This is an archived post from October 2005. It is one of my more whimsical entries, but it does have aserious intent.
The recent National Geographic film, March
of the Penguins, has generated a tremendous amount
of controversy: an avalanche of deconstructionism that surely was not
intended by its creator. It seems that the controversy
started when Micheal Medved claimed, in an NYT interview,
that MOTP is “the motion picture this summer that most passionately
affirms traditional norms”. Andrew Sullivan was quick with a rejoinder,
pointing out that some penguins have been observed to engage in
homosexual behavior. Others pointed out that some
penguins engage in a form of prostitution.
Maggie Gallagher jumped in (1
when it turned out that some penguins in zoos that previously had been
reported to be homosexual, later started to engage in heterosexual
I am not sure how the disclosure that the penguins are in fact
bisexual, rather than homosexual, was supposed to salvage the point
made by the Christian conservatives, but that did appear to be their
line of argument. Many bloggers and editorialists joined in
the fray. (1
Having an entire Saturday to consider this issue, I realize now that
all of these commentators are missing the point completely.
You see, there is a whole nother (another whole) group of penguins, on
an entirely different kind of march…and these blokes won’t stop for
anything…not even global warming. And the lesson they
teach, about the controversy over evolution vs. creation, is
far more profound.
offers “open source ready”
Dell today announced that it is reacting to
“growing consumer demand for open source ready” computers and now
offers a version of its n510-series desktop PC that ships with an empty
harddrive and a FreeDOS disc. Read more…
Serpro: Migration to Open Source Complete by Year-End
October 14, 2005
an in-development open source version of BeOS, now has its first
full-time paid employee. Axel Dorfler, famed for his rapid work on the
kernel and other low-level Haiku components, announced
that donations to the project will help him to work full-time on the
code until the end of November. He has started a blog with
Haiku is a hugely promising open source desktop OS, and you can find it
on issue 72’s cover DVD. The project’s website is outdated in places;
you can find recent screenshots on BUG-NORDIC.
OpenOffice.org team has postponed the expected release of version 2 of
the pioneering open source office suite due to the discovery of a ‘show
stopping bug.’ The plan was to unleash the software today (Oct 13th) to
commemorate the fifth anniversary of the project’s founding.
It’s likely that the third release candidate will be made available
tomorrow. The bug in question results in incorrect attributes being
applied to graphics when saved in the .odt format; it was fixed
quickly, but the developers say a new RC is a sensible precaution.
The official version 2.0 should be out before the end of next week.
LQ ISO Linux
Download Site Reaches One Million Downloads
on Wed 24 Aug 2005, 11:24 AM
From our recent press release:
LinuxQuestions.org is proud to announce that LQ
has now facilitated over 1,000,000 Linux downloads. Founded in August
of 2004, LQ ISO allows users to find and rate fast local download
mirrors. The site currently allows you to download almost 120 different
Linux distributions from over 430 different mirrors. The site now
utilizes GEO IP data to help you find the fastest local download mirror.
course I could go on and on, but you get the point.
Open-source software is on the march, with Linux leading the
way. From its humble beginnings as an alternative to Unix,
Linux has evolved to the point that it is a serious threat to Microsoft
Another threat to Microsoft is that posed by the open-source
applications: Firefox, Thunderbird, and OpenOffice. Linux
itself is probably in the same position as Windows 3.1 was, with
respect to usability by novices. That is, it is perfectly
intuitive to use, but it is easy to break if you mess around very much.
If you try to optimize it, add weird software, or use exotic
hardware configurations, you can run into problems. If all
you do is wordprocessing, web browsing, and email, you’ll be fine.
Notice, though, that those three applications are all that
most people ever do with their computers. And there are
full-featured, readily-usable programs that are available freely, for
those three functions.
Speaking of the humble origins of Linux, there has arisen considerable
debate about the its origins. Several creation myths have
been documented (see: Was
Linux Forged in Mordor? and An
Out of this World Theory). The fact, that mutually
contradictory myths exist, raises the question: Was Linux created, or
did it evolve? If it evolved, did it evolve randomly, or was
there a Guiding Hand, or Guiding Appendage?
who believe it was created tend to argue that there is nothing else
like it in the natural world. Ordinary star-stuff consists of
matter and energy. But Linux transcends those mere things.
It consists of intellectual property, which is neither matter
nor energy. In fact, no one can really define exactly
is. The courts say that, even though nobody knows exactly how
to define it, they know it when they see it. I suppose that
if the explanation is good enough for the Supreme Court, it should be
good enough for the rest of us. But serious theologians are
not satisfied with SCOTUS. They believe that when something
cannot be defined, it must be evidence of a higher power.
who believe Linux evolved point to the numerous animal-like features
found in close association with
Linux. They say that close examination of its code base
reveals similarities to the genetic code. Information
theorists talk about the similarity between the four-base system (GATC)
in DNA, and the hexadecimal (base-16) system in Linux. This,
obviously, implies that Linux is more highly evolved than humans.
of the evolutionary theory also point to the rapid change that occurs
in successive generations of Linux. New forms
appear all the time. Studies have shown that all of these
forms share a great deal of common
sequences in their code, with just a few important differences.
Within each species, the code usually changes gradually.
Every once in a while, however, there is a sudden, massive
shift in the code. When this happens, important new
capabilities arise, as if by magic.
The creationists point to the sudden, seemingly-magical appearance of whole new chunks of code,
with the accompanying new features, as evidence of a creator.
They do not see how little chucks of code, that serve no purpose by themselves, could
arise by random chance. Even if they serve some clear purpose
how could the individual sequences come into being? The
answer, of course, is that the process is not random.
There are elements of randomness, but the process as a whole
is structured. New code sequences are tried in various environments,
and if they turn out to be helpful, they are incorporated into the
whole. If they turn out to be harmful or useless, they do not
appear in the finished product. However, if they are harmful
or useless, the sequences themselves often are kept in reserve
somewhere, in case they turn out to be useful at a later date.
Sometimes, the useless chunks undergo further modification
to make them useful.
Novices are likely to be perplexed by this debate, given all the
complexities involved. In actual practice, most people just
take a superficial look at the technical stuff, then make a decision
based on their gut instinct. They decide that the explanation
that sounds right, must be right. With so many creation myths
to choose from, such an approach is understandable. Sloppy,
who would like to experience wonder and mystical qualities the real
March of the Penguins should download a copy of Knoppix here.
Burn the ISO image to a CD or DVD (depending on which image
you get) and boot it. You will need a PC that can boot from
the optical drive. Watch as it boots, detects your hardware,
and launches the operating system. It really does seem like
magic. Do this every six months or so, and watch as the
system evolves to adapt to the changes in the computer environment.
You will become a believer, I guarantee it. A
believer in what, I do not know, but you will be a believer.