Talk:Linux

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Former good article Linux was one of the Engineering and technology good articles, but it has been removed from the list. There are suggestions below for improving the article to meet the good article criteria. Once these issues have been addressed, the article can be renominated. Editors may also seek a reassessment of the decision if they believe there was a mistake.

Linux: A family of operating systems all running on the same kernel, or a single OS?[edit]

The lead currently reads:

Linux is a Unix-like and mostly POSIX-compliant computer operating system assembled under the model of free and open source software development and distribution. The defining component of Linux is the Linux kernel, an operating system kernel first released on 5 October 1991 by Linus Torvalds. The Free Software Foundation uses the name GNU/Linux, which has led to some controversy.

This speaks of Linux as a single operating system. However, there are various Linux distributions in the world that may differ radically from each other. Standard "traditional" distributions like Debian (or even Tizen on mobile devices), which core components consist mainly of GNU and freedesktop.org components), less orthodox mobile-oriented distributions like Android (consists mainly of in-house developed and several BSD-derived components) and FirefoxOS (consists mainly of a HAL, a browser rendering engine[which is basically the userland runtime for web browsing as well as installed apps], an XUL engine[for apps with XUL based user interfaces] and a touch-oriented shell) , and embedded distributions which may contain barely anything beyond the kernel and BusyBox, all differ so fundamentally that it may not be called "one" operating system. Therefore I propose editing the lead to read:

Linux is a family of Unix-like and mostly POSIX-compliant computer operating systems assembled under the model of free and open source software development and distribution. The defining component of Linux is the Linux kernel, an operating system kernel first released on 5 October 1991 by Linus Torvalds. The Free Software Foundation uses the name GNU/Linux, which has led to some controversy, to refer to Linux operating systems that incorporate GNU userland as a major component.

I would like to receive views and feedback from the Wikipedia community, be it in favor of, against, or extending upon/enhancing this change, and hope that through discussion a conclusion as close to the fact as possible may be obtained. Busukxuan (talk) 09:07, 23 August 2014 (UTC)

Hm, this proposal looks good to me, but of course let's wait for other editors' opinions. — Dsimic (talk | contribs) 22:17, 25 August 2014 (UTC)
The trouble is that it is wrong: Linux is not a family of OSs. We have discussed long and hard and have concluded here that this article is named 'Linux' because that is, in everyday speech, the WP:COMMONNAME of the thing the article is about. In everyday speech, I can say that "my computer is running Linux." When I say this, I am using the word 'Linux' correctly, and I am not referring to a family of OSs, but to the actual, single OS on my computer. This may be irritating to people who would like the world to be different, to those who would like people to use more precise language when they speak, and to those who would like people to mention 'GNU' more often. Unfortunately, we don't write articles about what people ought to say, do, and know, but about what people actually say, do, and know, based on what we find in reliable, published sources (WP:RS). It might be true to say that "There is a family of operating systems that are based on the Linux kernel," but that is not what is being proposed here, and if it was it would not be clear how well that introduces the WP:COMMONNAME that this article is about. --Nigelj (talk) 23:02, 25 August 2014 (UTC)
There is no such thing as the Linux operating system (just as there is no such thing as the GNU/Linux operating system). Are there any real arguments to the contrary? Careless and imprecision on the part of people talking about it isn't a reason for Wikipedia to use incorrect terminology. I suspect that some of the people claiming there is a single "Linux" OS want to build their reputation and/or business around a single, strong brand. Count Truthstein (talk) 15:45, 1 September 2014 (UTC)


Ok, I agree that this article is indeed about the everyday "Linux" we talk about. Note that there are also many people who refer to any OS running the Linux kernel as Linux in general, but I agree that most people who don't know much about Linux simply mean the "traditional" Linux when they say it. However, that doesn't solve the problem. "Traditional" Linux is itself a diverse group of operating systems. I know they're all similar, but
  • They are similar, not identical.
They probably have the same kernel, all contain GNU coreutils, and an X server, but the user facing side is part of an OS, and if not officially recognized as a "spin" or "flavor", different systems with different DEs and extra in-house components should be considered separate OSes. Besides, even desktop Linux distros are not always binary compatible(not talking about package formats), and sometimes the incompatibility stems beyond just library versions. There are also the init systems: sysvinit, systemd, OpenRC(Gentoo), Upstart(being dumped by Ubuntu in favor of systemd) . Besides, Maui even tries to create a distro that replaces X with Wayland. Also, look at Ubuntu, it's quite a radical distro, and it's planning to use Mir instead of Wayland.
  • Other Unix-like OSes can be very similar too
Other open source Unix-like and Unix OSes like the BSDs, Darwin(open source base of OS X) and OpenIndiana ("continuation" of OpenSolaris) can all run the X server and X desktop environments, and the "coreutils" are of course very similar, though they might not be GNU coreutils but ones they have developed themselves. Note that Debian GNU/Hurd runs on essentially same userland components as Debian GNU/Linux, and that's GNU, not Linux.


Besides, what is the common meaning of "Linux" anyway,
  • Contains GNU and freedesktop.org and several other components, runs on the Linux kernel, or
  • Desktop oriented, runs on the Linux kernel, or
  • Something else Busukxuan (talk) 12:04, 7 September 2014 (UTC)
The part that mentions that the FSF uses the term GNU/Linux to refer to the combination of Linux and GNU is very important (so as to avoid the impression that the GNU project and FSF wants to claim credit for the kernel, which they don't), but it should also be added (possibly next to that sentence) that this the most common form in which Linux (which is a kernel and not an OS or anything else, despite that most involved wikipedians seem happy to bend the policy on reliable sources to the point of not only accepting and divulging a widespread misconception, but also downplaying the role of the GNU project which not only is a bigger and more important part of what they call “Linux” than the actual Linux, but is responsible for creating the free software movement which makes Wikipedia possible in the first place) is used for desktop, laptop and server computers. In short: The FSF claims proper credit for the very closely related GNU project by calling the OS GNU/Linux when GNU is actually used, but combining GNU with Linux is the rule rather than the exception. QrTTf7fH (talk) 17:50, 9 September 2014 (UTC).
The idea that Linux is only used to refer to the kernel is inaccurate. That new accounts continue to come here and try to claim otherwise is odd, because even on the surface that statement is false. It is not a "misconception", nor is it "bending the policy on reliable sources." That would only be true if you view it through the lens of a minority POV, but the problem with that is that reliable sources contradict and reject this minority opinion. Wikipedia does not base content off of minority POV agendas based on opinions and cherry-picked logic, and reliable sources contradict what you're saying wholesale. - Aoidh (talk) 23:23, 9 September 2014 (UTC)
Erm, I think his point is just that we should emphasize that the most common form of Linux is that which comes with GNU userland as a core component. Anyway we better get this clear first because depending on definition Linux may or may not always incorporate GNU coreutils as core. In the question I asked above (in the bullet/unordered list), if the answer is the first one then so called "GNU/Linux" is not only the most common but the only form of Linux(the OS, not the kernel).
Busukxuan (talk) 14:28, 13 September 2014 (UTC)
It's not true that it's uncommon to refer to the kernel that Linus Torvalds created as Linux, either. Linus Torvalds is widely referred to as the creator of Linux, and the Tux logo as Linux's logo. Neither would be true if you were talking about some larger operating system containing Linux as a component. Count Truthstein (talk) 08:46, 19 September 2014 (UTC)

It looks like this discussion has stagnated for 21 days. It seems, at least from the responds above, there are more people in favor of this change than there are people against it, but a more fundamental problem has surfaced: what is Linux? In my opinion this should be made clear before the edit, and this question will be given its own section. Busukxuan (talk) 18:28, 1 October 2014 (UTC)

Pronunciation[edit]

This is the edit summary for the radical change that I made to the lead of the Linux article. Wikipedia's unfounded claims about the pronunciation of Linux were largely based on original research and unreliable sources. I'm not a native speaker of English, so taking on this task was a massive undertaking, but I hope you will agree that my conclusions are valid and that the edit was justified. Allow me to make two preliminary remarks. On this Talk page I use ʌɪ while I used its close relative aɪ in the article, because it's the closest thing that Template:IPAc-en supports. Also, I'm using the original reference numbers below, to allow you to check the old revision of the article for comparison. Before my edit, the article used three references for "LEE-nuuks" ([7], [8], [9]) and two references for "LIN-əks" ([5] and [6]). I'm describing them them one by one, and whether and how I reused them.
- [7] Its link attempts to use the NNTP protocol, which is quite user-hostile. Let's use this entry at Google Groups instead. It is a written message by Linus Torvalds. He states "'li' is pronounced with a short [ee] sound: compare prInt, mInImal etc." Remember, he's not a linguist. You can tell by his examples that by "short [ee] sound" he did /not/ mean ɛ (usually called the "short ee sound"; bEd, fEll), nor (mEAn, sEA), but ɪ (fIll, bIn). Listen to the audio files at OUP's OxfordDictionaries.com, for print and minimal. This is clearly an example of how to pronounce Linux with "LIN", even though the reference is used for "LEE". I'm guessing the person who retrieved this in 2007 saw "[ee]" and incorrectly concluded this was an example for "LEE". Torvalds then continues "'nux' is also short, non-diphtong, like in pUt", which would be ʊ (gOOd and fUll), but (almost) nobody, including Torvalds, uses that. Most likely he meant the reduced vowel ə (quiEt, focUs). I moved this references from "LEE" to "LIN", and added a web link (the Google Groups URL).
- [8] This is no reliable source, because: a. this is a random person's website (Paul Sladen), and b. the page doesn't go into the pronunciation /at all/; it only links to an audio file of Torvalds pronouncing Linux in English, which makes the inclusion of this reference - that was retrieved in 2006 - for "LEE" WP:OR. Not only that, in my opinion Torvalds says "Hello, this is LEEnus Torvalds and I pronounce LINux as LINux." (or "LINux as LEEnux", but that's wouldn't make sense), which is consistent with the "prInt" sound (see [7] above). I removed this reference from the article.
- [9] This too was WP:OR by the person who retrieved this in 2007, because this location at kernel.org only contains audio files of Torvalds pronouncing Linux in English (english.au) and Swedish (swedish.au; maybe it's Finnish and the file name is wrong, who knows). So, in swedish.au, I think he uses "LEE", but as The Rock would say: "It doesn't matter what you think!" I removed this reference from the article.
To summarize my actions so far, of the three references for "LEE", I removed two and moved one to "LIN".
- [5] There's not much on this page, but it does include Amazon.com ads on the right and in the middle, and also two links to a phonetics handbook on Amazon. Nowhere on this website it clearly states who is the owner/author/webmaster, but after some searching it turns out to be a random person's website (Stephen Morley). This random person writes he uses "LYN" himself. It claims that Torvalds nowadays prefers "LIN" without giving any source(s). And it claims "LEE" is Torvalds' original pronunciation, but the source is the audio file on the website of Sladen (see [8] above), which as we saw is unreliable. Morley writes that he himself uses "LYN" and, as we'll see below, he's not alone. I'm moving this reference from "LIN" to - a new - "LYN".
- [6] This is a page of the FOLDOC, hosted by Imperial College London. It has some statements about the pronunciation and also has a "More on pronunciation." link. It claims that Torvalds insists on "the short I pronunciation [...] consistent with the short I in words like linen". The word linen has an I similar to prInt, which means this could indeed be used as a source for "LIN". The page then claims that some people pronounce it with "a long I" and as an example mentions minus, which according to the minus at OxfordDictionaries.com is with an ʌɪ (Wikipedia gives prIce and wrIte as examples in footnote 11) and sounds like "LYN", the same thing Morley uses (see [5] above). This means that this could also be used as a reference for "LYN". (The page does not mention "LEE" at all.) One last note on the "More on pronunciation." link: a random person (Malcolm Dean) writes that "no one is saying Lee-nucks" and that he himself uses "Line-ucks" (confirming the usability of this reference for "LYN"; ʌɪ). I used this as a reference for both "LIN" and - the new - "LYN".
What about [LI/LY]nəks versus [LI/LY]nʊks? Wikipedia uses "nʊks" with "LEE" and respells it as "nuuks". Not only is "nuuks" not ʊ (Torvalds' "pUt"), but it should be "nuks", as used at FOLDOC. Respell is used to clarify the pronunciation, so I also changed LIN's "nəks" to "nuks".
--82.136.210.153 (talk) 14:10, 26 August 2014 (UTC)

I don't know about anybody else, but to me "LIN-uks " and "LYN-uks" are pronounced the same way. It is so bizarre how the one pronunciation guide that we all grew up with (Webster's) is no longer used. Who, outside of professional linguists, uses the IPA? Who decided to do away with the Webster system?
Also, when someone (CNN?) covered what I think was the first Linux developer's conference, the reporter asked Torvald which of the two popular pronunciations he preferred, and he surprisingly went a third way and said that he pronounces the first syllable as "lean", which was the first time I had heard anybody call it. that way. It seems really bizarre that there is no "official" way to pronounce it. (Or would having an official pronunciation be contrary to the open source movement?)__209.179.93.170 (talk) 00:33, 12 October 2014 (UTC)

What is Linux? (and thus what are the OSes and distros this article should cover, among so many of varying difference and unorthodoxy?)[edit]

Note: As discussed before, this article talks about what we identify as "traditional Linux", "desktop Linux", "GNU/Linux" and the like, not any OS that runs on the Linux kernel like Android.

Linux has always been distinct and easily distinguishable from other Unix-like operating systems, not by what API and services the system offers, but by the origins of the software components it comes with - many from GNU and freedesktop.org. This distinction however is blurred by the fact that the available Linux distributions are growing ever more diverse, and that Linux is not necessarily used as the kernel for GNU and freedesktop.org based OSes. One example is Debian GNU/Hurd, it runs on the same components as Debian GNU/Linux (using the official name) but a different kernel. Here the defining component for Linux would be the kernel. In another example, Ubuntu is developing Mir in place of X as their new display server. In this case, Ubuntu is still Linux, but it has neither X nor Wayland, so the display server cannot be a part of Linux's definition. Ubuntu touch, as Ubuntu with a different UI, is Linux, but is not desktop or server oriented, so the desktop/server cannot be part of the definition either. Yet, with only the kernel as a defining component, Linux would inevitably mean any OS running on the Linux kernel, while "Linux" here only means the more "traditional" Linux-based operating systems. For example, Android is in a wholly different category than Arch or Slackware so Android is not Linux.

In an attempt to give Linux a better definition, I have come up with this table:

OS Userland Base Kernel Linux?
Ubuntu Touch GNU + freedesktop.org Linux Yes
Tizen GNU + freedesktop.org Linux Yes
Debian GNU/Linux GNU + freedesktop.org Linux Yes
Debian GNU/Hurd GNU + freedesktop.org GNU Hurd No
Android bionic + Dalvik + BSD Linux No
Firefox OS Web standards Linux No
Google Chrome OS Web standards (but it does include standard Linux components) Linux Yes, though meaningless/insignificant

So it turns out what I could come up with was that Linux is defined by its use of GNU and freedesktop.org components(plus several other tools not found in other OSes of course) alongside the Linux kernel. However, the definition may also be extended to include either X or Wayland, with Ubuntu being an exception since it has always been an oddity among distros.

Why a definition matters:
Of course, Wikipedia articles don't get written around definitions. Furthermore, there is not any formal definition for Linux, so we should not assume what it is. I know it is loosely defined, but in order to rule in/out some operating systems that may or may not be Linux, and to give readers a better idea of what Linux is like(in the lead. It's not going to define linux, just state what Linux'es have in common, since this is not a formal definition) , I think it'd be good to yield a consensus-based "definition" for internal use. This "definition" should not be used outside the scope of this article, and it should be changed if the Linux community grows towards a direction that would render it obsolete.

What do you think? How should it be "defined"? — Preceding unsigned comment added by Busukxuan (talkcontribs) 19:51, 1 October 2014 (UTC)

Quite frankly, I think this is a waste of time. — Dsimic (talk | contribs) 05:17, 3 October 2014 (UTC)
Yeah, I guess you're right. Busukxuan (talk) 12:48, 4 October 2014 (UTC)

"Mainly open source, closed source also available"[edit]

According to this article, Linux is open source, with "closed source also available". Is this statement accurate? Jarble (talk) 21:11, 5 November 2014 (UTC)

No. A vendor might add proprietary (sometimes patented) closed source features, including applications, device drivers, user interfaces, etc., built on public interfaces, but under the GPL, which covers pretty much everything in Linux, they must be prepared to provide source for any open source components they used, including any modifications they made to the open source. Msnicki (talk) 21:24, 5 November 2014 (UTC)

Deletion of NSA Request section[edit]

The section talking about how the NSA asked Linus to insert a backdoor into the OS doesn't meaningfully contribute to the article. Yeah, it happened and all, but I feel that it goes off topic. There are plenty of anecdotes like the 200-line scheduler patch that aren't mentioned. In other pages about Operating Systems (e.g. Microsoft Windows and Mac OS), there are mentions of neither the NSA nor backdoors, even if the code is likely to have been tampered with by the government.

I'm removing this section per WP:Bold. If someone wants to revert this: go ahead, and then state your reasoning here. This section needs to find a home on a different page or be converted just a hyper-linked mention. Linuxtinkerer (talk) 04:02, 9 November 2014 (UTC)

Hello! I agree that it does stick out in an unnatural way, especially as a separate section and not as a subsection or simply as a sentence/paragraph somewhere in the article. Speaking of that, I don't see where would it fit as a sentence of paragraph. At the same time, the same information is already available in Linus Torvalds § Possible NSA approach, where it fits much better. Thus, I've added it back in form of a "See also" link. — Dsimic (talk | contribs) 06:17, 9 November 2014 (UTC)
Thanks for the edit and follow-up! It never occurred to me to add that section to Torvalds' page. Cheers Linuxtinkerer (talk) 23:12, 9 November 2014 (UTC)
You're welcome. At the same time, removing it from Linux article never crossed my mind – that's exactly why teamwork always yields better results. :) — Dsimic (talk | contribs) 23:20, 9 November 2014 (UTC)