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Just call it 'GNU/Linux', insists Sun founder

This namespace ain't big enough for the both of us

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Richard Stallman's singular crusade to have Linux christened GNU/Linux got praise from an unexpected quarter yesterday.

Sun Microsystem's chief scientist and co-founder John Gage credited RMS with creating the free software that made the Linux phenomenon possible, describing it as a fifteen-year sleeper hit.

"Many overnight successes are based on fifteen years of work," said Gage.

"Think of all the development on the GNU system by Richard Stallman," he said. "There was all that code waiting around he created, until Linus came up with the kernel. It was a real, clean-room implementation of Linux without a kernel. GNU/Linux is all these components that were built by many people," he said.

Gage was answering a question about Palm, and that too he described as a sleeper.

RMS created the gcc compiler and gdb debugger (with help) and the EMACS editor when he launched the Free Software Foundation as a response to the trend towards proprietary closed source software in 1984. His goal, as the recursive acronym GNU (GNU's Not Unix) implies, was to create an entirely software libre operating system.

The project has absorbed many components that St Ignucius has blessed as 'free software' that aren't distributed under the FSF's GPL, such as X Windows. And many that aren't blessed, but are still freely shared code, such as the Berkeley networking stacks and many development tools.

But the FSF laboured long and hard to provide the missing component, an OS kernel, and its own kernel of choice Hurd remains largely (cough) "experimental". Stallman's campaign to get the body of work created by the FSF and others recognized underpins his insistence on the 'GNU/Linux' name. Or, if you're cynical, it amounts to a shameless piece of scene stealing.

Charitably, we bow to the former, but not without wondering where we would be without Linus... (running BSD, of course - ed.) ®

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