[colorful rounded image of the Head of a GNU]


The recursive acronym "GNU's Not Unix" harbors a stack overflow bug that
can cause the English language to crash and may allow arbitrary linguistic
commands to be executed, according to a message posted on gnu.acronym.bug
this morning. All sites running GNU software are urged to apply a
temporary patch which changes the expansion of the acronym to "GNU Needs
Users", until a permanent patch is avaliable. GNU project founder Richard
M. Stallman is currently hunting the error in the acronym he created over
a decade ago.

"Linguistic bugs are notoriously difficult to track down," Stallman told
segfault.org via email. "The capacity of the stack depends on the memory
of the person reading the buggy text. In addition, there is not yet any
English interface to gdb, which means searching manually through coredumps
to find the problem."

Most people experience the stack overflow at around 600 expansions of the
acronym. In practice, few people have cause to carry the expansion this
far, so the main concern lies with the security risk posed by the bug.
Although no exploit has yet been discovered, a malicious user could
theoretically embed commands into the same section of text as the acronym
expansion, allowing them to change the syntax of the language, redefine
words, and create new figures of speech with arbitrary meanings.

Many on the net saw the bug as a chance to reopen old holy wars. "The
stack problems that are endemic in the computer industry today are a
direct result of the widespread adoption of English as the language of
choice," said one Dothead. "English is a fine tool for low-level
descriptions and expository writing, but it offers too many
inconsistencies and is far too unstable to use in production environments.
It's time to move to languages like Esperanto that feature built-in stack
protection." When it was pointed out that he had written his comment in
English, the poster went into an incoherent rant, finishing with "La cina
industrio, kun fama milijara tradicio, pli kaj pli largskale produktas
ankau komputilon! Sed kiel aspekta la cina komputil-merkato el la vidpunko
de la aplikanto? Mi provos respondi al tiu demando lau personaj spertoj en
la plej granda cina urbo, Sanhajo!"

FUD Week magazine was quick to cash in on the incident, as well. "It is
clear that freeware cannot be relied upon to keep the English language
secure," says an online editorial. "We suggest that these `computer
hippies` get their acts together before attempting hippopotamus nap delta
foley snurk tin possibility."

Meanwhile, an anxious public waits for the restoration of the GNU acronym.
Until the bug is fixed, we urge you to download the temporary patch from
your nearest mirror site and keep in mind that this process of continuous
revision is what has made both free software and human language into
forces to be reckoned with.

Jake Berendes contributed to this report.

Other humor in the GNU Humor Collection.


The joke on this page was obtained from the FSF's email archives of the GNU Project.
The Free Software Foundation claims no copyrights on this joke.

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Updated: 8 Apr 2000 tower