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4/21/2005
09:54 PM
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Life During Wartime

The mean streets of Linuxland can be a tough beat to cover these days. There are two sides to every story--and they're ready to beat one another to a pulp at the drop of a hat. Gangs of thugs roam the back alleys, kicking in doors, rifling through hard drives in the dead of night, making humiliated Windows users do the Monkey Boy dance in front of the neighbors

The mean streets of Linuxland are a tough beat to cover these days. There are two sides to every story here--and they're ready to beat one another to a pulp at the drop of a hat. Gangs of thugs roam the back alleys, kicking in doors, rifling through hard drives in the dead of night, making humiliated Windows users do the Monkey Boy dance in front of the neighbors.

Things are getting so bad that I vary my route to and from the office the morning after I write an opinion piece like this one.

And I work at home. Better safe than sorry.

Lately, I can't get through a break between naps without hearing about someone's brush with open-source oafdom. Ross Greenberg, a frequent contributor and long-time programmer, wandered into a Linux-related newsgroup a few weeks ago to get a sense of what people think about Linux security.

A short time later, he wandered back out , wishing he had worn asbestos underpants to this barbecue. His offense: Asking a question that included the words "Linux" and "security."

(Rumor has it that Ross is also armed to the teeth and a bit high-strung. He assures me, however, that I'm not on "the list," whatever the heck that is, so I see no cause for concern.)

And there are more distant but also more disturbing stories, such as the one involving Yankee Group analyst Laura DiDio. DiDio and her employers are, by many accounts, living proof that Microsoft finds research far more palatable when it's properly cooked. No matter: "60 Minutes" could produce seedy spy-camera footage of Gates and DiDio in ritual garb, sacrificing a chicken over a boxed copy of Windows XP--and it still wouldn't justify some poorly-socialized goon calling her at home to harass her about it.

This idiocy falls squarely into the realm of soccer-mom knife fights, Little League fathers who send one another to the emergency room over an umpire with an iffy strike zone, and Darl McBride deciding it would be a good idea to bet the farm on a wingnut lawsuit against the 16th largest company on earth.

Don't be like Darl, OK? One of that is enough.

Worse yet, even people who manage vital open-source projects, people who know it's a bad time for soap operas, just can't help themselves. I'lll admit: Once you learn more about what's behind the disagreement involving Linus Torvalds, Samba co-developer Andrew Tridgell, and Bitkeeper CEO Larry McVoy, it's clear there are real principles at stake on all sides, along with enough blame to thoroughly marinate everyone involved and still have enough to make gravy. But instead of ensuring that cooler heads and quiet diplomacy prevail (for the kids, guys!), this disagreement among friends got noisy enough to grab headlines in a UK tech-tabloid.

Until a few hours ago, if anyone told me I'd ever see the headline, Torvalds Knifes Tridgell, I'd hide their car keys, and then make sure they weren't drinking anything that potent all by themselves.

Now, I'm just waiting to wake up and find a severed penguin head staring back from beneath my bedsheets.

Matt McKenzie is the editor of Linux Pipeline.

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