Our beloved and fantasized assembly has been quiet. However, as you
probably know, GNU is turning 40 at the end of the month. To many of
us, before it became a source of frustration, GNU has been a passion, a
hobby and/or job for many years. Should this anniversary be the
opportunity to celebrate with a modest gnu.tools blog post what we like
and would like to see next?
Uh, I don’t know.
I’m feeling a little exhausted when it comes to GNU. When I first
and browsed the list of abandoned software packages I
wondered “huh, whatever happened to this great idea of an operating
system that is founded in respect for the user’s freedom?”.
It wasn’t until I stumbled upon Guix that I first felt that the spirit
is still alive. My contributions to GNU (aside from Guix) were made
under the assumption that the original goals were still relevant and
ready to be updated for a changed computing culture that has greatly
improved defaults (a lot of great software out there is made free by
cultural default) on one axis and has seen severe regression in other
The lack of enthusiasm outside of a tiny subset of GNU was sobering, the
lethargy infectious, the continuation of groanworthy puns sticky, the
public communication ineffective or straight up harmful.
I think that a retrospective of 40 years of GNU can only be successful
if we manage to distill that spirit and envision what actions it
suggests for the next 5 years or so. Where do we as the active parts of
GNU want to see GNU being relevant? How are we going to make that
A small first step could be to change the landing page on
. It currently lists values that might explain to
insiders why the schism occurred. I think it would be better to have it
state in simple words what the GNU System is, what it is supposed to be,
and what it might become. Followed by examples of practical user
freedom and empowerment in participating member projects.
Perhaps if we can overcome the perception of “GNU is a collection of
command line tools that will cease to be relevant once we’ve rewritten
them in Rust” we can begin to communicate the GNU idea effectively to
today’s developers and users.
PS: When I think of 40 years of GNU I cannot help but see parallels to
the story of the Israelites wandering the desert for 40 years.