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The Backpage

By Ben Okopnik

Most of us have heard it said that "if you only have a hammer, every problem looks like a nail." To a large extent - we humans being generally resistant to change - this is true, and often detrimental to our purposes. However, as the old Russian saying goes, "this stick has two ends": the very source of our problems is often the source of our solutions (and after many years of having my nose rubbed in that fact, the only thing that still surprises me is that it still surprises me, nine times out of ten. The Universe is endlessly inventive.)

As an engineer - by training, profession, and thought pattern - my favorite "hammer" is reason; analysis and synthesis, if you will. I like to analyze my environment and my relationships, my work and my hobbies, in fact anything that I take seriously and am involved in beyond a minimum extent; it feels like getting extra value, a little bonus from everything I do, and often lets me catch incipient problems, or at least be ready for them when they appear. I also try to maintain a balanced perspective as I do this; many people who indulge in this heady wine get into a mode of thinking in which they have to find problems with whatever they're analyzing - otherwise, they're not paying rent, not doing their share to keep the Earth rotating. As in many things, the right approach in this lies along the middle path.

This month, as I take over the helm of the Linux Gazette from Mike Orr (three cheers and a job well done, Mike!), this thought is particularly apropos. What I'm taking over is nothing less than a trust reposed in us by you, our readers, and by the Linux community in general; an unwritten (odd as this may be for a Gazette!) agreement, a commitment to provide the best content and information that we can in these pages, in exchange for your patronage and contributions of material. This is not a responsibility that sits lightly; I take it very seriously indeed - which means that my analyzing faculty kicked in immediately and has been working overtime ever since.

One of the things I'd like to see in the Linux Gazette - and this seems to be echoed by the informal poll I've taken among the folks who make it all happen - is a move toward stretching our "top end", toward becoming more appealing to the professional users now entering the world of Linux, while maintaining our original mission of being a key source of information for the beginning users. I believe that this can be done - must, in fact, be done if LG is to remain concurrent with the rate of advance in Linux itself, rather than being "overtaken by events". For the moment, this is what I see as my key mission as Editor-in-Chief. I welcome all our readers' comments and suggestions on this topic.

The LG is an all-volunteer effort, with a small core of people responsible for the actual production mechanics and a somewhat larger group who regularly contribute their time and effort. There's quite a lot of overlap, too: all of us on the LG production side are also members of The Answer Gang, and some of the TAG members have helped with publication-specific and other LG-internal tasks on occasion. Despite some outstanding examples of dedication and hard work on the part of several people here, I don't want to single anyone out; instead, I'd like to go on record as saying that I'm very proud to work alongside this diverse bunch of capable, opinionated, and knowledgeable people (and if that also implies "pain in the hind end" to those of a cynical nature, then I assure you that I happily count myself among that group as well. :)

However, we can always use more volunteers - proofreaders, reporters, and authors, in particular. These positions would require the contribution of several hours of your time per month, in exchange for which you would be guaranteed instant world-wide fame... that is, a spot on the list of LG contributors on our front page. It's nearly the same thing, right? Anyway, it makes for a nice entry on your resume when you're looking for work in a related field:

	Linux Gazette, 06/2004 - Present
	Interviewed the CTOs of top US companies in regard to the
	implementation of Linux in their infrastructure (LG#104-114, 
	117-121). Currently writing a monthly column covering 
	installation and configuration advice for various hardware 
	from the related companies' own Linux gurus. Member of The
	Answer Gang (a group of Linux experts answering on-line
	questions for publication); reviewer for the Linux Gazette
	Knowledge Base.
Any or all of the above could be you... but only if you hurry. Otherwise, it'll be someone else. The opportunity to contribute to an ongoing process, or even create your own exciting Linux-related venue and build it into an LG tradition, lies open.

B. Okopnik


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 103 of Linux Gazette, June 2004

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