by Michael L. Richardson
I am aware that those of you who have been around the computer community for a while get tired of repeating and hearing the same thing again and again. But take the time to listen and the explain again and again to those who don't know (do not just say RTFM).
Knowledge is the only thing that we can pass on. It is lack of knowledge that got the DMCA passed. It is lack of knowledge of something better that gets people to buy Microsoft. It is lack of knowledge that gets me to ask or say things that annoy you. (When I ask a question let me phase the whole question, then answer the question). Passing on what one has learned is one of the scared purposes of life.
You ask what has this got to do with a name? EVERYTHING. We give names power, and what we call a thing gives it it's power (not what the thing really is). We use names as symbols of what a thing is even if it no longer is that thing (eg. Brooklyn Dodgers, it's a Doozy, Bonhomme Richard, they no longer exist but the name invokes something in each who hears it).
And you have the Brand names used instead of the product (Xerox, Kleenex). How many know the name of the first person to transmit and receive radio signals? Most who read this will but, most of those who I went though the NYC School System with would not normally know, the Marconi device (this none of my teachers or the text books I read mention. I found out about it by watching WW2 movies and looking it up). Or any of the other products not named for their creator, founder or writer?
Unfortunately the symbol we know, see, hear, say and write becomes more important than the reality. Without the proper name and background being passed on the why, what and the struggle that went before is forgotten, so too it is with those who should be remembered. So what is the name GNU/LINUX?.
It is a name of history, of dreams, of choice and openmindedness.
During the years I have heard of the GNU Project and the Free Software Foundation. But I really had no idea of what they had to do with Linux. It was constantly stated that Linux was the Kernel of the operating system. I gave no thought to were all the programs that came with Linux came from. Even when GNU or Free SoftWare was talked about I still did not put 2+2 together.
I became aware of GNU/LINUX as a name when I saw the movie Revolution OS (everyone interested in GNU/LINUX would do well to see it).
Latter at an NYLXS Inservice I heard Richard Stallmen n give a brief expiation as to why the name should be GNU/LINUX. Someone told me it was one of his "rants". Rant or not it was something I had not heard before. But I heard enough to go look at the GNU website. As I read I began to put 2 + 2 together. I realized where all those programs came from.
When the GNU Project and the LINUX Kernel merged both brought to the table what the other needed. I was not there and do not know how or why the result was called Linux. The GNU Project needed a kernel (as I understand it they were working on one) Linus Trovalds had a kernel and was looking for programs to run on it. The two met and both saw the possibly of the dream coming to fruition. Both were openminded enough to say lets put these together. The community benefited by the collaboration. It is in the nature of the collaboration that the name GNU/LINUX should have used one for all the work that went before, the other for the practical working of the dream. GNU/LINUX tells us the history of FreeSoftware, the dreams of GNU and LINUS, the choice of GNU to be openminded and live the free software philosophy by collaboration with Linus [they could have said no we are working on our own kernel]. It tells of Linus openmindeness by his choice to collaborate with the GNU Project [he could have said to those that helped him, we now need programs for our kernel to run, or gone to a proprietary system]. Instead both chosen to fulfill the dream.
Is it not fitting that the name of a thing reflect what it truly is? GNU/LINUX.