The Next Generation

By Brian Proffitt
Managing Editor

My wife’s cousin and his family were in town a couple of weeks
ago, in town for a soccer (sorry, football) tournament for their
sons. They didn’t have a lot of time to visit, so we ended up
meeting them for breakfast at a local eatery before their first

It had been a while since I had seen these folks, which was too
bad, because on the in-law scale, these particular relatives are
okay. In fact, the last time I had seen them, I was still writing
Linux books full time. So it was of interest to my cousin-in-law
Andy, a software developer who’d just sold his business and was
looking to start something else up, that I was more in the thick of
things as a full-time journalist covering Linux and open

Andy, it seems, is looking to start something in data analytics,
and has some serious interest in Linux systems for inexpensive
clustering purposes. Which makes sense, since if you need raw
power, stringing a bunch of commodity servers together with some
decent cluster management tools is a good way to start for a new

We geek-talked for a while over eggs and coffee, with me
explaining how Red Hat is not the only profitable L/OSS vendor out
there, and running through how the open source model wasn’t
antithetical to business. There seems to be a pervasive attitude
out there that Red Hat is some kind of fluke amongst Linux vendors,
and open source is simply not a profitable model. I gave him the
point that the margins with an open source company were a lot
tighter than a proprietary company (since a proprietary can start
making revenue just by selling a box), but listed several companies
I was aware of that were making a decent living.

But what really floored me was Andy’s youngest son, 10-year-old
Greg, who chimed in the middle of the conversation and asked me
(and I quote): “how hard is it to run Windows programs, like
executables, on Linux?”

What the–?!

Greg, whom I had last seen when he was coming out of diapers, is
apparently embarking on a summer project with his dad to set up a
Linux system to play with. When he realized I knew something about
Linux, Greg then proceeded to pepper me with questions about
dual-booting and running Windows programs on Linux (he has a
recording-studio app that he doesn’t want to part with).

I gave him some options, like VMware Player and WINE (the
former, I think, being his best option), and then at his dad’s
request, listed three good starter desktops: Fedora, openSUSE, and
Ubuntu. (Because those are the ones I am most familiar with, and if
any tech support questions come my way later, I want to have a good
chance of answering them.)

I tell you, this kid nearly brought tears to my eyes. I was
about to weep for the future, but they were tears of joy. I
understand that, unfortunately, Greg’s interest in computers is not
universal. But most kids are just as intelligent as he is, even if
their interests lie in other directions.

All of this is a roundabout way of taking the argument that only
Microsoft products are effective learning tools in the schools and
shoving that argument back in someone’s face. Such a statement is

Kids want to poke and prod things, and using this time-honored
method they can learn anything you put in front of them, provided
they are motivated. They may, in the course of prodding and poking,
break something–even a Linux machine. But they can learn from
that, too, and become even more skilled with computers.

Linux is fast, stable, inexpensive, and an effective learning
tool. Any reasons for schools not to adopt it is just another
proprietary marketing bullet point.

Just something that occurred to me one day over breakfast.

A program note: Next week I am going on vacation to Europe
with the family, and
LT will be left in the skilled hands
of Carla Schroder. I look forward to coming back on June 11,
rested, relaxed, and stuffed to the gills with good Italian


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