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Editor's Note: Have a PC New Year. Not.

Dec 23, 2004, 23:30 (23 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Brian Proffitt)

By Brian Proffitt
Managing Editor

While many of my professional colleagues use this time of year to look back at the year just passed, or look ahead at the year to come, I prefer to break with tradition and focus on whatever grabs my attention. Perhaps, as my second grade teacher long suspected, I have attention deficit disorder after all.

Of course, in those long ago days, they didn't call it ADD, they called it "hyperactive." ADD is one of those politically correct terms that cropped up into common use when hyperactive became too judgemental. While I have nothing but contempt for racism and bigotry, I also have very little enthusiasm for the opposite end of the spectrum, political correctness.

When I was explaining the concepts of open source to my wife a couple of years ago, I got PC-slapped by her admonishment that "cathedral" implied religion, which could be off-putting to those who don't "believe in the Christian God."

Right.

So I tried another metaphor.

"Say you want some meat. You could go out and hunt some deer, butcher it, and poof! You have meat, for just the cost of a gun, some bullets, and a hunting license. Or, you could just go to the store and buy some pre-packaged meat from the butcher and be done with it. That's what open source is like. I am paying the store and the rest of the suppliers for the convenience on getting meat to me without all the hassle," I said.

Pretty good, I thought.

Not so, my wife said. Clearly such a description of a disgusting barbaric practice would offend anyone who avoided meat. Vegetarians and PETA would be after me like a shot.

"All right," I sighed, "say you wanted some milk..."

"Now you're getting the vegans mad," she smirked.

Clearly by now she was just egging me on. This is something a lot of my friends and family like to do because I tend to use animated hand-gestures and turn several shades of red while getting my point across. This time was no exception.

I explained to my spouse that such examples were perfectly legitimate because they were just analogies--I am not advocating that anyone eat meat, worship a Deity, or get milk. I just wanted to explain open source. Did I do that?

"Maybe," she replied, "try again."

"Okay, try this one: say you want some corn--"

"Organic or genetically enhanced?" she grinned.

My reply was not suitable for the general Linux Today audience. We're still married, though, so it must not have been that bad.

Communicating what free and open source software is to some people is no laughing matter. There are real obstacles, such as preconceptions, that must be overcome when getting the message across. Be patient with those who do not yet get it. They just may not know any better. And if you have to use the metaphor of organically-grown soy-based glass of milk, then that's what you have to do.

I, however, will continue to eat my steak and drink my beer.


The holidays are upon us, and Linux Today, like other online publications, will be shifting into hibernation mode for the remainder of the year. Major stories, kernel announcements, and security advisories will be published, but for the most part LT's newsfeed will be quiet until Jan. 4, 2005.

Whatever holiday you have or will celebrate, I wish you and yours happiness and peace.