Originally Published: Monday, 30 August 1999 Author: Matt Michie
Published to: featured_articles/Featured Articles Page: 1/1 - [Printable]

Dreams Have No Rules

I sit down in front of the terminal. Reverently I pull forward the keyboard, my hands twitching with excitement. The login prompt beckons me to start the journey downward into the depths of the computer. Fingers flying I beat out the magic words. I need in. Now....

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I sit down in front of the terminal. Reverently I pull forward the keyboard, my hands twitching with excitement. The login prompt beckons me to start the journey downward into the depths of the computer. Fingers flying I beat out the magic words. I need in. Now.

Instantly, as if an ancient sage was waiting for me the whole time, a quote appears in grey letters on a stark black background:

When you meet a master swordsman,
show him your sword.
When you meet a man who is not a poet,
do not show him your poem.
                -- Rinzai, ninth century Zen master

The quote seems interesting, but there's no time to ponder on it at the moment. The prompt is waiting for me to do something. I almost feel I am letting it down when I type the incantation to start X.

The screen blinks, as if surprised for a moment. Quickly recovering the windows begin to fly open, as my workspace recreates itself. Sighing contently, I switch virtual desk-tops and bring to foreground one of many xterms. The prompt is the soul of my box and I rush to get back into it. Even the magnificently rendered background of an alien moon rising over a cratered landscape, stars twinkling in the background can't distract me from my purpose.

Almost without conscious thought, I check to see that I am live on the 'net and my carefully constructed firewalls and defenses are in place. I open the encrypted session to my favorite Linux machine on campus, rogue. How can one explain this to the uninitiated? Who would understand the rush that is coursing through my body right now? This is a damn thrill. I am throwing secure encrypted packets through a global network and controlling a computer sitting several miles from my house. And I'm just checking my e-mail.

While I scan e-mail, Netscape continues to its tortuous loading. Finally giving my weary hard drive a rest, the widgets are drawn on the screen. I glide the mouse over and immediately start hitting my favorite Linux news sites. Linux.com, Slashdot.org, and Linux Today.

Within moments, the information I crave is flowing through the wires through the screen and into my head. Word is a new kernel has been blessed as official. I scan through the changelog on kernelnotes.org. I see that I don't need to upgrade, but I am in the mood for a new kernel. Immediately I dive into a new xterm and FTP over to ftp.us.kernel.org. Soon, the compressed patch flows down my connection.

It is time. I take several deep breaths and clear my mind. The outside world disappears and all that remains is an xterm staring back at me. I run the substitute user command, or as I like to think of it, the super user command. The prompt blinks and changes to a bright red #. I have become the computer, all its resources are mine to use and abuse. With a flick of a finger I can destroy it all. I can rip out the guts of the operating system and replace it at will. I snicker to myself picturing a dancing paper-clip trying to stop me, after all no mortal user should have this kind of power over a computer. How dare he?

I unzip the kernel patch and begin the process of open heart surgery. Source code flashes in front of me. I let the compiler work its black magic, feeling smug. I haven't yet become an uptime junkie like some of my fellow linux abusers, but things have been running great for 5 days. Even on a 5 day uptime I feel a bit of hesitation about rebooting into a new kernel. Without the reboot, all is for naught. I must push on.

The kernel compile finishes, and the modules are whipped into shape immediately after.

I bring my system to a halt and reboot. I immediately see that I have done my job successfully as Linux goes through the start-up process. I wait a bit, and there is the familiar login: prompt. Daring me to come back inside.

How can I refuse?

What kind of things in Linux makes your heart beat a little faster? E-mail the author at mmichie@linux.com. Please visit his web site at web.nmsu.edu/~mmichie. Musical background for this piece was provided by GYP (electronica on a budget).




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