Probably the hardest part of my job is learning to walk away
from it. Given the 24/7 nature of Linux Today, and the fact that I
enjoy what I do, means that when I take a day off, I have to
convince myself that nothing huge will happen while I'm away. The
world will keep revolving, and information will eventually get out
with or without me.
This has been made easier with the fact that I have available
help, in the more than capable hands of Rob Reilly, so things will
keep on clicking on LT.
Still, when I took yesterday off to accompany my oldest on a
class trip to a popular Indiana amusement park (I know, sunshine
and roller coasters, what a hardship. But these are
middle-schoolers, so don't get too envious.), I had those vague
feelings of withdraw. I admonished myself time and again to stop
worrying about it, and got back on another coaster.
We got home very late last night, and I crashed without even
glancing at the Internet. All was well, until I rolled out of bed
early this morning with coffee in hand, logged onto my
source/search sites, and--Great Krypton!! Bill Gates is
My first thought after wiping up the coffee spill was "I will
never leave the office again." I opened LT and didn't see the
story. My next thought was to call my esteemed colleague and...
ask... him what in the [insert expletive here] was he thinking? One
of the biggest tech stories of the year, and we didn't have it?
Panic seeped in. I started looking around for the best story to
link to, and quickly came to an interesting revelation. Rob didn't
make a mistake, he did the right thing. This story, as big as it
was, wasn't about Linux or open source at all. And, try as many in
the mainstream media wanted to make this about Linux, they really
could not make a valid connection.
Now, I did link to one story, a direct Linux analysis from
Steven Vaughan-Nichols, which was the only story I could see that
looked at the event from a Linux view. But, even with that, I
realized that Gates' impending retirement has nothing to do with
Linux. Nothing at all.
Oh sure, it will be interesting to see what Ray Ozzie and Craig
Mundie do when they are elevated to handling Gates' absence.
Especially Mundie, the Linux community's Foe of Old. Boy, I tell
you, when Mundie wasn't muzzled by Microsoft, his comments were a
joy to behold--communicating in powerful measures just how out of
touch Microsoft was with their customers.
But other than a few sound bites? The changing of the Redmond
guard means nothing to Linux.
I shared this story of my day not to give you special insights
into my editorial decision-making process (though infer what you
will), but because I have a feeling that my reaction this morning
was shared by many other people in the free and open source
community when they first heard the news. First, there was the
initial "Oh, s**t!", followed by the the haunting refrains of harps
from Darth Vader's death in "Return of the Jedi." Many of us see a
chance here for Linux to make some big gains while Microsoft
potentially flounders around without the leadership of Gates.
But, upon reflection, I have two thoughts on this. First, Gates
isn't going anywhere. He's still chairman, and while he will no
doubt be working hard for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, I
cannot imagine he won't have input on Microsoft's overall
Second, the realization I had when I thought LT needed to cover
this event: why should Linux--as a technology, as a community--give
a darn about anything Microsoft does?
I, like many others I am sure did these last couple of days, was
defining Linux based on the actions of one big corporation. And
that, I finally remembered, is not what Linux is about. Linux is
about diversity and flexibility. It is decentralized and dynamic.
And, most critically, it does not need to constantly react to
whatever one company is thinking or doing.
It is a very tempting trap, this notion of matching up Linux and
Windows. After all, as Linux pushes into the desktop, it is very
easy to make comparisons with the most prolific desktop operating
system to date. The reverse is also true: as Windows pushes into
the high-end clustering market, it is tempting to make the
comparisons to the most popular clustering operating system to
And when some corporate yuckster comes out with such choice
phrases as "Linux is a cancer," sure, it's natural to take note and
then later watch the yuckster's company wonder why they are having
a hard time reaching out to the Linux community. Go figure.
Comparisons are inevitable. But when you really get down to it,
the simple truth remains: Linux will do just fine with or without
Microsoft. (Lately, the trend is moving towards without.) People
are finally beginning to define Linux by its own terms: solid
technology that doesn't break and runs everything from
mission-critical apps for NASA to your digital watch.
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