Linux revolutionaries wear sandals, ponytails and even penguin suits

Packet Rat
R. Fink

Linux revolutionaries wear sandals, ponytails and even penguin suits

The Rat hopped a T3 line to the left coast recently to take part in the greatest global
conspiracy in history. He went to LinuxWorld.

About 10,000 hackers, systems administrators, developers, wannabes and curious
corporate warriors converged on the new Mecca of the open source code religion: San Jose,

As faithful readers might remember, the whiskered one is a Linux aficionado. He’ll
take free operating systems and open source code wherever he can get ’em. Besides, he
feels comfortable surrounded by people who write their own device drivers and use Pine
freeware as their e-mail client of choice.

But the whiskered one does take issue with the Linux dress code. By comparison, it
makes the Rat look—well, like a fed.

Even in his customary casual wear, the furry one stuck out at LinuxWorld like a sore
paw. The gathering had the highest ponytail-and-sandals metric anyone has seen since the
glory days of Usenix and, as another observer noted, the lowest bath-per-attendee metric.
To blend in and lower the vendors’ defenses, the Rat went incognito dressed as the
Linux penguin.

The highlight of the conference, a keynote speech by Linux creator Linus Torvalds, had all the trappings of a rock concert. Attendees lined up for nearly a mile at
the door, and the cyberrodent got trampled when the doors opened.

Torvalds has positioned himself as an antivisionary. He says he doesn’t care what
people do with Linux as long as they use it. All he wants to do is build the perfect
kernel. That balances out some of the other open-source gurus, who tend to scare off
corporate types.

Linus is a funny guy. But the Rat has noticed that Linus’ jokes get less and less
funny every year because they become more and more true. His world domination punch lines
now have more of a ring of destiny than of sarcasm. The mass of products and commercial
alliances announced at LinuxWorld indicates that some take Linux very seriously.

The biggest shock at the show was that the vendors weren’t expecting the onslaught
of techie enthusiasm that stripped their booths of every last T-shirt, bumper sticker,
stuffed penguin and mouse pad.

Cruising the conference in flightless bird form, the Rat overheard Hewlett-Packard Co.
reps talking about porting HP’s OpenMail and OpenView to Linux.

The Rat started to salivate at the thought of using Linux OpenMail servers to support
his field offices. The saliva made his fake beak turn slightly soggy. When he heard that
Computer Associates International Inc. would port the Unicenter enterprise management
framework and distribute it with Red Hat Software Inc.’s Linux, he got really

The sight of a penguin frothing at the beak caused only mild concern among the Linux
faithful, but it did make some onlookers duck into a Perl scripting session to avoid

The Packet Rat once managed networks but now spends his time ferreting out bad
packets in cyberspace. E-mail him at [email protected].


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