World Domination – Finding Linux Everywhere

Posted by DarrenR114 on Jan 15, 2007 6:37 AM EDT
LXer; By Darren
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In the march of the penguins to World Domination, I have seen Linux become more and more commonplace. Back with my first attempt to install Slackware Linux from 3.5” floppies onto my Packard Bell 386 Legend with its 40MB hard drive, 1x CD-ROM and S3 video knockoff, I never did get X to run with any resolution higher than 300x400. It was horrible – the desktop was so large that my screen couldn't contain all of it. The window manager, as I recall that day in 1994, was VWM. As I wasn't so interested in a GUI environment, and really just wanted an UNIX-like PC so I could practice things like shell scripting, it was “Ok” for me. It was not “good enough” for my girlfriend though. She had her Mac Performa and what I used didn't matter.

The book I used to get my first Linux CD with Slackware was published by Que. And there was nothing in it about programming X. There wasn't really much about even configuring X. The state of Linux was so bad, that there weren't even drivers to read from my CD-ROM, which was connected through my sound card. That's why I had to copy the files from the CD-ROM onto individual floppies – 30 of them. I was hooked – I was not going to let some piece of computer hardware defeat me. I was going to make this thing usable by even the most illiterate of users.

This thing came with compilers included, and that's all this programmer really needed back then. Being a programmer in the military since 1986, the civilian world of closed source software development was a horrifying eyeopener in 1993. That's why I liked Linux and FOSS – it was a more familiar and comfortable paradigm.

Internet access was still not all that commonplace back in 1994, and from 1994-1997 the only dial-up access we had was AOL and Juno. Therefore, my adventures in Linux were limited to the distributions in books that were outdated by the time they arrived on the shelves. When I moved to Florida in 1996, I really didn't do much with Linux, because I was spending 12+ hours a day at work in a SPARC/Solaris shop. The last thing I wanted to do when I got home was anything to do with computers.

In early 1997, the Packard Bell finally died and my job had calmed down enough that I was feeling adventurous enough to install Redhat 4.0 on a new hand-built white box PC. My wife had a Zenith notebook running MS-Windows95 she received as a $150 hand-me-down from her father. By that time, I had discovered the wonder that is Linux Gazette and found a wonderful HowTo article about setting up a home-network. I learned the ins and outs of RPM. Using Samba and Appletalk (my wife still had that Performa,) I was able to set up a fairly complex home LAN. I learned to set-up DNS caching to limit dial-up to Bellsouth through pppd. That's when I knew – Linux would displace MS-Windows someday, and the sooner, the better. Once it was set up, it was easy to use. Now all that needed to happen was to spread the word and port more applications aimed at users, not just techxperts.

It was in 1998 that I read about Oracle making a Linux version. I was trying to convince my extended family that Linux would overtake MS-Windows within the next 10 years, based on its rate of adoption back then (IDC had just put out some information that Linux growth was something like 200% and had something like 3% share of shipped OS.) I had also started getting some Tux merchandise, as well as unnamed-penguin stuff. My wife had even bought me an ice tray for making penguin-shaped ice cubes.

This penguin fascination continues even today just as Linux has continued evolving and spreading, to the point of even making mention in my wife's college textbook on education technology. Three years ago, Linux wouldn't have even gotten the single mention that it did. When the movie, Madagascar, came out, one of the merchandising items that I got were 4 “wobbly” penguins that sit on my desk at work and home. I now have a penguin calendar on the wall at work that my brother-in-law gave me for Christmas. I often wear a baseball cap from ThinkGeek.com with an embroidered Tux on the front. This has gotten the attention of people more than once, giving me a great opportunity to talk about Linux, even with the guy behind the counter where I last got my car's transmission flushed and filled. That automotive technician asked me if I knew anything about Linux and which Linux I would recommend for replacing his current MS-WindowsXP, because he noticed Tux on my cap.

Penguin merchandise, such as the plush toy that sits next to my monitor at home, is everywhere. That plush toy was given to me as a Christmas gift this year from my son. He'd gotten it at SeaWorld with me in mind. My son had a wonderful Winter Vacation from fifth grade this year. He spent the entire week before Christmas in Orlando, at a Hilton resort with his mother and grandmother. My mother-in-law has a time share that allows her to book vacations all over the world. Due to work demands, I could only take a couple of days off that week.

My wife, son, and I all spent the entire Monday at Disney. As Florida residents, we were able to get a single day pass at regular price with a park hopper at no extra charge. We spent the morning at EPCOT, and after lunch we went over to the venerable Magic Kingdom. My wife wanted to visit some of the upgraded attractions, such as Pirates of the Caribbean and the Tiki Hut. I was just enjoying my day away from computers. As a last ride in the Magic Kingdom, we went over to Tomorrowland and got in a long line for the Astro Orbiter. While my son and I were in line, my wife went off to the gift shops near Space Mountain.

About 40 minutes later, as my son and I got off the elevator, my wife met us and said to me, "There's something you've got to see."

We followed her to a video game arcade by the gift shops, and inside, she pointed to one of the many cabinets containing one of today's technical wonders: TuxRacer (http://pg.photos.yahoo.com/ph/darrenr114/detail?.dir=f986re2... ). Linux is found most anyplace.

When we reach the point of World Domination, will we even recognize it? Helios posted a blog about starting an advertising campaign for Linux, and I think it's a great idea. My wife, who majored in advertising at the University of Florida (Go Gators!), has told me that probably the most effective advertising is to place the mascot, Tux, everywhere. Other penguin icons will also help, but derivations of Tux will be most effective. The ubiquitous nature of Tux is so entrenched that he appears places you wouldn't expect, like in a video game at Disney World, or in a knitting pattern for a scarf ( http://www.dabne.net/carolina/geekknit/linuxscarf-en.htm ). When no one asks, "What's with all the penguins?" the hardest part of the battle for World Domination will have been won.

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Another good read. kozmcrae 2 1,417 Jan 21, 2007 1:04 PM

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