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To Linux, On Your 17th Birthday

Happy birthday, Big L. Now that you're old enough to get into an R-rated movie without an adult guardian, here's a little heart-to-heart from someone who's been watching you grow up.

Happy birthday, Big L. Now that you're old enough to get into an R-rated movie without an adult guardian, here's a little heart-to-heart from someone who's been watching you grow up.

You're a pretty cocky kid, and that's not a bad thing. You play by your own rules, and what's funny is that you've gotten more than a few people to join you. You've managed to get involved in a lot of things: phones, media players, embedded devices, thin clients, headless servers -- and oh, yeah, the occasional desktop computer as well. Pretty good going.

Thing is, you have this itch about authority. It's something I love, but I gotta say, it drives me crazy sometimes. You're worried that someone bigger than you is going to come along and make you into something you're not. You think that because you work with a bunch of guys in suits, you'll end up like them? Not gonna happen.

Now, you might find yourself in a position or two where you're not doing what you want, but I know you. You don't put up with stuff like that for long. When someone hems you in, you say "The heck with this," and move on. That's fine. Just don't forget that even a lousy boss can teach you a few good things, even if he isn't trying.

Still, if someone, like one of those bosses, says, "You need to be more accommodating," that's not about you; that's about your behavior. You're a great guy, under it all, but if we need to wade through a lot of junk to find out about it, it's not going to help. You can't keep everyone at arm's length and then turn around and expect them to give you just what you want (or need) when you're in a jam. It works both ways.

You're surrounded by a lot of friends who think the same way. And while it's great for you to all hang out together, someday you're gonna have to go and deal with the rest of the world. It's already started to happen -- in fact, you're already doing some pretty serious work along with those friends of yours. But you can't do these new things in the same old ways, and I think you know that already. You're not happy about it, sure, but nobody said you had to be happy about everything.

I get the impression you feel like you have to choose between one of three things. You can make everyone happy; you can make the right people happy; or you can make yourself happy. As crazy as this is gonna sound, you can do all of these things; you just can't do them all at once.

Here's how it works. First, you deal with yourself. You get your own house in order as much as you can, and make sure that you're not laying traps for yourself. Then you can turn to the people nearest you and wow 'em; they'll be all the more impressed with you. Then they'll turn to everyone they know and say, "Hey, you remember this guy? Yeah, he was a messy kid, but you should see him now." Everything after that is pretty much gravy. Maybe you can't make everyone happy yourself, but you can sure help out.

So there you have it. When you turn 21, though, I'm betting we'll have a really interesting discussion.