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28 August, 2005
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Underneath all the things that Linux is, it is an operating system kernel.

The Many Faces of Linux

I like the term "Linux", and I like cute penguins, and I hope that everyone continues to use them. . . . Richard [Stallman] calls it "GNU/Linux". Linus calls it "Linux". I call it "Linux" . . . it is what I (and a lot of other people) have always called it. But in my talks and presentations I make sure to give lots of credit to lots of people who have contributed free software.
Jon "maddog" Hall

Mike Angelo -- 28 August 2005 (C) -- Page 3

Article Index

Switch from the MS Windows operating system to the GNU-Linux operating system

To learn why Linux is so much a better choice than is Microsoft Windows, please see our article Gaël Duval Tells Why Mandrake Linux Is Better Than MS Windows

Also, please see our article Solutions for Identity, Credit Card, Bank Account, and Personal Information Theft - Part I: Overview.

To learn how to run MS Windows-based software and accessories in GNU-Linux, please see our article Crossover Office 2.1 Runs MS Windows Software on GNU-Linux Systems

About the Author

Mike Angelo has written hundreds of published newspaper and magazine computer and technology articles. He has more than 40 years experience using solid-state, digital computers.

Mike has written lots of computer programs in assembly, BASIC, FORTRAN, machine, and several other languages -- on a variety of mainframe and desktop machines. He has designed and built some special purpose computers, and does PC upgrading and building. Mike also creates, designs, and maintains Web sites.

In 1993, Mike Angelo started writing a print newspaper computer column, About Computers. He has written articles for top-tier magazines including Byte, Computer Buyer's Guide & Handbook, DOS World, I-Way, Laptop Buyer's Guide & Handbook, Linux Journal, Maximize, MozillaQuest Magazine, PC Novice, and PC Today.

Despite Mike Angelo's extensive computer experience he has a real life and uses computers as tools. Therefore, he approaches his computer writing from the user's interest and point of view.

Why People Call It All Linux

On the other hand, in our e-mail discussion of the issues in this article with Jon "maddog" Hall, he presented a different point of view and made some very good points:

Jon "maddog" Hall: . . . as a marketing person, I understand that people like to use the name they like to use, whether it is correct or not. "Linux" rolls off the tongue. It is cute, people know who stands behind it, and it is what they got used to seeing. People have invested money, time, effort and "ownership" in having "Linux" in their name, and we understand and appreciate that. Linus [Torvalds] would like people to use the term "Linux" for any legitimate purpose.

Jon "maddog" Hall: Also as a marketing person, I see the danger of having the recognizable name too fragmented. As a "Unix(R)" person for a long time, I watched while "SunOS" and "Solaris" (Sun Microsystems), "Ultrix", "Digital Unix", "Tru64" (Digital Equipment Corporation), "HP/UX" (HP), "AIX" (IBM), "Xinux" and "SCO Unix" (SCO), and a variety of other deviations divided up and confused the market. All of them were "Unix" (more or less), but only two bore the name.

So when people read about "Unix" systems, there was this amazingly complex set of names that have very little to do with each other, even though the underlying system was much (if not almost exactly) the same. . . . (All registered trademarks are the property of their respective owners.)

Jon "maddog" Hall: I like the term "Linux", and I like cute penguins, and I hope that everyone continues to use them.

Jon "maddog" Hall: Richard [Stallman] calls it "GNU/Linux". Linus calls it "Linux". I call it "Linux" . . . it is what I (and a lot of other people) have always called it. But in my talks and presentations I make sure to give lots of credit to lots of people who have contributed free software.


Initially in this article, we sought to address the problems with all the very confusing Linux nomenclature. How do you know when someone says Linux if they are talking about:

  • the kernel,
  • the operating system,
  • the desktop,
  • a distribution,
  • or whatever?

It is time to be more careful about how we use the term Linux. Time to make it clear when one is referring to the Linux kernel, the GNU/Linux operating system, a Linux-based desktop, a Linux-based distribution, or whatever.

To do that, we suggest in today's article that:

  • Linux, when used by itself, be used to refer to the Linux kernel,
  • when the term Linux is used in conjunction with Linux-based OSs, Linux-based distributions, or whatever, then they should be called Linux-based, such as SUSE OS, a Linux-based operating system, or The Mandriva Linux-based OS -- rather than Mandriva Linux or SUSE Linux,
  • when a product is built on top of the Linux-based, GNU operating system, then the identifying phrase, Linux-based, GNU operating system, should be included in the name of the product -- such as SUSE OS, a Linux-based GNU operating system, or The Mandriva Linux-based GNU OS.

In part in this story we also are trying to come up with some nomenclature schema:

(a) where the right people and groups get the right credit for their efforts in developing, maintaining, and promoting all that which popularly is called Linux,

(b) where different Linux-based, GNU OS distros have more of an identity of their own, and

(c) where yet everything stays together as a unified Linux community.

After discussing the issues with Jon "maddog" Hall and Richard Stallman (rms), we are not sure if that is what the story actually does. But at least it might stimulate some good discussion of the issue(s). And it might help to clarify some confusions about the anatomy, construction, and components of modern-day Linux-based, GNU OS distributions.

It's difficult to address Linux nomenclature without getting into the fray of whether the operating system built around the Linux kernel should be called the GNU/Linux OS or simply Linux. We tried to keep the GNU/Linux OS verses Linux OS issues to a minimum here in order to try to maintain focus on the issues this story is meant to address, being more careful about how we use the term Linux.

However, if we did not lose focus in this article, we came close to losing focus due to the GNU/Linux OS verses Linux OS controversy. Additionally, we likely will get flamed by both camps in the GNU/Linux OS verses Linux OS controversy. But if that happens it might mean that this article is right-about where it ought to be.

What are your thoughts about these Linux-based product naming guidelines and issues. Please feel free to let us know your thoughts about them by sending an e-mail to us at LinuxNaming_AT_mozillaquest.com. Please replace the "_AT_ " with the "@" character. Unless you note otherwise, we will feel free to publish all or part of the e-mail that you send to us.

Article Index


The Linux books listed below will help to show you why Linux-based, GNU operating system is a better operating system than MS Windows. And they describe and help you to use much of the free software that comes with most Linux-based distributions.

Most of the book links listed below lead you to Web pages about the books that also, there, have links to things such as Tables of Contents and sample chapters. The sample chapters are free and well worth reading.

  • Some Interesting Linux Books

Acing the LINUX+ Certification Exam, Patrick Regan, Pearson Prentice Hall, ISBN: 0131121553. $88

Beginning Linux Programming, 3rd Edition, Matthew and Stones, (Foreword by Alan Cox), Wiley. ISBN: 0-7645-4497-7. $40

Building Applications with the Linux Standard Base, Linux Standard Base Team, Pearson Prentice Hall, ISBN: 0-13-145695-4

Building Clustered Linux Systems, By Robert Lucke, Pearson Prentice Hall, ISBN: 0-13-144853-6. $50

Novell Certified Linux Engineer (Novell CLE) Study Guide, Robb Tracy, Novell Press, ISBN: 0789732033. $60

Expanding Choice: Moving to Linux and Open Source with Novell Open Enterprise Server, Jason Williams/Peter Clegg/Emmett Dulaney, Novell Press, ISBN: 0-672-32722-8. $30

Fedora 4 Linux All in One, By Aron Hsiao, Sams, ISBN: 0672327074. $40.

Fedora 4 Unleashed, By Paul Hudson, Andrew Hudson, Bill Ball, Hoyt Duff, Sams, ISBN: 0672327929. $50.

Knoppix Hacks - 100 Industrial-Strength Tips & Tools, By Kyle Rankin, O'Reilly, ISBN: 0-596-00787-6. $30

Linux Bible, 2005 Edition, Christopher Negus, Wiley, ISBN: 0-7645-7949-5. $40

Linux Desktop Garage, By Susan Matteson, Pearson Prentice Hall, ISBN: 0-13-149419-8. $30

Linux Desktop Hacks - Tips & Tools for Customizing and Optimizing your OS, By Nicholas Petreley, Jono Bacon, O'Reilly, ISBN: 0-596-00911-9. $50

Linux in a Nuthsell, 4th Ed., Siever, Figgins, and Weber, O'Reilly, ISBN: 0-596-00482-6. $40

Linux Kernel Development, 2nd Ed., Robert Love, Novell Press., ISBN: 0672327201. $45

Linux Network Architecture, By Wehrle, Pahlke, Ritter, Muller, and Bechler, Pearson Prentice Hall, ISBN: 0131777203. $50

Linux Programming by Example: The Fundamentals, Arnold Robbins, , Prentice Hall PTR, ISBN: 0131429647. $40

The Linux Process Manager: The internals of scheduling, interrupts and signals, By John O'Gorman, Wiley, ISBN: 0-470-84771-9. $35

Linux Quick Fix Notebook, By Peter Harrison, Pearson Prentice Hall, ISBN: 0131861506. $40

Linux Troubleshooting Bible, Christopher Negus, Thomas Weeks, Wiley, ISBN: 0-7645-6997-X. $30

Mandrakelinux Discovery 10.1 - Your First Linux Desktop, By Mandrakesoft, Mandrakesoft, ISBN: 2-84798-085-7. $64

Mandrakelinux PowerPack 10.1 - The Full Power of Linux Desktop, By Mandrakesoft, Mandrakesoft, ISBN: 2-84798-086-5. $87

Official Fedora Companion, Nick Petreley, Wiley, ISBN: 0-7645-5836-6. $20

Operating Systems, 3rd Edition, Deitel, Deitel, and David, Pearson Prentice Hall, ISBN: 0131828274. $103

Optimizing Linux Performance: A Hands-on Guide to Linux Performance Tools, By Phillip Ezolt, Pearson Prentice Hall, ISBN: 0131486829. $50

Point & Click Linux!, By Robin Miller, Pearson Prentice Hall, ISBN: 0131488724. $30

Principles of Network and System Administration, 2nd Edition, Mark Burgess, Wiley, ISBN: 0-470-86807-4. $50

Running Linux, 4th Ed., Welsh, Dalheimer, Dawson, and Kaufman, O'Reilly, ISBN, 0-596-00272-6. $45

SUSE Linux 9 Bible, Justin Davies, Roger Whittaker, William von Hagen, Wiley, ISBN: 0-7645-7739-5. $40

Test Driving Linux: From Windows to Linux in 60 Seconds, David Brickner, O'Reilly, ISBN: 0-596-00754-X. $25

Understanding the Linux Kernel, 2nd Edition, Daniel P. Bovet and Marco Cesati, O'Reilly, ISBN: 0-596-00213-0. $50

Understanding the Linux Virtual Memory Manager, Mel Gorman, Prentice Hall PTR, ISBN: 0131453483. $60

UNIX Shells by Example, 4th Edition, By Ellie Quigley, Pearson Prentice Hall, ISBN: 013147572X. $50


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