October 26, 2000

The Linux-coolness meter

Author: JT Smith

By Emmett Plant
NewsForge Columnist

Speaking of GNU/Linux

You know, when you think you're the master of your domain, you set
yourself up for a fall. I've been working with Linux for a few years now,
and I've got Linux on my laptop, I don't even own (or run) a copy of
Windows on any of my machines. I'm super-cool. My friends and relatives
are amazed at how cool Linux is by the nifty stuff I show them. I wasn't
ready for my friend Mike to whip out his laptop and show me things that
would knock me down a few pegs on my own Linux-coolness meter.Mike and I work on Linux.com, another Web site in the OSDN conglomerate of
Linux news and information sites. I'm officially Mike's boss; I'm the
editor-in-chief and he works "underneath" me in the Format section of the
editorial department. As I write this, we're sharing a hotel room in Atlanta,

We're not here because we're consummating an internet relationship. I'm
straight (sorry, guys) and married (sorry, ladies), after all. We're here
to cover the Atlanta Linux Showcase for Linux.com. Management likes to cut
costs, so we're rooming together. Contrary to the rumors circulated by San
"Nettwerk" Mehat, I don't snore. It was a case of mistaken identity, and
San has apolgized. Doesn't matter; if Mike snores, I doubt it will keep me
up. I can sleep through anything.

So, anyway, back to Mike kicking my ass on the Linux cool-o-meter. After
about 30 seconds, Mike is playing Spaceballs on his laptop. He says,
"This is really cool, check this out." Mike slams a few keys, and boom,
we've got the trailer for The Matrix playing in full-screen. Okay, okay,
big deal. People can play movies using Linux. Though I've never done it
myself (short battery life on the laptop, just not enough time at home), I
was aware that it was going on. Still, talking about it isn't as
impressive as seeing it first-hand.

Okay, so then Mike starts playing with his Palm, and he hotsyncs it using
the IR on his laptop. Neat. I gave away my Palm III years ago to someone
who could actually use it; it was useless to me. I'm not in sales or
anything like that. I can forgive a cell phone and mp3 player on my belt,
but I already had more free RAM on my belt than the Apollo missions. Never
saw it sync with IR before. Neat!

Then Mike decides to kick back a little bit and play some games on his
laptop. Not the games ported by Loki. Mike starts playing some old Super
Nintendo games on his Linux laptop in emulation. Again, I was aware of the
technology, but it's just not as cool when you see it first-hand. I got to
see Yoshi's Island, Killer Instinct and the Super Mario All-Stars games. I
know there's a certain amount of legality here, but I'm pretty sure that
Mike actually owns the original copies of those games in cartridge form
somewhere in his house.

I guess the thing here is that I was really surprised at the level of
coolness that Linux can bring to the desktop. I felt like one of those
silly managers that's blown away by his employee's Nifty Thing. I hope I
never have my finger on the pulse of Linux. I know, I'm a writer. It's my
job to stay on top of the hip-and-trendy. I really like to be surprised
sometimes, too.

Movies? Videogames? Not a viable desktop operating system? Try a new
argument. Okay, okay, we're not there yet, and we're getting there soon,
and we're really not ready for the desktop yet. But how much longer can
Windows users say we're not ready? Things are changing, and fast. I'm
wondering how long it will be until the argument is, "Well, it was started
by that Finnish lad, and you know what they say about the


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