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Washington Post: Zen and the Art of Operating Systems

“Neal Stephenson, an acclaimed author of cyberpunk science
fiction, has written a new generation’s “Zen and the Art of
Motorcycle Maintenance.” Like Robert Pirsig’s 1974 bestseller, “In
the Beginning . . . Was the Command Line” requires little
familiarity with its nominal subject, which it uses as a
springboard to larger cultural issues….”

“In his analysis, Windows 95 becomes a “colossal station wagon,”
Windows NT a “hulking off-road vehicle,” Apple’s operating system
“sleek Euro-styled sedans” and competitor BeOS “fully operational
Batmobiles.” Best of all, though, is Linux, an indestructible,
maneuverable and fuel-efficient armored vehicle that,
astonishingly, is available free.”

“So why aren’t we all using Linux? Although Steve Jobs famously
lured John Sculley from Pepsi to Apple by asking whether Sculley
wanted to spend the rest of his life “selling sugar water,”
Stephenson finds both Apple and Microsoft offering watered-down
systems to dumbed-down consumers. “It is the fate of operating
systems to become free,” he writes.
But today’s computer
users, like Fox Mulder of “The X-Files,” want to believe–in, if
nothing else, themselves.”


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