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

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.”


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.

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