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The Adventures of Little Linus In GNU/Wonderland

By D Clyde Williamson
Originally published at System Toolbox. Reprinted with permission.

In Which Little Linus Finds GNU/Wonderland

It was a sunny afternoon, and Linus was happily playing in his backyard. He was busy with all the things that little Linuses do on sunny days in their backyards. He was sitting in the shade of a large tree when he noticed something very out of place in a Linuses backyard. Waddling across the yard was a penguin! Every few yards, this penguin would pull out a Compaq Itsy, consult it, put it back in his pocket and say, "I'm late, I'm late, I'm late for my release date!"

Little Linus had never seen a penguin this close before. He had also never seen an Itsy. And he was rather sure that penguins shouldn't be talking or consulting Itsys. So as any curious Linus would do, he followed the penguin. No matter how quickly Linus walked, the penguin seemed to be the same distance away. The penguin didn't waddle any faster, Linus just couldn't seem to get any closer.

Suddenly, the penguin stopped at the very tree Linus had been sitting under. "Ah, here's what I was looking for... root access!" the penguin muttered. Then he popped into a small hole in one of the roots of the tree.

Linus decided to follow. He squeezed into the hole, and suddenly realized that he was falling. Everything below him was dark, so he couldn't see the bottom. He continued to fall wondering what was next. He began to look at his surroundings and noticed that there was a brick wall on one side of the hole. As he looked closer he could make out a set of eyes in the wall, falling at the same speed as he was. One of the eyes winked at him. Linus was slightly startled, but remembered his manners. "Hello, umm, Mr. Wall," Linus began cautiously, not quite sure how one should address walls.

To his surprise, a nose, mustache and mouth formed below the eyes and the entire face continued to slide down the wall at the same speed as Linus. "Hello young man! How are you this fine day?" the wall asked Linus.

"Well", Linus replied, "I'd feel much better if I knew how to stop falling."

"Ah", the wall nodded sagely, "Usually, one stops when they hit the bottom. But, as the camel says, 'there's more than one way to do it'."

Linus didn't quite understand the bit about the camel. However, he was sure that hitting the ground wasn't the best way to stop. He looked at the wall. "Ummm, I'd really rather stop in a way that didn't hurt me..."

The wall looked at him a bit then said, "Well, I suppose I can ask the camel to catch you." The face disappeared.

Linus continued to fall and realized that he hadn't looked down for awhile. Indeed it seemed that there was a light coming up from below. As he looked down, he saw the ground about thirty feet away. There directly under him stood a camel. Before he knew it, he had landed quite softly and safely between the camels humps. The camel turned and smiled at him, flashing his perly white teeth.

The wall spoke again. "The camel will help you get started here. He's quite user friendly." Then the face was gone again.

Linus looked at the camel, then remembered why he was here to begin with, "I was following a penguin, but I seemed to have lost his trail." The camel nodded and began walking towards a nearby wood.

In Which Linus Meets Several Strange Inhabitants of GNU/Wonderland

As they approached the wood, Linus noticed a taco walking up the road towards him. The taco appeared to be carrying several newspapers under his arm. "News for Nerds!" he was calling, "Get your News for Nerds here."

Linus stopped the camel and walked over to get a newspaper. However, before he could reach the taco, he heard a loud noise. Several thousand creatures, boys, girls, rabbits, unicorns, trolls and all other sorts of animals came rushing toward the taco. They all hit the taco at once, grabbing for the newspapers. Linus watched as wave after wave of things rushed across the poor taco. Then as suddenly as they had come, they were gone. Linus ran over to the taco, "Are you hurt?" He asked with concern.

"Not bad, at least this time no one dumped any breakfast cereal on me," the taco replied getting up and brushing himself off. [1]

Linus thought about querying further on the subject of breakfast cereal, however, he decided to skip it. After making sure the taco was OK he climbed back on the camel and set off again.

He had not traveled far when he heard a strange noise in the forest beside the path. "Perhaps it is a bear," he thought. However, before he could urge the camel to pick up the pace a man stepped out of the woods onto the path. He was an odd looking man, with hair that pointed anywhere except where hair usually points. Linus figured the man must have forgotten he owned a beard, since it looked like the beard had wandered off on its own quite awhile ago.

"Hullo, boy!" the man waved at Linus. "I am GNUman. Who are you?"

"My name is Linus, and it's nice to meet you, Neuman." Linus got down to shake the man's hand.

"Not Neuman, it's GNUman. Say it right!" The man said loudly.

Linus looked at the man carefully, then deciding he wasn't dangerous, shook his hand and said, "It's nice to meet you GNUman."

"Well, of course I'm more than happy to meet anyone around these parts. By the way, here's the rules to my game," GNUman said solemnly, handing Linus a scroll. "The rules are, that anyone can change the rules, as long as they tell everyone what rules they changed. That way everyone can make the rules fit their needs."

Linus wasn't quite sure what GNUman was talking about. However, he politely took the scroll and promised to read it. GNUman smiled and wandered off into the woods.

After a few hours of riding around on the camel, Linus noticed party sounds emanating from a nearby clearing. The camel noticed his interest and moved in that direction.

As they broke into the clearing there was an amazing sight. A long table set with coffee, doughnuts, pizza, as well as Chinese, Indian, and Mexican food. At one end was a keg of Guinness. At the head of the table was a man with a bushy black beard, long black hair, sunglasses and a red fedora. He motioned Linus over to a chair.

"I've been waitin' a bloody long time on you," the man said with a British accent. "Do you know how hard it is to keep all this food hot?"

Linus, beginning to get used to the odd people of this land, smiled and apologized for taking so long. Of course he had no idea that he was even expected, let alone late.

"Oh, not to worry," the English fellow said in a nicer tone, "I'm sure you were busy."

They began to eat, and Linus was amazed at the energy that this special food gave him. After eating in silence for awhile, he noticed that other creatures were sitting at the table enjoying the food as well. Oddly, he hadn't seen any of them sit down. Indeed, the large dog sitting next to him had appeared from nowhere. Linus had seen many canines before, but this was the first dog that he had seen with a big white beard.

The dog noticed Linus and flashed him a very big smile. He paused to wipe some white foam from his mouth and began eating again. Linus was a bit concerned that the dog may be 'mad'... Excusing himself, he got up to leave.

The Englishman at the head of the table motioned for him. "You can't leave yet," he exclaimed, "You have to do what you came for."

Linus had no idea what the man was talking about, so he waited patiently while the Englishman fiddled around in a big black box.

"Ah here it is," the man said, pulling out a single kernel of corn. "We need your blessing on this... ummm, here!"

With that the man handed Linus the piece of corn, and a crystal container filled with a yellow liquid. the bottle was labeled "Warning, contains hP2."

Linus stood there for a minute, everyone at the table had stopped eating and was watching him closely. He opened the stopper and sprinkled some of the 'hP2' on the corn. Everyone cheered and the kernel began to shake and jump. It bounced out of Linus' hand and fell onto the ground. It began to sprout and grow, a huge green plant came out of it and grew and grew, all the time the diners at the table were laughing, saying things like "Now that's scalability" or "Look at that, 40 feet high and still standing... How stable can you get!!"

Linus began to worry that he was expected to do something. But, before he could figure it out, the Dog that had sat next to him was again beside him.

"Well, what are you waiting for?" the dog asked. "You should already be climbing it."

"Ummm, why would I climb it?" Linus asked.

"No time for questions, I'll meet you up there," the dog replied, and promptly disappeared. The only thing left was the bushy, white beard which slowly faded.

Linus And The Cornstalk

Linus had been climbing the cornstalk for what seemed like hours when he finally found himself at the top. There before him was a giant building with a sign outside that read "Warning, Home of The RedMond Giant... all trespassers will be 'Embraced and Extended'."

Linus wasn't sure what that meant, but it didn't sound like something he wanted to have done to him. He began to look around, when he noticed fading into existence, a white bushy beard. Following the beard was the rest of the Dog, which he had seen down below.

"Hey again!" the dog said, smiling, "I see you made it."

"Yes, though I have no idea why you wanted me to climb up here. I really don't want to be embraced and extended by a giant."

"Oh, its ok, you have GNUman's rules, don't you? They're the only magic strong enough to defeat the giant."

Linus pulled out the scroll and looked at it carefully. "It doesn't look very magical to me," he said.

The dog smiled and began walking to the castle. Linus shrugged and followed him. As they got closer, he began to hear a loud voice singing, "Biddle, Bidele, Boddle, Bandard, I smell the smell of an Open Standard. Be it old or be it new, I'll make it part of my proprietary brew!"

Linus stopped, the voice was very loud, and a voice that loud had to come from a mouth that was very big. However, the dog continued to trot toward the castle, without a moments pause, so Linus followed. Finally he reached the formidable gates of the building. "There's no way in," Linus said relieved. "There is an awful lot of security around this place."

The dog laughed, "The only thing worse that the giant's silly rhyme, is his security! Trust me, there are many, many ways to get past it."

Sure enough, with just a slight bit of poking, a whole section of the fencing fell apart, leaving a gaping hole. The dog led Linus into the compound. As they walked across the yard toward the front door... several security people rushed to the point where they broke in. One of them, apparently the leader stood up on a podium and began to speak loudly.

"This is only a theoretical way of breaking into the giants compound. Anyone who is concerned about this is just being paranoid. Besides, only bad people would break into the compound, and we all know that bad people are stupid. So they wouldn't know about this hole."

As he spoke, several kiddies began knocking holes in other parts of the fence, following the example of Linus and the dog. The security people ignored them.

"Furthermore, there is very little likelihood that anyone will be able to duplicate this hole. In fact, if this fence were upgraded to version 2.000 then we wouldn't need to be concerned at all."

Immediately, all the other workers began putting up the next version of the fence. It looked bigger and stronger than the earlier fence. Linus looked at the dog. "It will be hard to get back out."

"Nonsense, I told you their security is hopeless. This new fence will likely be even worse than the first."

So Linus and the dog continued into the building, completely unnoticed by the security people. Within a few moments they were inside the building. The dog looked at Linus. "Ok, open the scroll and read the magic words of GNUman," he whispered.

Linus opened the scroll and read, "The GNU General Public License, Preamble..."

Linus read and read and read. Finally, as he reached the end of the very long magic incantation, he heard a noise. He looked up from the scroll, and saw huge cracks forming in the walls and ceiling. The building began to shake and shudder. The dog looked at Linus and said, "Let's get out of here. You've done what you came to do!"

They ran to the door and into the courtyard. Behind them they could hear the giant bellowing for his people to fix the holes and cracks, but it was too late, the home of the RedMond Giant was collapsing. Linus and the dog reached the brand-new fence, and to Linus' surprise, they realized that the entire fence was made of Swiss cheese, they climbed through the holes in the fence, and ran for the cornstalk.

The dog began to fade, he looked around at Linus, "Thank you so much... we all thank you. Have a nice life..."

"Wait," Linus shouted, "What am I supposed to do now?"

The dog was gone again, except for the beard. "Just get to the cornstalk. That new kernel will take care of you."

Linus reached the cornstalk, and began climbing down as fast as he could, but he lost his footing and before he knew it he had begun to fall. The ground was getting closer and closer, and suddenly, he found himself, laying on his back, on the ground. He blinked his eyes, and looked up at the Corn Stalk. He rubbed his eyes and looked again. It wasn't a cornstalk at all. It was the old tree in his back yard!

Linus got up, rubbed his eyes and walked toward the house. Once inside, he noticed a package sitting on the table, there was a card that read "To Our Dear Son". He opened the package, and to his delight there was a brand new 386 computer, just for him.

The End (or is it?)


[1] The author doesn't condone the abuse of any forum by trolls. This includes comments about hot grits. However, this small joke just couldn't be resisted.

D Clyde Williamson

Clyde is a network security specialist for a large corporation in the US. He writes articles on Technology, Open Source Advocacy and History (pre-1600). After writing the above article, he lives in prepetual fear of Lewis Carrol's ghost seeking revenge.

Copyright © 2002, D Clyde Williamson.
Copying license
Published in Issue 75 of Linux Gazette, February 2002

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