What's a GNU/Linux Distribution?

To support Charlie's recent decision to don a Tux outfit and bring the GNU gospel to the masses, I've written up a little piece called What's a GNU/Linux Distribution for Free Software Magazine. If you've heard about "Linux" and have been wondering how to explore this OS on your own machine, I humbly point you towards my strictly-beginners article. I first started experimenting with GNU/Linux about three years ago, and have muddled through dozens of "distros" before finding some that were truly as easy to install and use as Windows/Mac OS.

You might also like the other articles in Issue #17:

Issue 17 of Free Software Magazine is here and it's a big one! Steve Goodwin talks about the evil inside every programmer in "The seven sins of programmers". Solveig Haugland has two great new OpenOffice.org howtos for you. David Horton wants to help you make waves with Audacity and Matt Barton lets us in on "What's a GNU/Linux distribution?" anyway. Eddy Macnaghten goes into open-format depth in his "ODF/OOXML technical white paper" and Ken Leyba helps you "Backup your workstation with Backup Manager". And, as always, but even more this time than usual, there's much, much more...Enjoy!



The problem with the GNU/Linux argument is that the Linux distributions are much more than an operating system. They are a collection of a wide range of applications of which even Linux and the GNU apps are just a small part. Why not include the windows system and the desktop interface? Should it be KDE/X11/GNU/Linux? Or GNOME/XFree86/GNU/Linux? Or wait a minute? That's not accurate either under that argument. Should it be Firefox/OpenOffice/..../KDE/Gnome/GNU/Linux? Or what about the server versions? Apache/mysql/php/perl/..../GNU/Linux? (substitute your own list of several hundred applications from the distribution into the ellipsis in each example above).

Then part of that original argument for GNU/Linux was also based around the value that EMACS added to Linux as an editor I don't use EMACS (I'm a Vi person), and there are other alternatives included with Linux today.

Now, as I already explained, I understand that most of these other apps are not officially part of an operating system (neither is EMACS), but that's not really what this is about. This argument is about associating the Free Software Foundation with Linux, 'cause if we really wanted to be accurate when talking about Linux distributions, we'd have to include all those other applications, too.

Charlie | cyberdash