Mike Angelo -- 28 August 2005 (C) -- Page 2
So, maybe it is about time for everyone to start being lots more careful about how we use the term Linux. That would make it clear when one is referring to:
Here is some food for thought about that. How about the term Linux, when used by itself, be used to refer to the Linux kernel? That's the operating system kernel developed and maintained by Linus Torvalds and the kernel.org people.
That's not a new idea. It's just that over time most, if not all, of us have gotten very sloppy about the way we label lots more than just the Linux kernel as Linux.
When the term Linux is used in conjunction with Linux-based OSs, Linux-based distributions, or whatever, then they should be called Linux-based. For example the Linux-based GNU operating system would be called more or less what Richard Stallman and the FSF people have been saying all along, the Linux-based, GNU operating system.
Richard Stallman is the founder of the GNU Project, President of the Free Software Foundation (FSF), and a well-known author. We discussed this article during its preparation with Richard M. Stallman (rms). He noted in respect to the above paragraph that the name should include more than just Linux-based.
That seems to mean that GNU should be part of the name when one refers to an item that includes or is built on top of the Linux kernel and the GNU operating system based upon the Linux kernel.
Please see the GNU Note in the right sidebar for more about this.
Incidentally, there also is another GNU operating system that is not based on the Linux kernel. It's based on GNU's Hurd kernel and called the GNU/Hurd operating system.
The same idea for naming operating systems goes for naming Linux-based distributions, too. Perhaps they could have names such as SUSE OS, a Linux-based GNU operating system, or The Mandriva Linux-based GNU OS. Those of course would be the more formal names.
In short, they still would simply be called Mandriva or SUSE, or perhaps Mandriva OS and SUSE OS -- but not merely Mandriva Linux or SUSE Linux. Likewise, perhaps Fedora and Red Hat ought to be referred to as Fedora OS and Red Hat OS rather than Fedora Linux and Red Hat Linux.
Some variations here perhaps could be product names such as SUSE Professional Desktop or SUSE Enterprise OS, a Linux-based GNU operating system. How about Mandriva Desktop OS or Mandriva Enterprise OS?
Interestingly, Xandros already does this sort of thing. Its consumer Linux-based distribution is called the Xandros Desktop OS. The business version is called Xandros Business Desktop OS
One thing this sort of naming schema could do is to remove Linux trademark issues from the naming and branding of many Linux-based products.
Linux-Based Product Branding and Identity
This naming thing is more than an exercise in nomenclature and taxonomy. For several months now, we have been comparing and reviewing five important Linux-based GNU operating system distributions, Fedora, Mandriva, Novell, SUSE, and Xandros. So far, we have published two articles based on these comparisons and reviews. And if you have read those two articles, you have seen there are lots of differences among the discussed Linux-based OS distributions.
(In Pursuit of Good Desktop Linux: Part 1, Network Neighborhood and MS Windows Partitions, and Part 2, Ease of Use and Ease of Migration Overview -- KDE, GNOME, and MS Windows Desktops)
All these Linux-based distributions have their own personalities. Simply calling these different Linux-based products Debian Linux, Fedora Linux, Mandriva Linux, Novell Linux, SUSE Linux, and so forth does not do justice to the individual characteristics and personalities of each of these Linux-based products. To the uninitiated, they sound too much like the same product with merely a different brand label on them
Interestingly, this is not all that new an idea. The original Caldera (now SCO) Linux product that was introduced in 1994 was Caldera Network Desktop -- not Caldera Linux or Caldera OpenLinux. In its Network Desktop product, Caldera had built a multi-user, network-ready, desktop, GNU-based operating system built around the Linux kernel. And that is just what the Caldera people called it ten years ago, Caldera Network Desktop. Please see the Caldera Note in the right sidebar.
Of course it is up to the distributors of Linux-based products to select and to promote the names for their products. And hopefully they will do that using the guidelines suggested here. However, in the meantime we will start using the guidelines suggested here as much as we can when referring to Linux-based products.
In Pursuit of Good Desktop Linux:
KDE, KMail, and Konqueror Articles
KMail -- One of the Best E-Mail Clients (Editor's Choice)
Impact of the Mandrake-Conectiva Acquisition on the Linux Landscape
Getting Started with Wireless Network Technology
Is Netscape Losing the Browser Wars?