What the GNU?

This page summarizes the projects mentioned and recommended in the original post on news.ycombinator.com

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  • coreutils

    Cross-platform Rust rewrite of the GNU coreutils

    The whole "GNU/Linux" story always struck me as incredibly arrogant and ridiculous. A typical modern Linux system has more lines of web browser code than lines of GNU code. Should we start calling them "Chromium/Linux"?

    If you follow the FSF's actions closely, you will find they're incredibly insecure about people switching away from their software to alternatives. Typically the alternatives are not GPLed but rather under a permissive BSD-like license, and they latch onto this to deride any new competitors [1]. But those competitors don't typically exist because people hate the GPL; they exist because -surprise- GNU software isn't the be-all end-all, and it's a fairly common pattern for GNU maintainers to be reluctant to change at best, or actively hostile to third parties at worst (anyone remember glibc's Ulrich Drepper?).

    Then there's how Stallman vetoed GCC having a useful AST output mode (a requirement to build smart IDEs and other development tools - yes, including such features in emacs) because he was scared of third party proprietary extensions. That's one reason why clang took off - its extensibility and flexibility, which the FSF was always against GCC having. The FSF (and particularly Stallman) hates clang, again reaching for licensing and moral arguments, because they just can't accept that some people may have written technically superior software to theirs, and done so with a more permissive license. [2]

    [1] https://github.com/uutils/coreutils/issues/1781

    [2] https://gcc.gnu.org/legacy-ml/gcc/2014-01/msg00247.html

  • linux

    Linux kernel source tree

    Completely agree.

    Nothing's worse than the cult of POSIX. Some people gathered decades ago and figured out the lowest common denominator of all the unixes of the time. Now it's 2021 and we're still supposed to restrict ourselves to this "standard" system in the name of portability.

    The author says GNU is just some optional userland. I find that amusing since in every traditional unix the POSIX userland is deeply integrated with the system. He talks about glibc but the BSDs and even Windows ship with their own libc that I can't ever get rid of because they're the only supported way to interface with the kernel.

    Linux is the only operating system that actually frees us from this cult. Unlike other systems, the kernel/userspace interface is stable and defined at the lowest possible level: processor instruction set architecture.




    Only on Linux is GNU truly just some optional userland. You can throw it in the trash if you want. You can make your own. Who says you gotta have little commands like cp, mv, grep, sed, whatever? You can make a graphical userland if you want. A 100% Rust or Lisp userland.

    People complain about systemd but I actually have a lot of respect for it. The developers had the balls to trash all this sacred POSIX stuff and make something new that actually uses Linux kernel features. The resulting system is better for it.

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