I've missed a few, but here's my column this week. Feels like I've been a linux kick lately. So on my box, I have a command line only. Not fun, but I'm sure learning a lot this way!
The Technology Myth: A Hero
The technology myth has a hero. His name is Linux.. His cosmic origins birth from GNU, but first a brief history.
"Let me make an analogy. An analogy between software and recipes." They both have two forms. The first is a set of instructions that are followed to make their second and ultimate form, the end product. The end is what's important, but it would never exist without the instructions. When you find a good recipe, you'll likely share it with a friend or family. You might even want to tinker with the recipe to suite your needs. (Like making it vegetarian!) With software, sadly, you often cannot see the instruction recipe, called the source code. Someone thought that wasn't right - GNU.
At opposition to GNU is the evil commerical model of software. The "do whatever you half to make money." A recond example is of Norton Antivirus complaining that the new Windows is too safe and now they can't sell their anti-virus software. Imagine after sharing a recipe for your favorite veggie with your family and then getting arrested for piracy. The commerical model thrives on consumers having forced ignornace. I have a $200 copy of Windows that's now useless because Microsoft won't let me install it how I need to. Microsoft is not only your scapegoat to blame all your computer problems on, they're also just plain greedy.
GNU (manifested in the avatar of - well, GNU the gnu, an ox-like animal) is open source software for an everything on a computer system. Open source software always has its source code available. Anyone can modify it (if they're so technically inclined) or share it with anyone freely. Open source usually synomous with the Free Software movement. Free as in freedom. The software happens to priced for free, but that's not really the point. Free Software is all about community, collaboration, and sharing. It's about being in control over what's in your box.
Just as with the myths of old, GNU, the creator god of free(dom) software is a distant and unapproachable sky god. As seen by his ox-like appearance, he is emotionless and dangerous. And just as in the myths of old, a younger and amiable god is sent by the sky god and embodies the same spirit. His name is Linux and he is manifested in the avatar Tux, a penguin. GNU and Tux. Think the Force and Anakin Skywalker. Illuvatar and Gandalf. God the Father and Jesus.
Linux is much more than a nerd's hobby, it is a symbol for freedom and community. It shows that money is not the greatest force. It proves that people can volunteer to create something great. Linux is specially built to run well on low-end computers, common in undeveloped countries. So Linux demonstrates affluence American and European promiment programmers spreading wealth across the poverty line. A plan to donate millions of laptops to third world children runs on Linux. Of course. My spirit was encouraged one spring break in Chicago coming across some sidewalk vandalism proclaiming, "Peace, Love, Linux."
Unfortunately, this story isn't over. Windows still holds the world in captivity. Linux is probably the most advanced operating system in the world, but not yet universally accessible. It's a cute and skilled penguin, but comes with an owners manual the size of the Bible. Until it becomes a better people person, Windows remains the devil in a red dress to lure the unsuspecting - Who mourns in lonely exile here, until the son of GNU appears.