Ubuntu Demon\’s blog

August 23, 2006

GNU/Linux,FOSS,Debian and Ubuntu

Filed under: Uncategorized — ubuntudemon @ 9:09 am

Some of you (the readers of my blog) might not know very much about this.


Many computer users run a modified version of the GNU system (18k characters) every day, without realizing it. Through a peculiar turn of events, the version of GNU which is widely used today is more often known as “Linux”, and many users are not aware of the extent of its connection with the GNU Project.

There really is a Linux, and these people are using it, but it is not the operating system. Linux is the kernel: the program in the system that allocates the machine’s resources to the other programs that you run. The kernel is an essential part of an operating system, but useless by itself; it can only function in the context of a complete operating system. Linux is normally used in a combination with the GNU operating system: the whole system is basically GNU, with Linux functioning as its kernel.

read more

Sometimes I talk about Linux instead of GNU/Linux because it’s shorter and easier to say and because most non-geeks don’t know about the existence of GNU while they might have heard (something) about Linux before.

But we should really credit GNU as well.


FOSS means Free and Open Source Software.

Open source doesn’t just mean access to the source code.

read more about the open source definition

“Free software” is a matter of liberty, not price. To understand the concept, you should think of “free” as in “free speech,” not as in “free beer.”

read more about The Free Software Definition

Debian and Ubuntu

Ubuntu is based on Debian. Debian, the producers of the Debian GNU/Linux system, have created the Debian Social Contract.

Ubuntu and Debian are closely related. Ubuntu builds on the foundations of Debian architecture and infrastructure, with a different community and release process.

read more about Debian and Ubuntu on ubuntu.com
read more about Debian and Ubuntu on my blog

FOSS and Ubuntu

Current GNU/Linux distributions such as Ubuntu are comprised of GNU,Linux and lots of other (mostly FOSS) software.

The Ubuntu software repository is divided into four components, main, restricted, universe and multiverse on the basis of our ability to support that software, and whether or not it meets the goals laid out in our Free Software Philosophy.

read more about the Ubuntu components

Our philosophy is reflected in the software we produce and include in our distribution. As a result, the licensing terms of the software we distribute are measured against our philosophy, using the Ubuntu Licence Policy.

When you install Ubuntu almost all of the software installed already meets these ideals, and we are working to ensure that every single piece of software you need is available under a licence that gives you those freedoms. Currently, we make a specific exception for some “drivers” which are only available in binary form, without which many computers will not complete the Ubuntu installation. We place these in a restricted section of your system which makes them trivial to remove if you do not need them.

Ubuntu is happy to call itself open source. While some refer to free and open source as competing movements with different ends, we do not see free and open source software as either distinct or incompatible. Ubuntu proudly includes members who identify with both the free software and open source camps and many who identify with both.

read more about Ubuntu’s Free Software Philosophy

Ubuntu is a collection of many computer programs and documents created by thousands of individuals, teams and companies. Each of these works might come under a different licence. Our Licence Policy describe the process that we follow in determining which software we will ship and by default on the Ubuntu Install CD.

read more about Ubuntu’s License Policy

read more about the Ubuntu Philosophy on my blog

If you want to know more about Ubuntu you should definitely read this :

about Ubuntu



  1. Note that many people prefer the term “FLOSS” rather than “FOSS”.
    “FOSS” could be read as including Freeware.
    FLOSS, also written FL/OSS is a bit preciser here:
    Free (libre) / Open Source Software.
    Because it’s about freedom, not free beer.


    (probably a good link to add to your blog posting!)

    Comment by Erich Schubertq — August 23, 2006 @ 11:16 am

  2. You know it sadens me to see things like this where GNU is given more weight than Linux, that us GNU in the eyes of RMS.

    GNU/ is just plain SILLY! GNU would be nothing without a kernel(s) that they run on,such as GNU/Freebsd GNU/Linux GNU/Hurd etc , if i load cygwin onto a windows box does it becomes GNU/Windows ? LOL , where does the madness stop , what makes it more important than say KDE , should it be KDE/GNU/Linux ? what about Linux/GNU since GNU wouldent run without Linux so it gets bottom billing.

    Just some things to think about before you blindly follow in RMS’s FUD


    Comment by imbrandon — August 23, 2006 @ 11:38 am

  3. The same discussion about the name, what if we finish it not calling the OS GNU/Linux but Ginux lol, just that an everybody will be happy.

    Comment by Munchausen — August 23, 2006 @ 2:34 pm

  4. The GNU/Linux naming FAQ addresses imbrandon’s questions (see http://www.gnu.org/gnu/gnu-linux-faq.html#bsd for a response to the first point and http://www.gnu.org/gnu/gnu-linux-faq.html#many to address the second). There’s even a brief section (http://www.gnu.org/gnu/gnu-linux-faq.html#long) to address why a shorter name such as “LiGNUx” isn’t recommended.

    The entire FAQ is worth reading.

    Comment by J.B. Nicholson-Owens — August 23, 2006 @ 2:48 pm

  5. Feh! This issue again. I’ve read the FAQs the history, I know all about why people insist it should be called GNU/Linux. That’s fine, If someone wants to call it “GNU Linux”, “GNU slash Linux”, or “GNU + Linux”, that’s find and dandy. More power to ’em. But to beat people over the head who refer to the system as Linux and police the term is absolutely asinine. I call it Linux, and sometimes I call it GNU/Linux. It REALLY bothers me when I get blasted on a public forum by some GNU zealot for “taking the shortcut.” In my opinion, the whole thing should be put to rest.

    Comment by MrDude — August 23, 2006 @ 5:07 pm

  6. IMHO we shouldn’t make too big a fuss about this.

    I just wanted to educate the readers of my blog a bit and give some credit to GNU. But in practice I also use “Linux” a lot because :

    -it’s shorter and easier to say
    -most non-geeks don’t know about the existence of GNU while they might have heard (something) about Linux before

    Comment by ubuntudemon — August 23, 2006 @ 5:54 pm

  7. To clarify Ubuntu is free in both of these ways :

    free speech (libre) and free as in free beer (gratis)


    Comment by ubuntudemon — August 23, 2006 @ 6:03 pm

  8. Actually it would make more sense to name it “Ubuntu GNU” and not “Ubuntu Linux”.
    Todays, the kernels are fairly interchangeable (appart from some missing drivers).
    Have you used a GNU/kFreeBSD system? In GNOME it’s not really different from a GNU/Linux system.
    Oh, and Debian has Hurd and kFreeBSD ports. So “Debian GNU” is more appropriate than “Debian Linux”, since Debian can run without Linux, but there is no Debian without the GNU toolchain.

    Comment by Erich Schubert — August 23, 2006 @ 8:37 pm

  9. imbrandon:
    Remember what was created first? Was it Linux or the GNU Project?
    Linux wouldn’t be so successful without the availability of the GNU tools, especially GCC.

    Comment by Azrael Nightwalker — August 23, 2006 @ 9:08 pm

  10. […] about Ubuntu GNU/Linux,FOSS,Debian and Ubuntu […]

    Pingback by Ubuntu Demon’s blog » The Ubuntu Philosophy — August 24, 2006 @ 10:12 am

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