Some general principles of naming

Justin Wells jread at
Sun Oct 17 23:32:11 UTC 1999

On Sun, Oct 17, 1999 at 06:48:54PM -0400, Rodent of Unusual Size wrote:

> You've said this before, and you've yet to convince me.
> I do not believe you can fairly make the 'principal developer'
> claim unless the project was working to the same goals as
> the Linux project.

If you stripped Linux down to the bare minimum that you would still 
be willing to point to and say "that's a working Linux system", what
you would have left is the core OS. Everything else, no matter how 
useful, is an application that runs on that OS.

How much of what is left would be GNU? I think a lot of it--I think
you'd be left with the Linux kernel, the boot loader and a few other
tools, and then a whole whack of GNU stuff making up the bulk of 
the binaries and programs. 

Whether the GNU stuff is more or less than half, or some other equally
arbitrary number, is a question for someone who is bored and likes to
play with 'wc'.

Despite their genuine importance and usefulness, XFree86, apache,
netscape, GNOME, KDE, gimp, perl, sendmail, and all the other
programs that run on the Linux platform, are "just" applications.

You might think that XFree86 is an exception, but if you replaced
it with a Java VM, Berlin, NeWS, or Open Windows, you would not
think that you had changed the OS. Whereas if you dumped 'ls' in
favour of 'dir', or dropped C in favour of pascal, or even just
changed the name of the 'cat' program to 'show', you would complain
that the result wasn't Unix, let alone Linux.

The GNU stuff, the kernel, and a few other things form a core part 
of the OS under even the most conservative, minimalist definition. 
The other stuff on the distribution does not.

So I think the bickering over whether the GNU project was "THE" 
principal developer of the system, or just "A" principal 
developer is stupid--it's clear that the GNU people were a 

The XFree86, apache, GNOME, and others people are not--they're 
people who have contributed important, useful, killer applications
that happen to run on the Linux platform.


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