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GNU/Busybox ?!?

GNU/Busybox ?!?

Posted Mar 22, 2007 22:02 UTC (Thu) by greve (guest, #8385)
In reply to: GNU/Busybox ?!? by DonDiego
Parent article: The road to freedom in the embedded world

The 2.2 maemo package lists seemed to contain a fair amount of GNU software. But as I wrote in the first paragraph, I also feel that the start of the GNU Project was central for the Free Software movement to become self-aware (I only joined the GNU Project in the 90s, so I can claim no part in this).

But out of respect for the achievement I like to give reference the GNU Project. This is a personal preference which I would classify as a minor detail of the article hardly worth so much discussion.


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GNU/Busybox ?!?

Posted Mar 23, 2007 0:41 UTC (Fri) by DonDiego (guest, #24141) [Link]

> The 2.2 maemo package lists seemed to contain a fair amount of GNU
> software.

Name a single package that really runs on the N800. No, development tools on the developers' workstations don't count. What percentage of that list is GNU software anyway? So what is your definition of a fair amount?

> But as I wrote in the first paragraph, I also feel that the start of the
> GNU Project was central for the Free Software movement to become
> self-aware.

Agreed.

> But out of respect for the achievement I like to give reference the GNU
> Project.

Oh, come on.. You are the president of the FSF Europe. If you talk about the achievement of the GNU project like this, you are singing your own praises.

Yesterday it was GNU/Linux, today it is GNU/Busybox, what are you going to GNU/ next?

> This is a personal preference which I would classify as a minor
> detail of the article hardly worth so much discussion.

There's a lesson here: This minor detail is drowning out some of the effect of your good article. Think about it the next time you GNU/ a program.

Note that I'm really not trying to senselessly flame you. It's just that I feel that these GNU/ shenanigans are counterproductive and obscuring some of the good work the FSF does. And I think I'm not the only person that feels this way.

GNU/Busybox ?!?

Posted Mar 26, 2007 11:32 UTC (Mon) by greve (guest, #8385) [Link]

Oh, come on.. You are the president of the FSF Europe. If you talk about the achievement of the GNU project like this, you are singing your own praises.

Yes, I am the president of FSFE and I have my own roots in the GNU Project through some software and the monthly Brave GNU World column that I wrote for many years. So I openly concede a positive emotional attachment of myself to the GNU Project.

At the same time it is our sister organisation in the United States, the original FSF, that is taking care of most of the legal and administrative issues of the GNU Project, which is a project that otherwise spans individuals, companies, and countries.

So if you try to see this as an issue of praise, I'd see this as singing the praises of all the individuals and companies involved in the GNU Project, the praises of our sister organisation, and that of RMS. But I don't see this as an issue of praise primarily, and am fairly sure this view is shared by most in FSFE, possibly most people outside the US.

Only speaking for those that I have discussed this with now: We like the "GNU/" because it reminds us of the principles, thoughts and plan behind starting the GNU Project, and using it will help to not forget that background.

At the same time we don't seem to take using it half as seriously as some people in this discussion are about not using it. We regularly use it tongue-in-cheek, some people even prefixed their own name.

Yesterday it was GNU/Linux, today it is GNU/Busybox, what are you going to GNU/ next?

Based on the above, I'd have two answers for you.

The one that should be understood with my tongue in my cheek would be: "GNU/ your life!"

The more serious one would be to not take this so seriously, and have some patience with those of us who like the GNU Project and what it stands for. This is why people are using the "GNU/" prefix for things that they see as based on or growing out of that original declaration of software freedom.

To most of these people this would be a badge of honor. If the recipient of that badge and affection finds it objectionable, I'd hope for some patience, tolerance and possibly humor in the reception of that badge.

There's a lesson here: This minor detail is drowning out some of the effect of your good article. Think about it the next time you GNU/ a program.

First of all: Thank you for the feedback. I am glad you found the article useful.

Secondly: Yes. The rather strong reaction to four specific characters out of 10k of article seems to have created a disproportionate and distracting discussion. So yes, I'll keep this in mind as a learning experience.

GNU/Busybox ?!?

Posted Mar 26, 2007 17:10 UTC (Mon) by k8to (subscriber, #15413) [Link]

You should really reconsider this blithe view towards the prefixing of "GNU/".

Within the faithful fold, where you are apparently spending most of your time, you may view the prefix as without charge, and thus as something to use descriptively, playfully, as well as in the course of promotion. In the larger world, however, as you have seen, this prefix is a highly charged issue. The goal of mentioning the GNU project where its works are used and relevant can easily be accomplished without resorting to affixing its name to independent software projects. If you honestly wish to simply give the GNU project mention, then do that.

Every time I see the prefix "GNU/" attached to an independent software project, I am not reminded of the goals and noble ideals of the Free Software Foundation. I am instead reminded of the rigidity and unwillingness to listen or compromise of the organization. I suspect this is similar for many people who encounter Linux first, and GNU later. While I would be ecstatic if the FSF would learn to compromise (not their ideals!) on practical matters with other members of the free ecosystem, and to appear less rigid, I would be pleased as punch if the FSF would simply cease reminding me of these weaknesses.

GNU/Busybox ?!?

Posted Mar 28, 2007 10:10 UTC (Wed) by greve (guest, #8385) [Link]

A very large part of my time -- 160 days of the year the last time I cared to count -- is spent on the road, meeting people from the community, from industry, governments and intergovernmental bodies, such as European Commission and United Nations. The majority of the remainder is spent working with the very same groups by means of the internet.

Based on that experience, it seems to me this strongly polarised reaction to "GNU/" is a phenomenon that only exists within a certain part of the Free Software community. It also seems predominant within the United States and among those focused on the US. It does exist in other countries, too, but is much less of an issue.

That also seems reflected in the nature of many comments in this thread, which seem predominantly directed at or referring to experience with our sister organisation in the United States, and often appear to have very little connection with FSFE or my article.

But as I wrote before: It probably would have been wise to take the feelings of the aforementioned group into account when writing the article, and I see this discussion as a learning experience in that sense.

GNU/Busybox ?!?

Posted Mar 26, 2007 18:01 UTC (Mon) by bronson (subscriber, #4806) [Link]

Wait, you're saying that GNU/Whatever was all just tongue in cheek? Not serious? Ten years of just for fun antics??

GNU/Busybox ?!?

Posted Mar 28, 2007 10:43 UTC (Wed) by greve (guest, #8385) [Link]

Wait, you're saying that GNU/Whatever was all just tongue in cheek?

No, I did not say it was all just tounge in cheek.

I was not personally involved in that decision, so take this with a grain of salt, please:

To my understanding, a major reason the FSF (there was no FSFE at the time) began talking about GNU/Linux was that in the second half of the 90s many newcomers to Free Software only heard about "Linux" and were not making contact with the GNU Project and its philosophical and scientific roots anymore.

Forgetting these roots is dangerous. It makes it impossible to see the full picture when having to make a decision about our projects or just our personal use of software. The result are bad decisions that sometimes affect only ourselves, and sometimes affect the entire community.

A less important reason was that there were GNU reference manuals, books, mouse pads and mugs being published that called themselves "Linux reference" even though they had no relation with the kernel. I think that every programmer should be able to emphasise with this situation. Yes, considering the amount of work and dedication that had gone into the GNU Project, the FSF was indeed unhappy about this development and sought to change it.

In order to serve both goals while not making the mistake of claiming recognition for someone else's work, RMS came up with the "GNU+Linux" or "GNU/Linux" names.

RMS even seems to give preference to the admittedly more cumbersome "GNU+Linux" form, which I believe is owed to his trying to make it very clear this is not a prefix for some independent project, but a combination of the two. If he had truly wanted to "claim fame" on the Linux kernel, he could just have proposed to rename the whole system to "GNU," but to my knowledge he never did that.

Both of these considerations existed, with the former being much more important than the latter in my eyes. This is the serious background of it. But yes: We also seem to take it much less grave than many people in this discussion and indeed often use it in a tongue-in-cheek manner.

Using it was not intended as a hostile act, and I hope I was able to make this clear now.

GNU/Busybox ?!?

Posted Mar 29, 2007 10:11 UTC (Thu) by k8to (subscriber, #15413) [Link]

> RMS even seems to give preference to the admittedly more cumbersome
> "GNU+Linux" form, which I believe is owed to his trying to make it
> very clear this is not a prefix for some independent project, but
> a combination of the two. If he had truly wanted to "claim fame" on
> the Linux kernel, he could just have proposed to rename the whole
> system to "GNU," but to my knowledge he never did that.

But this is exactly what he believes. He believes it is the GNU system, whether or not the components are in fact GNU components or other components which work in harmony with the GNU ones. The necessity of using terms like "GNU/Linux" is simply because Linux already had the name recognition and branding trains in motion, and no direct means of raising the profile was found to be available.

That is, I suspect he would insist on calling the whole thing GNU if he thought it would work.

"GNU+Linux" at least has the minor amount of tact to not imply that Linux is a GNU component.

GNU/Busybox ?!?

Posted Mar 29, 2007 12:29 UTC (Thu) by greve (guest, #8385) [Link]

That is, I suspect he would insist on calling the whole thing GNU if he thought it would work.

All I can say to this is that when I spoke to him, he never gave me that impression. In fact, he always seemed to make it clear that only a combination of the GNU System with the GNU Hurd kernel would be "the GNU System" in his eyes.

But ultimately only RMS can tell us what RMS really thinks.

GNU/Busybox ?!?

Posted Mar 31, 2007 0:57 UTC (Sat) by k8to (subscriber, #15413) [Link]

But this of course clearly underscores my point. Any production Hurd system would invariably include all sorts of software besides the GNU software, much of it as indespensible for real work as the kernel, but that would be "GNU" regardless of all the other software. The difference is that Linux is the defacto, existing name that people use to refer to the collection; its necessity is not unique. Thus you can see the attempt to affix GNU to Linux is not motivated by giving due credit, as none is intended when for the eventual Hurd system.

Please do further the FSF and FSFE's goals of promoting freedom by promoting the GNU project. The freedom ideals are important and deserve mention. But do it as openly and honestly as possible. Affixing it to Linux is a bad strategy.


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