Originally Published: Wednesday, 30 August 2000 Author: Emmett Plant
Published to: featured_articles/Featured Articles Page: 1/1 - [Std View]

The Way-Back Machine

Today's editorial is a bit of a weird one - It's a reprinting of a column I wrote on April 7th, 1999 for Bleeding Edge Magazine called 'Fantasy and Microchips.' I've decided to insert some updated comments along the way. I hope you enjoy the experiment in time travel.

Well, here we are at the main office of Fantasy and Microchips, beginning the task of getting a bi-weekly column out to the good people of Bleeding Edge Magazine. The office is nicely decorated in early Arcade, with Deluxe Space Invaders in the corner. On one of the opposite walls stand Xevious, Superman, and quite possibly one of the silliest applications of the 8086 chipset, Q*Bert.

A fiery memo appears on my desk, as if by magic.

'Emmett, write about Linux. No one wants to hear about your video games. If it happens again, you're fired.' It's signed by Jeff Alami, the sick bastard that writes Linux Journeys every day.

Jeff Alami has since become the Editor-in-Chief of Linux.com. Guess who replaced him when he decided to head back to school? :)

Well, alright then.

I'm glad to have survived the past two weeks. The April Fool's bug bit most of us pretty hard, with segfault, Slashdot, BeDope and Userfriendly playing sick games with the Linux community. Even Wired got into the fray with it's own tomfoolery.

At this point in time, I had no clue that I would be working for Slashdot in the next year, and would have set up April 2000's April Fool's joke. For those of you not clued in yet, I worked at Slashdot before I took the Editor-in-Chief job here at Linux.com.

I'm glad it happened.

With Eric's tales of resignation and Stallman's red-hot attitude towards anything that's not free or GNU, we've gotten pretty down recently. A lot of people feel that Linux is in a state of flux at the present time, and a lot of people are downright scared at the amount of corporate 'support' Linux has been gaining in the past few months. I'm a little bit scared myself.

A lot of people are really happy that the big companies are getting involved. "Emmett," they say, "isn't it great that [insert big company name here] are supporting Linux and getting the word out there?"

On one hand, yes. Linux is very, very good. Linux deserves recognition and respect, and it needs to be run in as many applications as we can find. It's good, it's useful, and it's free. I think it's great that people are using Linux to drive cars. I think it's great that people are using Linux to play .mp3's in their cars. I think it's great that I can get Linux pre-installed on a ThinkPad. I think it's all very, very, cool.

On the other hand, no. Who's word are they 'getting out there?' Who's word is more important? IBM's, or Richard Stallman's? Eric Raymond's? Apple's? Linus'? The Linux community needs to understand that there are bigger reasons than Open Source or Free Software pointing towards the industry's embrace of Linux.

Here's a few.

Hatred of Microsoft. This goes without saying. Hardware companies are tired of being lashed to the decks of a sinking ship by Bill, Ed and Steve. Software companies are happy to write for a platform where they won't have to compete with the authors of the OS for attention and money.

Public Relations. As much as I hate to say it, Linux is currently flavor-of-the-month, and it's hot, it's now, it's cyber, it's cool, it's The Future. Yeah. whatever. These companies are hoping to capitalize on Linux's current popularity to push their own wares. Let's hope that these companies have enough foresight to realize that Linux really is very good and worth the investment without being a fad. Let's also hope that these companies can see hype for hype, and beat down the ugly face of Unrealistic Expectations.

Money. Oh my god, who would've thought? There are a lot of Linux boxes out there lurking in networks masquerading as (gasp) NT boxen! If they can sell on that platform, we stand to make some money! People don't understand that this is a very big reason. Big companies have an obligation to its shareholders to make money. A lot of it.

There are more reasons than this. You'll see them crop up on your own in the coming year.

And we did.

But that's all 'outside the box.' That's out there in the corporate world where Linux is everyone's prom date. Internally we're fighting back some strange press, too. Jamie Zawinski resigns from Netscape/AOL, and rings true with his resignation. You *can't* wave a magical 'Open Source' wand over a project and hope for the best. It doesn't work. There could be a book written about Jamie's year. There should be. I'd like to read it.

Apple's Open Source fiasco has made people jumpy, too. It's not Open, dammit, unless I can have it for free, release it for free, and not report to anyone to do it. You won't see me jumping on Stallman's bandwagon anytime soon, but I've got to call 'em as I see 'em. Plus, the whole 'Open Source is a trademark of Apple Computer, Inc.' drives me up a wall.

This has since been fixed by Apple and guys from the Open Source Initiative.

Wow. looking back at this column, it's pretty pessimistic. It really shouldn't be. When I think about Open Source and Linux, I don't feel pessimistic. I feel optimistic. It feels like springtime. I feel as though my glass of water is half-full. I feel as though I'm using too many metaphors.

Linux will survive corporate hype. People will learn from Mozilla's mistakes. We're still climbing. Market share projections are really good.

They're even better now, even in the post-IPO universe.

The self-induced splitting of Microsoft is good. Microsoft's idiotic 'five million different versions of Windows' is good for Linux. I've said it before, I'll say it again; Microsoft is scared of the Department of Justice when it should be afraid of the industry. Microsoft is a big, hulking marketing machine that will reorganize itself into oblivion. It almost happened to Apple. Microsoft's just too damned big to get away with it.

Anyone else remember this oft-forgotten Microsoft strategy? Sheesh.

See you in two weeks.