Chad Perrin: SOB

6 September 2007


Filed under: Cognition,Geek — apotheon @ 11:17

As I mentioned a few minutes before I started composing this entry, in a response to a comment by Justin James, I’ve been thinking for some time now about what to call Linux-based operating systems. In particular, what I said was:

Meanwhile, I’ve been kicking around the idea of what to call Linux systems. We’re all familiar, I’m sure, with the argument over whether they’re “Linux” or “GNU/Linux”, but I’ve been thinking that it might actually be more appropriate to call it “GPL/Linux”. Oh, wait, I’ve got an even better idea. I’ll make it a new post.

There are several factors (aka “problems”) that arise in trying to decide what term to use:

  1. Linux is just a kernel, technically. A complete operating system using the Linux kernel is technically a “Linux-based operating system distribution”, or something to that effect, often called a “Linux distribution”, or just a “distro” when feeling really lazy. Many refer to Linux-based operating systems in the generic as “Linux”, as though it’s all one OS, though.
  2. According to the FSF faithful, calling a Linux distribution, or the archetypal Linux-based OS, “Linux” is verboten. These people of course prefer the more complex, and RMS-aggrandizing, term “GNU/Linux”.
  3. Really, when you get right down to it, one of the two most important factors in any Linux distribution is by definition the Linux kernel — and the other is its license, the GPL. All those GNU tools are not strictly necessary to the creation of a Linux distribution (no, not even GCC, which could be replaced by the Intel compiler if you really want to), but the license is legally indivisible from Linux distributions at this point, if only because it’s effectively impossible to round up all the copyright holders necessary to relicense the Linux kernel. Thus, this whole “GNU/Linux” thing is a red herring predicated upon some egos over there in FSF-land, and it should probably be called “GPL/Linux” instead.
  4. These slash-delimited compound monickers are clumsy and annoying to say and to type.

My solution, which came to me like a bolt out of the blue while typing up that response to Justin James, is simple, elegant, and about as accurate as you can get, IMHO. Let’s just call it GPLinux when we aren’t speaking of a specific distribution. Debian is Debian, Fedora is Fedora, and Slackware is Slackware, but all three of them (and many more) are GPLinux. It’s easier to say than either GNU/Linux or GPL/Linux, it’s more accurate than GNU/Linux, and it carries the utility of a practical double entendre, in that it’s the “general purpose” term for Linux-based OSes (thus, “General Purpose Linux”).



  1. I don’t disagree, but I just find it easier to call Linux-based systems “Linux”. Those who wish to accuse me of laziness, or suffer from an overwhelming compulsion for pedantry, can address their concerns to my upraised middle finger. ;-)

    Comment by Brian Martinez — 6 September 2007 @ 11:50

  2. It makes sense. But it also brings up an odd thought, what happens when we extend this to other items? BSDFreeBSD? ;) Then again, just yesterday I wondered out lound what would happen if you did a mashup of WWE and “The Princess Bride”, with Hulk Hogan in the role of the Prince, Macho Man as Inigo Montoya, and Ric Flair playing the Dread Pirate Roberts…


    Comment by Justin James — 6 September 2007 @ 04:06

  3. Brian:

    Nothin’ wrong with bein’ lazy.


    I don’t know if you noticed, but “FreeBSD” already has both “Free” and “BSD” in the name. What else is necessary?

    I don’t recall those characters being around after it became the WWE, by the way. I think that was confined to the days of the WWF — wasn’t it?

    Comment by apotheon — 6 September 2007 @ 04:24

  4. Try GPLUX, pronounced gee-plux. GPLinux is hard to say, is too long and needs a gimmick. GPLUX has the allusion to the positive words “jeep, pluck, lux, luck” and includes GPL, “lux” is a contraction of Linux and a unit of illumination.

    Comment by Qwester (was fwest32) — 6 September 2007 @ 07:13

  5. I think a few of them made it into the WWE era, actually. I am not really sure, I never watched it myself, nor had any other contact with it, other than the unavoidable. My one wrestling adventure was the time I happened to be at “Golden Classics” car dealership in Lakewood NJ at the same time Goldberg showed up. The sales staff was so excited to see him, they just gave me the keys to a ’74 El Camino SS (with a 454, 3 speed stick, and 3.73s in the rear) and left me alone. And the time I droive by Bam Bam Bigelo’s house, when he lived in the Eatontown NJ area. And a girl in my high school, her dad was one of those third tier wrestlers, “Sledgehammer” or “911” or one of those guys who changed names and outfits as the need arose…


    PS – “BSDFreeBSD was a sort of joke” :)

    Comment by Justin James — 6 September 2007 @ 09:12

  6. To elaborate on the joke, BSD is both the name of the OS/kernel and the license, thus “BSDFreeBSD”.


    Comment by Justin James — 6 September 2007 @ 09:13

  7. Qwester:

    GPLUX has the allusion to the positive words “jeep, pluck, lux, luck” and includes GPL

    I might be more easily convinced if I thought good things about Linux licensing.

    Justin James:

    I never really paid any attention to the wrestling stuff, either. In fact, I’m not really sure how I ever came to recognize names like “Macho Man Randy Savage”.

    It was downright difficult to avoid mentions of Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant, though.

    . . . and yeah, I figured you were kidding.

    Comment by apotheon — 7 September 2007 @ 10:08

  8. ‘linux’, is the marketing name, nothing else needed. it doesn’t matter that it isn’t technically comprehensive.

    btw, i always fill in my email addess, but i never get notified of replies..

    Comment by justin m. keyes — 13 September 2007 @ 10:28

  9. I turned off the email notification plugin a while back (before moving from one hosting provider to another, actually) because it had stopped working. If I’ve missed removing some indication that you can get email notifications, please let me know. If you want email notification of comments now, I’m afraid the only place to get it is through some RSS-to-email service — and, unfortunately, the comments RSS feed serves up all comments, not just those in specific discussions.

    I’ve tried testing R|Mail with RSS here, and it hasn’t worked. I don’t know if it’s working now, but I suppose I should probably remove the R|Mail subscription box at the top of the right-hand column on the main page of SOB if it doesn’t seem to work.

    Comment by apotheon — 14 September 2007 @ 10:05

  10. […] GNU/Linux types so often ignore the existence of any open source world outside of the mainstream GPLinux […]

    Pingback by Chad Perrin: SOB » GNU/Linux vs. Open Source Software — 16 October 2008 @ 02:54

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