Linux vs GNU/Linux – A Reader’s Response

Here is a guest post from Paul Surmon who decided to send me an email with his views on the Linux / GNU/Linux debate following my recent article “I say Linux, you say GNU/Linux“.

Those of you who read regularly may have seen Paul’s last article on this site “Thoughts On Using Linux Mint Cinnamon 17.1” published in March this year.


I read with interest Gary’s piece about Linux Vs GNU Linux, and it sent me to look at the site, sponsored by the free software foundation, of the GNU operating system, to at least get a flavour of the history of GNU and Linux, and that on its own is worthwhile.


I can see where Richard Stallman is, as they say, coming from, and can appreciate his point of view, which is obviously informed by a passion for GNU and the free software movement. But I also understand what Gary is saying, and there is one thing about history that’s difficult to avoid. Once it has decided on its chosen direction it is hard to stop it.


Under the momentum of history the Greek Colonels gave up on their unwholesome reign. Apartheid collapsed, and the long imprisoned Nelson Mandela became a president. History decides everything in the end. It will decide the GNU Linux/plain Linux matter.


I am a very recent convert to using GNU Linux / Linux, and as converts tend to be, already quite passionate about it. In a previous article Gary kindly published I recounted my thoughts on using Linux Mint. There was much more I could have said about my entirely positive experience of Mint. I hope to make a contribution in future even if it is only via donations or suggestions.


I’m not technically savvy. I use a computer in pursuit of my life as a poet, and also to produce the posters, and other documents needed by the group of poets I belong to in Oxford. Libre Office is my most often used software, but also Scribus for posters, and most recently Kazam to do a screencast to demonstrate to other members how to help maintain our website. The ease of use that Linux has brought, and the availability of excellent open-source software, has been a revelation. The big commercial software corporations won’t get me back now.


But there is something less tangible about becoming a convert that I have found very attractive, and that is the sense of community, and an international community at that. Mint for example being run by a Frenchman living in Ireland, and all the distributions seem to get contributions from throughout the world. All these people working together to produce excellent software for the love of doing it must be worth something in a world that is too often divided on itself by politics, religion, and any number of other perceived differences. Or all too often the kind of greed that doesn’t understand people doing something for the love of it.


I joined my local Linux User Group who have been very helpful, and everywhere you go there are people willing to assist newcomers or experienced users alike. This seems to me to be something the community should celebrate. I know you all know this already, but many of you who have been involved for a long time might not see it as forcefully as someone coming to GNU Linux / Linux / Open-source for the first time.


What’s in a name? I think it is bigger than a name. Whatever the name might or might not be, I for one am very grateful to everyone involved. One small plea, I get an impression that not enough people make donations to software producers. I suspect even small donations would be appreciated from time to time. Whatever the name it is a remarkable movement.


Thankyou for sending this to me Paul.

If you have something you want to say about this or any other Linux related subject, please feel free to send me an email using the link above.

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