Linux, GNU, and freedom
We have partial freedom today, but our freedom is not secure. It is threatened by the CBDTPA (formerly SSSCA), by the Broadcast \"Protection\" Discussion Group (see www.eff.org) which proposes to prohibit free software to access digital TV broadcasts, by software patents (Europe is now considering whether to have software patents), by Microsoft nondisclosure agreements for vital protocols, and by everyone who tempts us with a non-free program that is \"better\" (technically) than available free programs. We can lose our freedom again just as we lost it the first time, if we don\'t care enough to protect it.
Will enough of us care? That depends on many things; among them, how much influence the GNU Project has, and how much influence Linus Torvalds has. The GNU Project says, \"Value your freedom!\" Joe Barr says, \"Choose between non-free and free programs on technical grounds alone!\" If people credit Torvalds as the main developer of the GNU/Linux system, that\'s not just inaccurate, it also makes his message more influential--and that message says, \"Non-free software is ok; I use it and develop it myself.\" If they recognize our role, they will listen to us more, and the message we will give them is, \"This system exists because of people who care about freedom. Join us, value your freedom, and together we can preserve it.\" See
http://www.gnu.org/gnu/the-gnu-project.htmlfor the history.
When I ask people to call the system GNU/Linux, some of them respond with silly excuses and straw men. But we probably haven\'t lost anything, because they were probably unfriendly to begin with. Meanwhile, other people recognize the reasons I give, and use that name. By doing so, they help make other people aware of why the GNU/Linux system really exists, and that increases our ability to spread the idea that freedom is an important value.
This is why I keep butting my head against bias, calumny, and grief. They hurt my feelings, but when successful, this effort helps the GNU Project campaign for freedom.
Since this came up in the context of Linux (the kernel) and Bitkeeper, the non-free version control system that Linus Torvalds now uses, I\'d like to address that issue as well.