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devinmcelheran 03-03-2009 02:59 PM

Okay, I think I get it, my question was aimed more toward the difference as what they are, I knew Linux was the kernel, but I didn't know if Linux was part of GNU. But now I see why distros say GNU/Linux instead of one or the other. And on top of that I wasn't sure of this topic in general because I read that GNU was the first Unix operating system made entirely from open source. But I never found this "GNU operating system". So that was my main confusion.

XavierP 03-03-2009 03:08 PM

Linux was a kernel with no tools and GNU was a toolset with no kernel. Luckily, they were both available (and missing the essential parts) at roughly the same time and were able to work together to make GNU/Linux. That is why GNU advocates dislike it when we say Linux rather than GNU/Linux. Without GNU, Linux wouldn't have been an operating system base as quickly as it was.

synss 03-03-2009 03:16 PM

BTW, a kernel (e.g., Linux) is a set of "drivers," modules and deals with the lowest level of communicating with the hardware, including things like memory management, filesystems, or video drivers. Have a look at or the LWN if you want a more accurate answer and if you have lots of time on your hands.

GNU provides programs like "ls", "cp" and "gcc", at a command prompt, you may try, e.g., "ls --version". These tools are already at a much higher level, they do not speak with the hardware but with the kernel. Imagine, if there were no kernel to abstract the hardware, you would need a different "ls" for pretty much every computer, depending on the brand of your hard disk drive or your filesystem. So GNU is Unix, Linux is not.

This is what GNU/Linux is about.

Richard Stallman, who is the father of GNU, believes that everything that sits on your computer should be free. This is a political statement. Linus does not care much about politics as far as I know. He just used the GPL because it fitted with his project.

There is a GNU kernel, named HURD, only, it never really worked. There are other kernel usable with the GNU tools, BSD, Darwin to name a few.

devinmcelheran 03-03-2009 03:28 PM

So how is GNU Unix but not Linux? I mean I knew Linux was "Unix like". But how is GNU Unix if it's not even a kernel? I thought the kernel was what made Unix, Unix?

synss 03-03-2009 03:46 PM

Probably I was not clear. The thing is, technically, you need both a kernel and the tools to have Unix, which is why purists call it GNU/Linux: Linux kernel + GNU tools, as there can be GNU/BSD, GNU/Darwin, and also, nothing prevents anyone to rewrite the GNU tools, in which case you could have a MySuperTools/Linux, etc. Linux and GNU are two different things, but you need both to do anything useful and call it Unix.

I should have said GNU/Linux is Unix but neither GNU nor Linux alone are.

devinmcelheran 03-03-2009 03:49 PM

Okay, I get it now, sort of, what is it that makes GNU/Linux Unix, or "Unix like"? And are Unix binaries runnable on GNU/Linux?

T74marcell 03-03-2009 08:04 PM

Richard Stallman would be offended by having GNU tools called as "open source", because it's "free software". Most people just don't care about the difference.

Stallman also would everyone to call Linux systems as GNU/Linux systems. I never heard him requesting Darwin to be called GNU/Darwin, or NetBSD to be called GNU/NetBSD, or GNU/SCO_Unix, etc etc (apply to all kind of UNIX-like systems). In the end it's just easier to talk about "Linux" instead of having a mouthfull of "GNU/Linux" each time. Most people talk about "Word" and "Excel" without saying "Microsoft Word" and "Microsoft Excel" each time. It's just easier to say or write the shorter names. So omitting the "GNU/" part in Linux is not really a philosophical matter.

Technically it is possible to to install a Linux system without any GNU tools at all - you'll have to get a kernel and all the tools that have a different license (non-GPL). Not necessarily efficient, but still possible.


Arch Linux

sundialsvcs 03-03-2009 08:41 PM

Ultimately, I think that any "distinction" that might be made here matters a whole lot more to Mr. Richard Stallman [RSM] (who manages to make a tidy living from it...) than to anyone else.

Therefore, leaving any "religious arguments" aside, here's the distinction as I see it.

"Linux," strictly speaking, is an operating-system. Starting with a college-dorm-room project by Linus Torvalds, this system "happened to be in just the right place at just the right time." Thousands of people contributed to it, and continue to contribute to it, in a rather stunning example of "the whole is much greater than the sum of its parts." Today, it is a system that runs on more than 30 radically-different architectures.

Meanwhile... GNU.

GNU ("GNU's Not Unix") is, in some ways, a last-gasp of the proprietary software world, in the sense that it may have imagined itself to be beneficent. But regardless of its (real or intended) motivations, which are really anybody's guess, GNU wound up being a freely-available toolset. An absolutely stunning compiler-suite (gcc), a linker, a loader, and a bunch of fundamental Unix-esque components.

{Uh huh... "Linus did Linux, and Stallman did gcc, and both are "f**kin' :eek: " }

Bottom line? Symbiosis. Synergy. Neither Linux nor GNU would have been worth a rat's-ass without the other. Two essential tools came together at the same time... "and the rest is history."

GNU's pet-project was called HURD. The arrival of Linux on the scene made HURD "a non-issue, market-wise," but also "safely irrelevant."

Human personalities being what they are, some people will be quibbling about this for many years to come. But the bottom line, for both projects, is that "serendipity happened."

And a helluva lot of incredible software engineers ... specifically including both Messrs. Torvalds and Stallman ... richly and rightfully deserve the collective fame (and blame).


devinmcelheran 03-03-2009 09:56 PM

What is it that makes GNU/Linux Unix like? Is it possible to run a Unix binary in Linux or visa versa? And Mac being Unix, is it possible to run a Unix or Linux Binary on Mac?

synss 03-04-2009 02:00 AM


Originally Posted by T74marcell (Post 3463983)
I never heard him requesting Darwin to be called GNU/Darwin, or NetBSD to be called GNU/NetBSD, or GNU/SCO_Unix, etc etc (apply to all kind of UNIX-like systems).

That may be because they do not use the GNU toolset. From OS X (Darwin)

$ /bin/ls --version
/bin/ls: illegal option -- -
usage: ls [-ABCFGHLPRSTWabcdefghiklmnopqrstuwx1] [file ...]

They use BSD tools.

synss 03-04-2009 02:11 AM


Originally Posted by devinmcelheran (Post 3464076)
What is it that makes GNU/Linux Unix like? Is it possible to run a Unix binary in Linux or visa versa? And Mac being Unix, is it possible to run a Unix or Linux Binary on Mac?

There is no such thing as a Unix binary. You can install Linux softwares on OS X, see macports or Fink. Note that you can also install them on Windows with Cygwin.

Linux can run on a variety of machines, from mobile phones to PPC macs and modern multi-core multi-processor machines. All of these computers need different binaries because they have different CPUs.

When you run a binary, a program, the kernel kicks in action to decide when to actually execute it (maybe now, maybe when the load on the machine is lower); it choses which CPU to use, attributes some memory, hide whether the program is using swap or RAM, etc. But the binary has to ultimately execute on the CPU.

Moreover, even two machines with the same CPU may have incompatibilities. Languages like C++ use some obfuscation while being compiled, two different compilers or two different versions of GCC may use different obfuscation (name mangling) schemes and the resulting binaries will not be compatible.

Are you trying to do something special? Like run some old program compiled for another Unix on Linux? Or are you just curious?

You may also want to have a look at the wikipedia page about Unix.

devinmcelheran 03-04-2009 06:24 AM

I'm just looking to clear up some confusion, but every time some one adds to the thread, they make me a little more confused, I haven't gotten the clearest of answers, some were really good, but then others would oppose them. But overall, just curious.

Random question here: Is there a port of Wine for Mac?

pixellany 03-04-2009 06:40 AM


Originally Posted by devinmcelheran (Post 3464431)
Random question here: Is there a port of Wine for Mac?

Take a look here:

(Crossover is the commercial version of WINE)

synss 03-05-2009 02:09 AM


Originally Posted by devinmcelheran (Post 3464431)
Random question here: Is there a port of Wine for Mac?

There was Darwine, but now, just "stock" wine compiles and installs on OS X, via macports or fink, for example. Apple has an X11 port, too, so that many free softwares work. I do not say they all integrate very well, though... but they do not have to!

healyma 03-05-2009 07:54 AM

Going to try and summarise this as best I can.

GNU was started by RMS (Richard Matthew - or Math-you, as he prefers - Stallman) and the FSF or free software foundation. According to the FSF the terms Free Software and Open Source software are not the same. Free Software is based on the philosophy that ALL software should have it's source code freely available for modification and re-distribution. Proprietary software should not be used. Open Source is a method of sharing and collaborating on a software project by releasing it's source code into the public domain.

The GNU GPL by the FSF is one the most common open source licenses in use today, others include the Mozilla License and the Apache License - as used by the Apache webserver, Apache Tomcat etc.

GNU Hurd was a free (intellectually) Operating System proposed over 20 years ago by the FSF to ultimately replace proprietary OSes. The Cathedral and the Bazaar, by ESR (Eric S. Raymond) details the different philosophies and development practices of the FSF and early Linux developers, and goes some way to explain why GNU Hurd was never completed. RMS and the FSF decided that Linux should be named GNU/Linux as opposed to simply Linux and that this was the natural successor to GNU Hurd - Linux Torvalds etc. were never consulted on this decision to change the name.

Referring to Linux as GNU/Linux reflects more on an underlying philosophy rather than any difference in features etc. Debian and Ubuntu call it GNU/Linux, Fedora and Red-Hat call it Linux - both include many of the same packages, while Debian is less likely to include proprietary drivers or other non-free software etc.

Basically, if you believe all software should be free to modify and distribute - regardless of the wishes of the original developer(s) - you use Free Software in the form of GNU/Linux and believe that RMS is a hero/legend/father of Free Software.
On the other hand, if you believe that developers and software communities should be free to license their work in any manner they see fit - and let users decide whether or not to use it, you use Open Source Software in the form of Linux and believe RMS is a ******.


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