The GNU Hurd

Most Linux users out there, think that their whole system is named just “Linux” (or perhaps the distribution name). For a large number of reasons, which I do not intend to analyze in this post, this is not, and should not be the case. The actual name is GNU/Linux since only the Linux Kernel is “Linux” and the rest of the system (including some vital parts such as glibc or GCC) are parts of the GNU Operating System. Linux was chosen as the kernel for the GNU system at a time when the GNU project had a nearly working operating system, which however lacked a working kernel (although an initial implementation of the Hurd existed).

The GNU Hurd, is a kernel designed and maintained by the GNU project. According to the GNU website, the kernel is “not ready for production use”, it is however a very interesting attempt to replace the Unix kernel and may soon provide an alternative to the Linux kernel for the GNU Operating System. The word HURD is an acronym that stands for “HIRD of Unix-Replacing Daemons”, and HIRD is also an acronym that stands for “HURD of Interfaces Representing Depth”, making it a co-recursive acronym. As Thomas Bushnell, BSG, comments at the official Hurd website “We have here, to my knowledge, the first software to be named by a pair of mutually recursive acronyms”.

A main difference between the Linux Kernel and the GNU Hurd, is that while Linux is a monolithic kernel, the Hurd is a microkernel (actually it uses the GNU Mach microkernel). This might seem like a little and unimportant detail to the average user but someone with enough knowledge and experience can understand the fundamental differences of these kernel implementations. Both architectures have advantages and disadvantages and for the time being the only truly well-tested implementation is the Linux kernel, but if the Hurd finally manages to reach a stable level, we might experience a growth similar to the one that made Linux the mature, stable kernel it is.

Not being stable and fast enough (yet), makes Hurd unsuitable for use in production systems. This is mainly the reason why there are very limited distributions that use Hurd as their kernel (actually there are only two, the Bee GNU/Hurd and the Debian GNU/Hurd). This lack of distributions has kept Hurd outside the “OS wars” and thus limited its target group to developers and very experienced *nix users.

This post was written for two reasons: one is to raise awareness about the existence of the GNU Hurd kernel and maybe bring it to the attention of people who want to help with its development. The second is to let anyone who reads this blog (if any :p) know that just because the blog’s name is “Linux4Coffee” it doesn’t mean that we won’t deal with any other computer-related subject.

Keep drinking coffee ;-)

LINKS:
GNU Hurd | Wikipedia Article – GNU Hurd | Wikipedia Article – GNU Mach | Wikipedia Article – Monolithic kernel | Wikipedia Article – Microkernel | GNU Hurd Information | Debian GNU/Hurd | Bee GNU/Hurd |

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59 Comments

  1. Ken Holmes said,

    October 14, 2007 at 11:33 pm

    With all due respect to Richard Stallman (and I do respect him) the true name of Linux systems is Linux/GNU. Were it not so, Mr. Stallman and his peers would have developed a kernel before Linus did (or would have had a stable kernel long before now). The GNU tools are fine tools, but they needed a kernel badly. That said, I look forward to using HURD, as I now enjoy the BSD/GNU and Linux/GNU systems.

  2. October 15, 2007 at 12:08 am

    GNU project was started to create a Free Unix like operating system and once Linux was avaialble as a Free kernel the system is complete and the main motivation for another kernel is gone. That is the reason you don’t see Hurd ready by now.

  3. charles balkon said,

    October 15, 2007 at 3:58 am

    haha Ken your funny.

    Linus is a coward and traitor to freedom his wimpy lack of faith in gpl 3 is disturbing.

    If we didn’t have “Uncle RMS” you’d be running windows right now.

  4. john doe said,

    October 15, 2007 at 4:23 am

    The Hurd kernel has been under development since 1990:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GNU_Hurd

    Eighteen years and not a stable release yet. Duke Nukem Foerever will be released before you see a stable Hurd kernel.

  5. Jason said,

    October 15, 2007 at 5:12 am

    Ken, considering that GNU Hurd was started in 1990, almost 18yrs ago now, and STILL hasn’t produced anything usable I think you’ll sadly be waiting for a while longer.

  6. Alexandre said,

    October 15, 2007 at 5:49 am

    The fact of the matter is, GNU Herd will be DOA if it turns out sometime before Duke Nukem Forever or the Phantom (lol anyone remember this thing?). Linux is too widespread and Stallman is not the young man he was at the AI Labs back in the day. The Herd will likely only see token distribution, assuming it becomes stable, among hardline GNU purists, but they’ll still be booting *nix or (gasp!?!?) a commercial operating system for most business tasks.

    Also, for the record, Ubuntu is a terrible distribution, I know it’s totally unrelated, but I had to get that off my chest.

  7. Pradeep Jindal said,

    October 15, 2007 at 6:01 am

    With full respect to Linus & Richard Stallman. GNU doesn’t need Linux, Linux needs GNU to run. GNU is also running with BSD and Hurd.

  8. David said,

    October 15, 2007 at 1:44 pm

    GNU is also running with Solaris.

  9. Koen said,

    October 15, 2007 at 1:51 pm

    Actually, linux doesn’t need GNU to run, I have various machines that only have busybox and uclibc installed, so no GNU there.

  10. JustMe said,

    October 15, 2007 at 1:55 pm

    Many Linux distributions come with a lot of other tools that seem standard to the average user. So why aren’t we calling it GNU/KDE/Gnome/Apache/MySQL/Xeyes/Mozilla/Linux? It used to be appropriate to call it GNU/Linux when that’s all it was, but that time has passed. Move the hell on.

    And GNU Herd won’t be stable for another ten years. Stop paying attention to it.

  11. Drod said,

    October 15, 2007 at 2:04 pm

    You write “with enough knowledge and experience can understand the fundamental differences of these kernel implementations. Both architectures have advantages and disadvantages”…. sorry for asking, are you one of those with enough knowledge and experience? if so, could you provide some of the advantages of the GNU Hurd….

    I just think that you raise an interesting point, but failing to provide advantages and/or disadvantages vis-a-vis Linux Kernel makes the article less interesting.

  12. RawShark said,

    October 15, 2007 at 2:07 pm

    Nice informative little post. Thanks.

    @ Alexandre – weather you like Ubuntu or not, you cannot deny that it has helped turn the tide of the desktop wars – I personally have converted 25 Windows users in the last 12 months over to Ubuntu/Kubuntu. Plus, as you yourself pointed out, that’s totally unrelated. No offense.

  13. Pete said,

    October 15, 2007 at 2:09 pm

    Could someone please explain more specifically what benefits a ‘fully stable’ HURD kernel would offer server administrators and desktop users.

    I read about HURD before, but beyond a lot of technical jargon there was nothing that clearly stated what specific benefits it offers in terms of security, speed, stability or features. At least to a relative linux/unix newbie like myself.

    Maybe if it was clearer what it can offer that linux can’t; more people would jump on the bandwagon and offer the support it needs to achieve this reality.

  14. blackwhitestripes said,

    October 15, 2007 at 2:12 pm

    How does Hurd, coming from such a ludicrously long gestation period and having seen Linux get a massive head start, intend to compete on so many levels, not the least of which is the crucial driver support field?

  15. Spuds said,

    October 15, 2007 at 2:14 pm

    I think it’s hilarious that this pissing match between the two factions still continues. But… on the flip side, I think it’s sad that FOSS is going to be torn apart by two individuals that rally the troops behind their warcries of “it was me”, referring to themselves as the person responsible for FOSS– or at least trying.

    The deal is… there are thousands of people responsible for FOSS, and just because you’re among the ‘notables’ doesn’t give you the right to destroy the ‘movement’ from the inside out.

    Grow up. Agree to disagree. Find out how you can HELP one another eliminate Windows altogether and stop acting like a bunch of children that are just going to take their toys home.

  16. Alex said,

    October 15, 2007 at 2:35 pm

    I really don’t care if it’s GNU/Linux or the other way around. But it strikes me we usually do things chronologically, to me GNU on Linux and the easier pronunciation of GNU/Linux versus Linux/GNU (to me) make it the preferred arrangement. All of those are pretty much factual which stops arguments about which needs which and which is most important.

    It’s a long time since I read technical details of the HURD but skimming this blog made me think micro kernel versus monolithic, what really is the practical difference? It’s not like all the parts are always running whichever you have and every attempt is there to avoid any individual piece of code crashing the whole thing. That’s just the tip of the iceberg of equivalence meaning they are all things considered more the same than not?

  17. October 15, 2007 at 2:35 pm

    Stallman does admit that the decision to choose a microkernel against a monolithic kernel for the GNU OS was a mistake.(Major cause of delay)

    Linux depends heavily on GNU, try compiling Linux kernel on other compilers.

    wouldn’t it be interesting to have a comparison between GNU Hurd(GNU Mach) and Minix3 microkernel implementations.

  18. Hussain said,

    October 15, 2007 at 2:53 pm

    Yes Pradeep, I feel the same. Linux is just a name. Most of the contribution is from the GNU projects.

  19. heliologue said,

    October 15, 2007 at 3:06 pm

    Yeah, because BSD and HURD are major forces to be reckoned with, right? There may be alternatives to Linux, but let’s face it: the Linux kernel is the poster boy for Free Software. No one cares about glibc or gcc because they can’t see it: most of GNU, however indispensible, is toolchains and libraries only. If you want to raise awareness, and you want to champion Free Software that people care about, you need a usable and marketable product like Linux.

  20. CB said,

    October 15, 2007 at 3:26 pm

    First of let me say that Ken Holmes summed up my initial feelings perfectly. As for what Praveen said, while I agree with the sentiment, one of the main points of HURD was not just to have a kernel for the GNU O.S. it was to have it be a microkernel which if that is the intent, Linux is not the solution and development should have never slowed and it should be out already. And finally (yes I know I’m long winded and have an opinion about everything ;-), to Pradeep’s point I think you have it backwards. It is easier to create the toolset than the kernel… hence the reason that HURD is not out but the toolset is. Honestly I think if there was some weird sudden shift causing of all the current Free Software / Open Source developers to take a side, the Linux proponents could have a complete toolchain built before the GNU folks could have a kernel. Yes it’s one kernel vs. a BUNCH of tools but a microkernel is a beast of complexity when taken as a whole *stable* implementation.

  21. Chas said,

    October 15, 2007 at 3:26 pm

    Wasn’t the MACH microkernel abandoned due to speed concerns? Wasn’t it replaced by some newer microkernel?

    Checking the wiki, it appears that the “L4″ microkernel has had a lot of focus for replacing MACH:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GNU_Hurd

    The situation described above looks both chaotic and grim.

  22. Hi5 Codes said,

    October 15, 2007 at 3:35 pm

    I’m not a big fan of GNU, I agree with Pradeep – Linux needs GNU to run >_<.

  23. BPPG said,

    October 15, 2007 at 3:47 pm

    The Linux guys and he GNU guys have often clashed, but it seems all for nothing, because the ideologies and ways of thinking aren’t really as different as we make them out to be. I could totally see Hurd being made to imitate Linux (Maybe through a sort of Linux-Plug and Play interface).

    I am very interested to see how well a stable Hurd is deseminated among the FOSS community, especially since the only big OSes use either monolithic and hybrid kernels. Microkernels haven’t been made that popular so far, so it’ll interesting to see what differences it makes.

    Although, I still understand that Hurdbuntu will be a long way off. ;-)

  24. Graeme said,

    October 15, 2007 at 3:48 pm

    Whatever happened to the move to the L4 microkernel? I heard years ago that they were ditching Mach to go to the L4. I tried enquiring about it with the people who were supposed to be verifying the L4 microkernel but got no reply.

  25. Bob Robertson said,

    October 15, 2007 at 3:55 pm

    As RMS has himself said, microkernels are nearly impossible to debug.

    “Nearly” is merely a nod to scientific uncertainty. They look really good on paper, but experience is showing a microkernel more complex than the student’s bread-board that is Minix quickly becomes impossible to debug.

    Principles of microkernels, such as loadable modules, are being implemented in such actively developed systems as Linux. The reliability of a macrokernel with the befits of a microkernel.

    What is sad is the envy. “Oh, HURD would have been working by now if only all those developers seduced by Linux had stayed ideologically pure like me.”

  26. glq said,

    October 15, 2007 at 4:02 pm

    Pradeep, GNU needs Linux for one important thing: relevance. Linux showed that the GNU tools had more value than just being an entertaining project for a bunch of mangy kooks.

    Linux gave GNU purpose and context.

  27. Matt Lee said,

    October 15, 2007 at 4:05 pm

    Ken,

    You make a fundamental, but easy misunderstanding when you talk of ‘Linux/GNU’ and GNU as ‘fine tools’ – GNU is more than a toolchain.

    If you think of a typical UNIX like operating system, you need, at the very minimum:-

    * userland tools
    * a C library
    * a shell
    * a kernel

    Looking at the possible names for an Operating System that uses both GNU and Linux components, let’s look at what we have.

    * coreutils (chgrp, chown, chmod, cp, dd, df, dir, dircolors, install, ln, ls, mkdir, mkfifo, mknod, mv, rm, rmdir, shred, sync, touch, vdir , cat, cksum, comm, csplit, cut, expand, fmt, fold, head, join, md5sum, nl, od, paste, ptx, pr, sha1sum, sort, split, sum, tac, tail, tr, tsort, unexpand, uniq, wc, basename, chroot, date, dirname, du, echo, env, expr, factor, false, groups, hostid, id, link, logname, nice, nohup, pathchk, pinky, printenv, printf, pwd, readlink, seq, sleep, stat, stty, tee, test, true, tty, uname, unlink, users, who, whoami and yes) provide the basic userland.
    * glibc provides a C library
    * bash provides a shell
    * Linux provides a kernel

    So, of those four key ingredients, Linux provides one and GNU provides three. GNU aims to provide four, but let’s you replace one with an alternative, Linux. If we think of GNU as a pizza, where coreutils, glibc, bash and Hurd are the toppings, and you decide to replace Hurd with Linux, because your doctor says you should eat more penguin, then you’re still eating a pizza, you’re not eating a stuffed penguin.

    Of the possible names for this GNU + Linux recipe, GNU works by itself, but doesn’t fully explain the difference. Linux by itself doesn’t explain most of the package, but GNU/Linux, or GNU+Linux really works best. It says ‘This is GNU with Linux’ or ‘This is a Linux-variant of the GNU OS.’

    I can understand why this point isn’t so clear to a lot of people, as for many, they’ve never seen GNU with Hurd running. I hope this goes some way to clarifying the point though.

    If you or anyone else has any further queries or questions, I invite you to contact us at gnu@gnu.org, or write to me personally, mattl@gnu.org

    Cheers,

    matt

  28. Chemicalscum said,

    October 15, 2007 at 4:11 pm

    This is best illustrated by the parable of the OSs and the gun:
    • With Unix you shoot yourself in the foot.
    • With DOS you keep running up against the one-bullet barrier.
    • With MS-Windows the gun blows up in your hand.
    • With MacOS it’s easy to shoot yourself in the foot — just point and shoot.
    • With SVR4 the gun isn’t compatible with your foot.
    • With Linux generous programmers from around the world all join forces to help you shoot yourself in the foot for free.
    • With HURD you’ll be able to shoot yourself in the foot Real Soon Now.

  29. Carl said,

    October 15, 2007 at 4:13 pm

    Pradeep is correct. Thanks.

    There is only one group that keeps pushing the “call it GNU/Linux” agenda. This is the same group that has yet to create a usable kernel. I’m always on the fence when it comes to the Stallman/Tovalds issues, but I see the GNU people showing some
    serious jealousy in regards to the success of Linux. None of this helps the Open Source and Free Software communities, and it’s as boring as listening to political parties battle it out.

    Don’t have a working kernel? Build it and they will come … simple.

  30. Verte said,

    October 15, 2007 at 5:29 pm

    @Pete, the advantages are many, but difficult to explain. You [will] get finer-grained, easier security control [it removes the need for virtualisation for isolation on most systems]. You get a modular system, which makes updating or replacing important functionality that would usually require recompiling the kernel easy. It takes the Unix file system paradigm to the next level [no need for gnome-vfs, say].

    I found the link in my name interesting, and coyotos.org is tangentially related, and discusses a lot of the problems capability-based microkernel architectures solve.

  31. mattl said,

    October 15, 2007 at 6:07 pm

    Carl,

    I think you’re seeing jealousy where there is none. The fact is, Linux is a very good kernel, but Linus Torvalds does not value Free Software very much. Many who side with the Open Source camp are happy to mix proprietary and free software. GNU/Linux gives credit to both sides of the project, and allows people who may be interested in helping to continue the work of the GNU Project to continue.

    We have lots of free software, but we still need more. We are increasingly under threat from proprietary technology such as Adobe Flash and binary drivers. People are willing to accept this as a compromise to their freedom. The GNU Project needs people to help write free software replacements for all proprietary software, so that users can have freedom.

  32. October 15, 2007 at 6:59 pm

    I agree with Matt Lee regarding the GNU and Linux naming convention, however, looking at the current development of Hurd kernel, I don’t see any chance for it to replace the Linux kernel any sooner. Comparing to Minix3 architecture, which is also based on micro kernel, I believe Hurd is more developed at the moment, but the future prospect of it is far from reliable.
    While we know that different licensing might, in one way or another, cause much trouble, I couldn’t see any reason that in the future, GNU applications couldn’t be run on the Minix3 kernel. Given also the fact that Minix3 is a Posix compliant kernel, meaning it is a reliable Unix emulation system. Driver support might be another issue, but again, the fact that driver servers are separate process from the kernel and run from the user space, their development wouldn’t cause much trouble from the developer or user perspective.
    CMIIW

  33. October 15, 2007 at 7:19 pm

    Hurd was stillborn. Is there anything else to say about it.

  34. Brian Masinick said,

    October 15, 2007 at 7:45 pm

    With all due respect to everyone, there are interchangeable parts at every level discussed in this thread: multiple kernels: UNIX, Linux, and multiple BSD kernels, with HURD also a possibility, then for utilities, we certainly use GNU utilities but there is no reason one could not also use the BSD or UNIX utilities (merely a factor of what kind of license you want). Then at the application and application server level there are also multiple choices – multiple databases, multiple Content Management Systems, multiple source code management systems, and so on.

    Each of them works and each of them have their set of characteristics, advantages, and disadvantages for a specific set of purposes. All of them (except for HURD, which is alpha grade test software) are quite capable of doing the job – more a question of cost, features, and licensing than anything else.

    I like the fact that there are all those choices, and that is what UNIX-like software has always provided. Whether you call it BSD, Linux, GNU, or something else, there are choices, and they all work well.

  35. mattl said,

    October 15, 2007 at 11:25 pm

    The fact is, we don’t need the Hurd like we did before we had Linux. One free kernel is enough to get lots of people running Free Software.

    I believe we’ll see OpenSolaris released under GPLv3 soon enough, and then we’ll have another good free kernel, and yet another reason why GNU/Linux is a more appropriate name. It should also be noted that GNU/Solaris is already in development.

  36. bz said,

    October 15, 2007 at 11:28 pm

    Doesn’t Mac OS X run on a Mach microkernel?

  37. Voice of Reason said,

    October 16, 2007 at 12:01 am

    Richard Stallman: delivering “freedom” with an iron fist.

  38. Steven Axe said,

    October 16, 2007 at 12:13 am

    I don’t get why the GNU folks and Linux folks continue to focus on the GNUness or Linux-centric view. Honestly, who really cares who created what. The important thing is that it works and provides benefits to users. Bill Gates isn’t running around saying “GatesOS”. He’s saying Windows and he’s winning. We have GNU, Linux, KDE, Gnome, etc. battles that are a pure waste of time and energy. They are meaningless. Just call it “Freedom OS” and be happy. This is, after all, about community efforts at building something great. With that in mind, all authors need to check egos at the door as a requirement of participation. GPL baby! Thanks to everyone who has contributed. Especially those toiling away to make the useless kernel and GNU tools work on all machines! After all, what good is all this fancy code if it don’t work on your shiny new computer? :-)

    • August 19, 2010 at 9:09 pm

      The point is that you can fix it when it breaks or when you wanna make it better.

      There are no consumers and producers in GNU. Only peers with different priorities.

      As for the people arguing about the relative freedomness between BSD and GNU, do you ask Toyota for permission to change your own tires? No. Point proved. QED.

  39. mogmios said,

    October 16, 2007 at 12:38 am

    I’ll never call it Linux GNU/Linux anymore than I’m going to call my car a Firestone/Ford. The parts inside don’t really have anything to do with the name of a product. If you want a GNU Linux why don’t you just release your own distro and call it GNU Linux. I agree with an article I read a few days ago asking if GNU/Linux is a possible trademark violation. I think it is and wish it’d be dealt with. The name GNU/Linux is bad for marketing and it has nothing to do with how much I appreciate the Free Software Foundation, GNU, RMS, the GPL, or any of that stuff.

    So until you’re going by Bob/Nike/Levis/Hanes/Stafford I think you don’t have a point.

    As for the Hurd – when it comes out of alpha maybe I’ll look at it.

  40. T. J. Brumfield said,

    October 16, 2007 at 12:45 am

    No, it is called Linux because we do not attach the name of the various apps to the name of the OS. Linux is what defines the OS. Just as BSD is called BSD. Linus never asked for anything to be named after him, where as Stallman demands top billing, and draws a logo with a huge Gnu, and a little Tux. His ego seems to overshadow his contributions sometimes.

    And now his battles to protect “freedom” (read, protect hackers who wanted to avoid paying for TiVo service) by removing freedoms from end users, removing freedoms from developers, and in turn creating divisions in the open source world.

    Great job there.

  41. killick said,

    October 16, 2007 at 1:46 am

    RMS has proven, again and again, to have a horrible aesthetic sense when it comes to naming things. Emacs. GNU. HURD. WTF? Clever little in-joke recursive acronyms? Yeah, that’ll catch on. Even when I ran Red Hat, Mandrake, Fedora, SuSE, Knoppix, Libranet, I still called the OS Linux unless I was speaking to someone who would recognize the distro name as a Linux distro.

    RMS wants people to know about the 4 freedoms. Good idea. I want people to know about them, too. RMS thinks using a hard-to-pronounce recursive acronym pre-pended to another name is good marketing for Free Software. RMS is wrong about the name. I understand why he wants it used, but sadly, GNU/Linux is crappy for marketing. Why doesn’t he change the name from GNU to `Freedom?` Freedom Linux, Freedom Hurd, Freedom Solaris, Freedom BSD are all MUCH better choices, and even get the freedom concept out in front where he wants it.

    He’s a stubborn guy, and his stubborness has helped him achieve a lot, but this GNU name is his albatross.

  42. Nick said,

    October 16, 2007 at 1:59 am

    Far out. What is the good of all this “GNU needs Linux to have a real world use”, “Linux needs the GNU tools to actually do anything” talk?

    Is that not the point of the open source software that the creators of both are meant to be so fond of? I’m surprised that GNU is still trying to make HURD after Linux has appeared on the scene and allowed itself to be distributed under the GPL. That event meant that a complete free software operating system was available to all people. The GNU Project’s goal is complete – HURD is now (essentially) an attempt to reinvent the wheel. Would they not be better to contribute to the Linux kernel project than try and go the whole way themselves?

    Sorry but to me it sounds like a vain attempt to grab at every last possible shred of the one commodity a meritocracy like the Open Source Software world has – street cred.

  43. Daerd said,

    October 16, 2007 at 4:00 am

    Really. I don’t see any of the words “Richard”, “Matthew”, nor “Stallman” in GNU (which simply means “GNU’s Not Unix”). And I don’t certainly see RMS’ face on the GNU logo. To say that RMS “demands top billing” is totally inaccurate and misses the point of the whole Free Software advocacy efforts the man is exerting.

    DRM and Tivoization poses a threat to general computing freedom, to developers, hackers, administrators, users, etc. RMS believes that for freedom to be effective, it is essential that everybody receives the same freedom anybody does. This is regardless of whether you are a developer or not. DRM and Tivoization locks up control to developers and manufacturers alone, leaving everybody else helpless. This is not freedom, this is power. And power that is easily abused.

    People should really stop thinking of RMS as someone who is utterly unreasonable and entirely religious. Thinking of him as such only encourages close-mindedness. How many of you who disagree with him actually read his essays and listened to his speeches? And if you’ve indeed read his essays or listened to his speeches, how many of you considered him an equal in intellect both in ideology and practicality?

    It’s almost like as if I’m arguing with children when I reply to comments that imply: “RMS is religious”, “RMS is unreasonable”, etc., etc. Guys, give the guy a break. Read his essays, listen to his speeches and understand the man behind the revolution the world is yet to realize and appreciate.

    “Freedom is essential to stop the slavery that is ignorance.”

  44. DrXym said,

    October 16, 2007 at 7:55 am

    Calling Linux as GNU/Linux is confusing and unnecessary. Sure FSF copyright software plays a very important role in a dist, but so do many other pieces. A dist would be next to useless without X, or OpenOffice, or Firefox, or Apache, or Perl, or MySQL, or OpenSSH or any of the many programs that make a dist useful for something. Calling it GNU/Linux just sounds like a selfish demand by people jealous that Linux has been a massive success and Hurd well… hasn’t. There really is no rational reason it should be called GNU/Linux and no legal one either. Rather than whining about naming semantics, perhaps energy would be better spent making GNU Hurd usable by people who are not “developers and very experienced *nix users.” After sixteen or more years of development, does that sound unreasonable? It would certainly stand the FSF in a better light than attacking people who have the common sense to be able to recognize the meaning of Linux by its context in a topic.

  45. Rick James said,

    October 16, 2007 at 10:09 am

    Get a clue morons. Hurd and Linux are two entirely seperate things. Hurd Supporters, just like the BSD crowd wanted *NOTHING* to do with what became known as the Linux Movement, mostly because the Hurd crowd were too busy looking down their collective noses at the hardware availble to the average person at the time. There’s always been this sort of looking down upon people who work on and use Linux by the Hurd crowd and I suspect a lot of resentment. Let’s face it, it was Linux development for the PC that’s nearly driven all the improvements we’ve seen in GCC over the last 15 years or so. GCC development for Hurd had basically come to a standstill.

  46. Daerd said,

    October 16, 2007 at 2:56 pm

    Sure, it partly is about credit. But rather than credit as an end, using GNU/Linux instead of just Linux is a means to an end; that is, to provide a venue for people to hear about the original effort (which is GNU). But wait! That’s not the bottom-line. You see, the GNU project was started during the early 80s to create a full operating system that one can use in freedom. No dictatorship from anyone telling you that you should not let your friend copy a piece of software from you (freedom 2). No shackles as to how your software should be used (freedom 0). No chains as to when, how, or whether you would like or need to modify your software (freedom 1). No imprisonment as to whether or not you would like to redistribute the said modifications (freedom 3). You can live in freedom. Practical freedom giving way to practical revolution. No one really feels unethical about letting someone dear to them copy software that they, presumably, bought. But in the current state of the laws, this is considered illegal (i.e. piracy). GNU would like to tell people that there is a better alternative. That there is a way to live in freedom legally. And that thousands of people around the world work for it to become a reality (consciously or otherwise). “Open Source” does not capture this practical vision. And neither do “Linux”. All these terminologies imply gratis (0 cost), not freedom. For those interested (or intrigued), I refer you to a much more detailed essay by RMS found here: http://www.gnu.org/gnu/why-gnu-linux.html.

    I do partly agree that instead of bickering and arguing and flaming and exercising ones freedom for speech, we will have to focus on implementing more code so that more people can adapt to GNU/Linux. But this not the end-all and be-all. Most of us can’t code, and so, the second part of the equation is to let people know of what this movement is about. We are not merely hobbyists and zealots that happen to have too much time. We are serious about freedom. And we will get it.

    Sorry for being too passionate about this. I really am, I admit. Also, sorry if I trampled on your ego. Not my purpose whatsoever. I am merely here to call for reasoning. And it bugs me to read a lot of misunderstandings based on first impressions. Consider this a primer for those who are interested. Welcome to the world of freedom!

  47. Daerd said,

    October 16, 2007 at 3:00 pm

    Here’s the link again: http://www.gnu.org/gnu/why-gnu-linux.html

    Sorry for that. :)

  48. fader6818 said,

    October 16, 2007 at 3:57 pm

    HURD is not in competition with Linux. HURD is a kernel+set of servers developed with the intent to be Free Software. Since Linus is very clear that Linux is NOT developed as Free Software and HURD’s main focus is to be Free Software I don’t see them conflicting at all.

    I’m a strong supporter of Free Software (though, not exactly a fan of RMS and the FSF anymore) and I think the HURD is irrelevant. Frankly, I think that Linux is also irrelevant. I can use KDE or Gnome or E17 on a GNU/Linux system or a GNU/HURD system or a GNU/OpenSolaris system. I can run KDE on a non-GNU implimentation of Linux.

    I’d argue that the desktop environment, not the kernel or underlying utilities are MUCH more relevant to the user’s ability to use a computer than the kernel + userspace utilities.

    That said, I run Debian which currently has Linux, NetBSD, FreeBSD and HURD kernels. If Nexenta every cleans up it’s act, it might also get an OpenSolaris port. :)

  49. Celso Timana said,

    October 16, 2007 at 4:42 pm

    Question: Why the wheel isn’t square?
    Answer: Because a wheel is a wheel.

    Ppl come on !!!! Why are u fighting? Things are working and we are able to post our comments here because some guys back in the day weren’t arguing like we are doing.

    Okay okay indeed the HURD isn’t working well until now. Perhaps isn’t a thing to work.
    Okay okay Linux is a kernel that rules. Of course it is. But Linux itself IS NOTHING!!!!!
    GNU tools alone are NOTHING!!!!

    BOTH TOGETHER ARE F”****** GREAT!!!!! AND THAT’S ALL!

    Damn… sometimes freedom of speech is just a pain in th … you know.

  50. Ken Holmes said,

    October 16, 2007 at 8:24 pm

    Rick James essentially ended a consensus of a group of the most intelligent and civilized posters I have encountered in a long time. There have been some strong views expressed, yet for the greater part you have all shown a marked degree of intelligent thought and reasonable respect for other posters.
    I don’t care if we are speaking of GNU, Linux, BSD, Plan 9, distribution X, OS X, y or z. SkyOS and Syllable are the work of developers who have their own ideas of creating something they can feel good about. All of you know there are many more. Many will never become well known, yet there are persons who have a drive to create. Creating is much more difficult than tearing down. It if far easier to raze a barn than to raise a barn. In all cases the creators learn something from what has been accomplished before. They likely learn even from particular failures that have occurred before, their own or someone else’s. Linux and Linux have been lambasted for years. Everyone gets critized. If you are working to build something and contribute something you have my respect, and we don’t have to agree on every detail.

  51. Andrey said,

    October 17, 2007 at 5:33 am

    As far as I know, QNX is using a microkernel. It runs better than OK, HURD does not run OK. So, HURD is a good idea, the problem is that HURD people cannot implement it. Options: wait, help, forget.

    As a USER, I still do not understand why both Linux and BSDs are necessary if BOTH do not have PERFECT hardware support.

  52. Matt Lee said,

    October 17, 2007 at 6:33 am

    Actually, Celso, throughout the 1980s, pieces of GNU, including compilers, shell, coreutils were used on proprietary Unix systems, such as SunOS, because many users preferred them. People would actually go to all the trouble of downloading them or getting them on tape, compiling them and replacing the proprietary parts of their system with GNU.

    Linux is great, but it’s clear that most people don’t actually know where Linux ends and GNU begins. Try Linux with say, Busybox and you’ll see what you’re missing.

    Let’s also not forget that GNOME is part of the GNU project. So, your typical Ubuntu installation has a GNU shell, desktop, coreutils and libraries. Of course, the kernel is Linux.

  53. Pablo said,

    October 17, 2007 at 12:23 pm

    @Bob Robertson

    Well, maybe you are not well informed of some facts: QNX, which is a real time, embedded operating system (the most widely used, by the way), uses to my knowledge, a micro kernel approach. Minix also uses it and it has been working sinse early nineties. Not too bad if you consider how few developers they have.

  54. February 13, 2008 at 6:51 am

    I still wonder, how may are using Hurd now? The development seems very slow and does is support new processor like dual core etc?

  55. Gustavo Sícoli said,

    July 30, 2008 at 7:49 pm

    Well, in fact, GNU/Linux is the very lure that made me know about free software, it was just linux for me as I was just a user, a Windows one, cuz I never had my own computer, but then, I was forced to used this Linux thing and was ok with it until the first time some asked me whitch kernel version I was using and told me to type ‘uname -a’ and there it was, in the end of the line, GNU/Linux, and it occurred me “is there any other kind of Linux?” it didn’t the long to found the gnu.org and the fsf.org websites.

    In those websites I learnd a lot about free software, something you don’t see at http://www.linux.org, so if you ask me whitch stands better for free software, it is GNU/Linux for sure, but as with other things that I use to do in life, when people ask me whitch OS I use I ask them “do you really wanna know or do you just want an answer?” if the choose the second I say Linux.

    That is the thing with Linux, the easy answer, but I see the Linux folks speaking about envy and other things that is not the case, I could say, by the same token, that the Linux ppl are affraid of the Hurd, cuz it would kill linux, but it is not the case either.

    I’m not free yet, but I’m taking my steps, perhaps some day I’ll use hurd, perhaps, when I learn some more about C programing (I’m still newbie at it), I’ll help ppl develope it or some other free software.

    But the thing with free software is that we will always have the option, just as we can choose from Gnome to KDE both have their good side and their bad, perhaps the choise of whicth kernel to use will relay on taste alone, perhaps on application, but I think there will never be a convergency, just options.

  56. Nova Terata said,

    December 2, 2008 at 12:25 am

    killik is right, aesthics are very important in the grand scheme of things which is why Ubuntu has been so popular its name is melodic and it has a pleasing interface. Seems that a lot of geeks just don’t get it. Azureus was a great name Vuze is ridiculous except in France. It is much more likely for someone to switch to a program named Firefox, Inkscape, Solaris, etc. you know something that doesn’t sound Klingon! i.e. GNU, EMACS, IceWeasel, GIMP, MrMxlplx… Please do not have children or at least outsource the naming of that child to a Foundation with a CUTE anthropomorphic mascot.. maybe some kind of sea bird. Its a baby not a bloodclot.

  57. Kunle said,

    February 26, 2009 at 10:35 pm

    what makes a software GNU? isn’t the Linux kernel GNU? at least i know it’s licenced under the GNU GPL; i would have thought that as enough to make the kernel GNU; the fact that it’s Linux is tantamount to saying that it’s GNU (or at least that’s how i’ve always seen it; if i’m wrong corrections are welcome) so why are we trying to add GNU to what is already GNU?

  58. Don Dennis said,

    February 8, 2010 at 11:13 am

    It is funny reading GNU versus Linus war of words. Even RMS, OSI, Linus will not have such hatred towards each other. FS, OSS, all are complementary they all benefit from each other. Linus will not have written the kernel if not GNU was not there. GNU will not have started if there was a free alternate system already. GNU/Linux not Linux just to remind us of the history behind. I guess that is fair enough.


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