PACKET RAT

Olympux 1.0 torch will set more than athletic spirits afire

R. Fink

In anticipation of the 2000 Olympic games in Sydney, Australia, athletes are hawking everything from burgers to wireless phones. No expense is being spared to build audience awareness. They've even figured out a way for a diver to carry the Olympic torch underwater.

With that kind of marketing energy in the ether, the Rat decided to siphon some of the spin to get exposure and funding for his own event: the Geek Olympics.

Faithful readers might recall the cyberrodent's proposed battery of information technology events for the last Olympic games [GCN, July 29, 1996, Page 86].

But ever since the Salt Lake City scandal, the International Olympic Committee has been less receptive to honoraria, and tech-sector stocks have hit shoals bigger than the Great Barrier Reef. Stock options no longer have the allure they once did. So, rather than wait for the IOC to recognize his genius, the whiskered one is pulling a Ted Turner and launching his own games.

Just as the Greek Olympics were tests of skills essential to survival in battle, as well as a tribute to the gods, the Rat's Geek Olympics are based on modern survival skills for the daily digital battleground.

They also are a tribute to the current pantheon: Gates, Jobs, Joy, Andreesen and Bezos.

Nerds of steel

Instead of archaic events of arbitrary athletic prowess, the Rat's games will highlight workplace relevance. After all, few entrepreneurs, except maybe Larry Ellison, physically throw javelins at their rivals these days.

Events will include the 200-meter Fiber Pull, the Napster Download Marathon'how many MP3 files can you download before the Recording Industry Association of America gets you?'and the Web Server Security Pentathlon incorporating the Denial-of-Service Freestyle.



Naturally, organizing the Geek Olympics is a massive undertaking even for someone as capable of spreading himself thin as the whiskered one.

So the Rat is following a path well-worn by recent software ventures. His Olympic games will be open-source.

There has to be a kernel for any open-source movement to start from, so the Rat has created one: Olympux 1.0. Like most open-source projects, it's bare-bones: seven events, a judging and awards subsystem, and a reference implementation built in the Rat's backyard.

The whiskered one hopes for funding from a source such as IBM Corp. or Dell Computer Corp. to port Olympux to a stadium.

There are lots of advantages to an open-source Olympics. First, proprietary games aren't scalable enough to handle the diversity of skills that could be showcased. The IOC can't support events such as, say, street luge without dropping or marginalizing other events.

Not so for Olympux 1.0. Anyone can add support for any event, as long as it complies with the Gnulympics Public Athletic Event License. Want to add a database hacking extension to the Security Games track? Feel free. Just remember, like Linus Torvalds, the Rat retains control over which events get added to the kernel as standard for the next recompile.

Then there are the entry barriers. The Olympics and the Goodwill Games limit participation to national teams'which means, of course, that you can't compete without having a nation. Not a problem with Olympux'anyone can compete. On the other hand, only those with excellent bandwidth can hope to make it past the trial heats.

Infinite reruns

Another plus for Olympux 1.0 over the old proprietary Olympics is that you don't have to wait four years to run an event again.

The Rat will recompile Olympux as often as necessary. Events could be rerun daily, even hourly.

The Rat's also refining an Olympux flame. 'The best of my prototypes so far is based on a hibachi and cans of Sterno,' he mused, cleaning his singed whiskers.

The Packet Rat once managed networks but now spends his time ferreting out bad packets in cyberspace. E-mail him at rat@gcn.com.

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