Originally Published: Sunday, 20 February 2000 Author: Jon-Pal Mouzakis Gagnum
Published to: featured_articles/Featured Articles Page: 1/1 - [Printable]

A Much-needed Role Model

Today, Linux offers computer users with the correct initiative a window of opportunity that an increasing amount of people are taking advantage of. It is an operating system that allows for incredible versatility. It can be molded and re-made in the "image of the user" as it were, able to be customized almost completely based upon the needs of every individual user.

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Today, Linux offers computer users with the correct initiative a window of opportunity that an increasing amount of people are taking advantage of. It is an operating system that allows for incredible versatility. It can be molded and re-made in the "image of the user" as it were, able to be customized almost completely based upon the needs of every individual user. It is an operating system where literally hundreds of people have come together to improve something -- not for the money surely -- but in the spirit of creating something truly magnificent. It is an operating system that is no mere operating system. It is a conclave of ideas that have come together to offer something better and more efficient.

Maybe the same could have been said of Microsoft a few years ago, as it paved the way for its supremacy by revolutionizing the computer world with Windows. After all, this made the computer accessible to everyone, not merely the dedicated DOS user and programmer. Microsoft made the smart marketing move by answering three basic economic questions: what, how, and for whom? Gates knew the What (computer software and an operating system simple enough to use it on), he had the know-how to answer the How (the necessary computer programming skills along with a select group of intelligent buddies), and finally, he answered the For Whom. By far the most important of the three, this question dealt with who the product would be accessible to, and Gates made it his job to shift the emphasis from the elite, dedicated user who would be willing to spend hours upon hours learning DOS commands, to the average consumer. The result: large companies and corporations as well as home users navigate the Windows environment daily.

A few years ago, this could have been seen as being in the same spirit as we see Linux assuming today: a move that aimed helping, facilitating, improving, taking a forwards leap into the future computer age. And yet this was not to be. We see Microsoft asserting monopoly (or at least monopolistic) power over smaller firms in the market, easily pushing would-be competitors away. This is not the mindframe we want, and despite the fact that Microsoft did manage to make computers so widely accessible -- a definite boon -- it has been countered tenfold by its profiteering attitude.

Linux, on the other hand, deals with a more communal aspect. In a sense, it is the perfect role model, not only in the computer world, but our world as a whole. Linux is about getting together, sharing ideas and making something better. It is about constructive criticism, and improvement, but most importantly, it is about creativeness and creation. Not being an expert Linux user myself, I find it easier to make a few connections to my stronger interests.

AD&D, roleplaying, Dungeons and Dragons? Surely you have heard of this somewhere, sometime. Whatever you have heard -- good or bad -- concerning this pastime, know that it is something I consider akin to the Linux OS. A few people, getting together, trading ideas, creating plots and character personas, assuming the roles and playing them out. Not only is it fun and engaging, but it gives everyone a chance to comment and advise concerning their fellow's creative thoughts. For a writer, as I consider myself to be, this is essential. It is a process by which I create characters for my stories, receive new ideas for plot twists and neat scenarios. For me, Linux is like the roleplaying adventure: something that can be molded, reformed, re-structured, simply by the good will of those involved, coupled with a little time and effort. But most importantly, it is fun.

The spirit upon which Linux is founded on can be seen in other places on the Internet. An organization called Critters (profiled by Salon Magazine) is a group of writers who have taken it upon themselves to get together, once again with the aim of helping each other. There is no hassle, no need to pay to have stories posted and critiqued, and there is definitely no charge for critiquing other writers' stories. The result is a community that is constantly helping its members improve in their field by offering help for the sake of helping others, and at the same time helping themselves.

The same thing goes on at Linux.com. We, the staff help contribute in various ways, either writing articles, editorials, news blurbs, or editing any of the above. The whole volunteer process is a veritable font of knowledge for those looking to be informed about Linux as well as for those already involved in it. In answering people's questions and staying abreast of what goes on in the Linux world, staff members learn, expand their experience, and improve their skills. However idealistic and cliched this may sound, wouldn't it be better if more people could emulate this show of selflessness and work to improve and move forward into the future? It's a much better prospect than staying behind in the mire of the present with redundant ideas, no matter how much money they're worth.

Jon-Pal currently works for Linux.com in the multimedia section as Senior Editor. He can mostly be found either delving deep into a fantasy book, working on his own upcoming novel or editing articles. He is Co-Editor-in-Chief of his school's newspaper (Blue & Gold) where he hones his editing skills, though creative writing holds stronger interest for him. He is 17 years old and hopefully next year he'll be continuing his voluntary work for Linux.com at Harvard University (side by side with Marius at MIT!). His short stories are available for viewing pleasure at http://people.bu.edu/janerik/jonpal.





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