Penguins are getting lost off the coast of Argentina. They have
been washing up on the shores of Brazil in record numbers, and a
stunned population doesn't exactly know what to do with them all,
It's funny that the Linux community is treated in much the same
way when the 'L-word' is brought up in a board room, or in any IT
planning session, or, well, at Thanksgiving Dinner. No, really - a
relative asked me about it last Thursday at dinner. I found that
it's pretty hard to discuss the GPL in layman's terms, and why you
can copy Linux without actually "pirating" it, all through a
mouthful of stuffing...
Preconceptions abound (as they certainly do in the story linked
above), and Linux often gets shunted (immediately, too!) into one
or two duties, its diversity and flexibility often ignored in favor
of the stereotype.
Example: How many people out there have heard "Linux" and
"Apache" spoken within mere moments of each other? Raise your
Umm, on second thought, keep your hands down - that's a lot of
armpits getting a sudden rush of air, and I'd rather not be
responsible for the results, thank you.
On the other hand, I mention chaining MySQL to PHP as a viable
solution (for students hitting our web site looking for grades and
assignments, say...) and the IT director goes apoplectic, spitting
out fear-based security scenarios that would give J. Edgar Hoover's
corpse a cold sweat. (The director is a "Border Manager forever!"
kind of guy though, so I almost expect that from him. It was even
funnier when I mentioned Linux and a few very decent tools from
Freshmeat as a possible replacement for an old A/S-400 based school
financials program that we used to have.) I'm fairly sure that I'm
not the only one who has seen an IT director's forehead veins go
into hydraulic mode. Fortunately, the revolution of thought
continues, with a few very well-placed operatives within his own
depar - umm, perhaps I ought to stop there.
But, let's get back to the story.
Like these lost little penguins, Linux finds itself popping up
in the strangest places, and at the strangest times (I mean, if I
were one of these birds, I'd have had at least enough sense to show
up sometime around Carnivale...) Who would have ever thought two
years ago that Linux had any sort of future in, say, embedded
systems, let alone the bazillion other potential uses people keep
thinking up for it? (Me, I'm actually scared stiff that a relative
or friend is going to drag their brand new microwave oven up to my
house and demand that I fix it, simply because they heard that the
manufacturer used Linux in it. At the rate the embedded industry is
going, I've already looked into the cost of having a concertina
wire fence installed around my house and getting a few rabid pit
bulls to roam around inside of that fence.)
But I'm running off on a multitude of tangents, here - let's get
back to the meat of this whole spiel. As I read the story, I
thought a bit about how the little symbol of our little OS tends to
find and do things that everyone previously thought to be
impossible; much like the OS itself, no? I also believe that like
the birds in question, we're always going to come across people
who, conditioned by the Windows3.1/95/98/2k/NT/CE/ME/XYZ school of
thought, will always assume mostly mundane and outright limited
things about the OS and those of us who enjoy and use it. I for one
do not want to be stuck in someone's refrigerator. (Cerveza or no
cerveza, I ain't going in there!)
The moral of both the abcnews.com story and my opinionating are
pretty much the same here: So long as misinformation and
stereotyping abound, it will take those of us who know better to
kindly (and gently) inform and educate others about the care and
feeding of our little friend, be it feathered or wired.
Of course, I could be wrong, and the real moral is something
else - something like: "Maybe we ought to have a world-wide Linux
Conference in Rio during Carnivale... whoo-hoo!") But then again,
signs from above are always open to interpretation, aren't
Regards to all,
TJ Miller, Jr.
For the curious: I am a vocational teacher in the Utah public
vocational school system. I merely educate, advise, and in general
make a total nuisance out of myself every time I'm dragged into
anyone else's meetings. I teach the Microsoft MCSE track, the Sair
Linux LCA track, Systems administration classes of almost all
description, and Linux/Unix concepts in general. Previously, I
actually was a sysadmin and field service technician for FDCS,
which was formerly a division of Ford Motor Company.
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