Wednesday, June 08, 2005

The Linux fairytale

Linux pronounced "Lih-nux" is a storey teller's dream. Its a fairy tale really of how it started with a man(Linux Trovalds) in the Nokia-country(Finland), and has caught on to become one of the nightmares of the tech Czar Bill Gates.
So lets go the fairy tale way: Once upon a time there was an Operating System called Unix that was used by the educational institutions as well as in the industry as the backbone. But it had a problem it was not available for free, and some people had made computing with it their life. So a man called Linus Trovalds from Finalnd, (who incidentally was writing his own game for a gaming console his dad had bought him)had a novel idea. He wrote the underlying crux of the operating system called the Kernel and instead of selling it for the potential millions he just released it for free!! Released it on the biggest medium for communication the Internet and that was where the Linux movement started.
Now all those people who had spent dark nights configuring there systems, writing programs to make their newest piece of hardware work, figuring out archane protocols had found pure nirvana. They had a full operating system to play around with and the freedom to change it,improve it, or in their terms hack it!! And they took great pride in calling themselves HACKERs!! The term might have a different connotation now, but the older tribes of these people collaborated over the internet to create what we know today as the full blown Linux Operating System in tis various flavours Red Hat, Mandrake, SuSE and what not. There is even a distribution(another flavour) called DSL which stands for Damn Small Linux.
The romantic aspect of this tale lies in the fact that this method of collaboration of people who have never seen wach other through an extrmely unsure medium such as the internet, had all the indregients of chaos. The method is a Software Engineer's nightmare with no official documents, no formal deadlines, no responsibilties and no managers and no employees collaborating only through unreliable channels such as IRC and mailing lists. But still it has worked and it has worked like a dream with Microsoft set to loose 20% more of its Desktop market share to Linux in the next 2-4 years. Its the biggest technological revolution of the 90's generation and the bandwagon still rolls on.
Over the years people have devloped Linux into a succesful business model with dedicated Open Source Software companies such as Red Hat, SuSE etc and big corps like IBM increasingly becoming Open Source oriented Linux or the Open Source Software movement is steaming ahead. But still at the heart of movement remain the eternal hackers, 14 year olds - 40 year olds who just write code for the fun of it. And thats what the Open Source movement is about you have fun and shre the fun that you have i.e. the code so that everybody can have fun. And the spoilers, the Microsoft's of the world who force people get locked into a pay for our mistakes deal will have to come up with a wonder or just submit to people exercising their fundamental right, The right toc hoose freedom.

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