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The Back Page

By Ben Okopnik

This month, our Editor-in-Chief, Mike Orr, is away at some conference where he is wrestling pythons. Or some Python conference followed by wrestling... he sounded a bit strangled on the phone, so it was a little difficult to tell - but whatever it is, it involves his hobbies. While he's gone, I've volunteered to do the Editor-in-Chief's duties, including publishing - and as you can imagine, I had hoped that this month would pass quietly and everything would roll out on schedule.

Say, does anyone else hear that hollow laugh?...

Our Answer Gal, Heather Stern, who is responsible for a large chunk of the LG production process, had a series of hardware problems that grew like Topsy to encompass not only her entire system but eventually involved her ISP and the name registrar (!). I mean, really, sans peur et sans reproche is one thing, but sans email at production time???... believe it or not, she still managed to get her work done as well as contribute some material for our regular columns, although, of course, it was all unavoidably delayed. So life goes, gentle readers. You have my apologies for LG being a bit late this month - we usually try to publish within a few days of the 1st.

While I have the chance to ramble - this month, I celebrated my birthday, one I share with Sergei Rachmaninoff, Abraham Maslow, Otto von Bismark, William Harvey, and, uh, "Method Man". April 1st, the day that the internal combustion engine was patented and that color television was first sold (and also the day the yo-yo was introduced to the American public), is "celebrated" world-wide as "April Fools Day", the day when people pull pranks and give gag gifts to each other - something I've been fortunate enough, or perhaps large enough to avoid. As my Web page says, "creative answers will be graded appropriately, with bastinado being reserved for the wittiest and applause for the most charming. Note that a combination of the two is hereby explicitly not excluded."

To make a long story short (for the hecklers in the back of the room yelling "too late!", you just quiet down), I ended up going to dinner with a client of mine who insisted that I should do something special for myself, at a very nice local restaurant called "Fusion Point". (Chris is also a good friend as well as being my yoga teacher.) While munching on the gourmet fare, we got into a deep philosophical discussion (as we often do), and I happened to mention Linux, which he had never heard of. Once I described some of the dynamics of the community and the way it came about, Chris looked at me and said: "You see, this is the exactly the kind of progress in the direction of enlightenment that we've been talking about. Despite the wars, the hatred, all the evils of the human condition, there is an underlying and irresistible movement in that direction - and it's cumulative." (This is a paraphrase because I don't recall his exact words, but it's close.)

This is, indeed, the way that I see Linux. It goes beyond just the OS, beyond the free tools; it is a way for many people whose abilities would remain hidden and unused without that necessary leverage to become empowered, a way for those whose lack of money has stifled their ability to express their creativity to bring it out to the world. It's not a cure-all for all the existing ills by any means - but it is certainly a step in the right direction.

My best wishes and congratulations to all of you who are making your way toward the light. I take great joy and pride in being able to contribute to that progress, in whatever way I can.


picture Ben is the Editor-in-Chief for Linux Gazette and a member of The Answer Gang.

Ben was born in Moscow, Russia in 1962. He became interested in electricity at the tender age of six, promptly demonstrated it by sticking a fork into a socket and starting a fire, and has been falling down technological mineshafts ever since. He has been working with computers since the Elder Days, when they had to be built by soldering parts onto printed circuit boards and programs had to fit into 4k of memory. He would gladly pay good money to any psychologist who can cure him of the recurrent nightmares.

His subsequent experiences include creating software in nearly a dozen languages, network and database maintenance during the approach of a hurricane, and writing articles for publications ranging from sailing magazines to technological journals. After a seven-year Atlantic/Caribbean cruise under sail and passages up and down the East coast of the US, he is currently anchored in St. Augustine, Florida. He works as a technical instructor for Sun Microsystems and a private Open Source consultant/Web developer. His current set of hobbies includes flying, yoga, martial arts, motorcycles, writing, and Roman history; his Palm Pilot is crammed full of alarms, many of which contain exclamation points.

He has been working with Linux since 1997, and credits it with his complete loss of interest in waging nuclear warfare on parts of the Pacific Northwest.

Copyright © 2004, Ben Okopnik. Released under the Open Publication license unless otherwise noted in the body of the article. Linux Gazette is not produced, sponsored, or endorsed by its prior host, SSC, Inc.

Published in Issue 101 of Linux Gazette, April 2004

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