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Editor's Note: News at 11

Dec 03, 2004, 23:30 (4 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Brian Proffitt)

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By Brian Proffitt
Managing Editor

So, I'm at my family home on Thanksgiving, just sitting around watching football and letting my stomach digest. I have put my work woes and cares behind me, which is pretty easy at my Mom's, since she just has a 56k dialup and an iMac running OS 9.

(Yes, I know, bad son. But as a retired teacher, she's a Mac-head. As my Mom, she does what she pleases.)

Eventually, the local news came on, and I watched stories about the town I grew up in as I loaf on the couch and contemplate my next foraging run to the kitchen. (Not only was work out of my mind, but so was exercise, fitness, and all hope of productivity.)

Then, quite suddenly, I heard the anchor say something about a new browser for the Internet. Through the turkey-induced fog, synapses began firing in the geek portion of my brain. Glip! Browser... new... processing...

I missed the whole intro, but was alert when the clip ran and the correspondent said: "Like millions of computer users, Bob Davis found out the hard way that Microsoft's Internet Explorer has security flaws..."

This, I knew, was going to be good. I elbowed my wife and hissed "Hey! Hey! They're going to talk about Firefox!" My wife, who apparently assumed that she would not have to put up with geeky behavior this weekend, rolled her eyes, sighed, then said "that's nice, dear." (Note to self: must buy really nice anniversary gift this year.)

The report went on, quickly vindicating my suspicions: "...As a result, Davis decided to dump Internet Explorer and install Firefox--a free Web browser developed by a nonprofit group called the Mozilla Foundation..."

"Yes!" I shouted, thereby stirring the rest of my family to attention. "See? This is open source stuff!" I told them. "This is the kind of technology I write about!" This was a bit of a validating moment for me, because while I have very smart relatives, some of them are not computer-savvy and thus are not exactly clear what it is I do for a living.

"He puts articles on the Internet about penguins," one of my aunts was once heard to say.

So, as the story went on, it turned out to be a pretty solid review of Firefox, at least for TV journalism. They mentioned its open-source nature, its Netscape heritage, and how a new version of IE wasn't due out for a long time. They even mentioned other alternative browsers, like Opera, Deepnet Explorer, and Safari. (You can read the transcript at Dallas' KXAS. Not my hometown station, but it's the same piece.)

In all, I was postively giddy with associative pride by the time the report was done. Not to mention it was pretty cool to see local news running reports on open source technology.

For me, this is much more important for higher adoption of OSS and Linux than the New York Times or Wall Street Journal running similar stories. Yes, they have the big national coverage, but getting such stories at the local level reaches a much broader range of the population. Local news, print or TV, is where everyone comes to hear what the mayor's doing or how the local high school basketball team is faring.

Brief mentions like this are the best kind of publicity for Linux and open source. It put the technology in a "you-can-use-this-too" mindset. We geeks knew it all along, but when a non-geek source repeats the same message, I think it somehow makes a bigger impact.

So there I was, sitting straight up on the couch, ready to answer questions about this cool new browser and continue the enlightenment of my loved ones. On the TV, cut back to the local anchor.

"You can find out more about Firefox on its home site of Mozilla.org and on the technology Web site CNET.com."

"CNET!?! What???," I yelled.

My wife sighed again and went to get me a consoling piece of a pumpkin pie.


Schedule Note: It may seem strange to talk about this after reviewing the recent holiday, but I must announce that I will be taking some vacation time off next week.

I will be leaving the site in the very capable hands of Contributing Editor Rob Reilly and Jupitermedia Editor in Chief Gus Venditto. If the site has a different feel next week, now you know why. I should tell you that the Release and Security Digests features will not be running next week, but that is the only significant scheduling change.

I will be back, hopefully rested and refreshed, on December 13. Until then, Happy Haunukah, be safe, and peace.