)

For the complete systems distributed by Canonical, Red Hat, and the like, they are the ones who get to name the operating systems that they distribute. Ubuntu calls their OS the "Ubuntu operating system". Red Hat calls their OS "Red Hat Enterprise Linux".

Yes, they are also GNU systems, but if we want to be historically accurate, the most correct way to view this would be to view "GNU system" and "GNU/Linux" as specifications for a specific Unix-like userspace and for an OS that runs the GNU system on a Linux kernel, respectively. The Ubuntu operating system complies with the GNU system specification and is a GNU/Linux system, but it is named Ubuntu operating system.

While this inversion of the usual prescriptivist argument for "GNU/Linux" is amusing and interesting, I feel it's worth stating the more general objection as well:

It's called Linux because we call it Linux. That is how language works. It doesn't matter about the official name or the etymology, if the population typically uses a certain term for something, that is the "correct" term.

Now there are lots of arguments for preferring an atypical term in some situations. Official names in more formal contexts, genderless nouns to avoid excluding people, and indeed "GNU/Linux" to promote the GNU project. But these are choices we make, and are not something to be forced on people who don't necessarily agree with the reasoning behind them.

No one is forcing anyone. It is just a courtesy, not a binding, to acknowledge the group who built the OS ground up.

The GNU project had built all pieces of the OS, before convincing Linus Torvalds to release his proprietary kernel code in the GPL license.

The Linux kernel was never proprietary.

From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Linux, here is the relevant part:

"Since the initial release of its source code in 1991, it has grown from a small number of C files under a license prohibiting commercial distribution to its state in 2009 of over 370 megabytes of source under the GNU General Public License."

OK, technically correct, but access to source code and a restriction on commercial distribution is not what people usually associate with propietary software. When you say propietary what most of us think is Linus releasing binary-only versions of Linux in 1991, which is false. I think "almost free software" is a much more accurate description, and a lot less flamey.

And by the way, the GPL was first written in 1989, so you could hardly argue that in 1991 many people understood how free software should work or which are the longterm consequences of using a certain license for your hobby project. Cut Linus some slack, he released source code and eventually used the GPL, right?

Thanks, I didn't expect to ever read anything insightful about this debate.

> "GNU/Linux" is the OS, "Linux" is just the kernel.

It's great we're talking about the kernel codebase then!

The argot is what it is. "g'nuu slash linux" is such a horribly awkward thing to say that it will never, ever supplant the two syllable short form.

This distraction has been done to death, how about discusing what the article was actually about

Hey, I use Busybox/Linux you insensitive clod!

> "GNU/Linux" is the OS, "Linux" is just the kernel. The GNU project is responsible for many of the crucial parts responsible for making a complete OS

So is X.org, the KDE project, the Mozilla project, and a number of other projects which aren't as well-known. So should it be X.org/KDE/Mozilla/OpenSSH/GNU/Linux? If not, why not?

Because X, KDE, GNOME etc. were all built using the core tools that GNU project provides. Most notably the gcc compiler.

The Android system uses the Linux kernel, but should people refer to the OS as "Linux" or "Android"? I think even calling that as Linux is fine, as long as people understand its just the kernel that they are calling out. The OS is either GNU/Linux (desktop/server OS) or Android (the mobile phone OS).

GNU's core tools were built with non-GNU stuff like Vim and valgrind, but you don't see them getting special mention either. And much of the modern userland requires, say, Python to function! No mention there, either. The idea that part of the userland deserves a special mention (but no, not the rest, just GNU) is over-privileged attention-seeking.

The convention has generally become that Linux-kernel operating systems are called "Linux". But you have options if this offends you so. If you don't like that, Debian's over there and willing to play along, and if you really don't like it, I hear that GNU has a kernel of their own rattling somewhere around gnu.org.

So by that reasoning FreeBSD is turning from GNU/FreeBSD to Apple/FreeBSD as they change from gcc to clang?

Don't be ridiculous.

[edit]: spelling

So we are using GNU/OpenBSD too? because of gcc ?

Years ago, I used to joke with friends starting with ubuntu, that they were using really adobe/nvidia/broadcom/micrososoft/oracle/etc/gnu/linux.

well I certainly didn't use gcc (pcc/clang). does that apply to me too?

you GNU terrorists are funny, thinking you can go and claim others ppl work by attaching "GNU" prefix to a projects name and lying to everyone how it _is_ gnu. Unfortunately Linux is only GPL2 (and that too was a mistake as we can see from the above example - Linus said something about it too as I recall).

GNU terrorist? Look up the history of the operating system and you'll find that GNU and Linux kernel were both equally responsible for putting together a free and open source operating system. Before the GNU project, Linux kernel was on proprietary license.

Linux doesn't lie, any more than gravity lies, or geology lies, or atmosphere lies. Like those other natural things, Linux has no guile, no agenda beyond supporting the entirety of use-space.

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