November 28, 2000

Linux's Christmas is all in Santa's hands

Author: JT Smith

- by Tina Gasperson -
Do you remember this old song?: "He's makin' a list, and checkin' it twice, gonna find out who's naughty or nice, Santa Claus is comin' to town." You probably thought that song was just for little kids, but since we've already embued Linux with the human quality of "freeness," shouldn't Torvald's little nutcracker -- er kernel, be entitled to a few goodies from Santa at Christmastime? As long as Linux has been good, that is.

And while Newsforge wouldn't presume to know exactly what items are on the top 10 most desirable presents list for Linux, we have acquired the services of a keen little North Pole penguin who's been helping the old uber-elf keep an eye on Linux this year. We've received this exclusive report, direct from Santa's workshop, about the status of the upstart OS's behavior.

Before we divulge the contents of the report, let's get Santa's Open Source status straight. He's strictly a user. Sure, a number of the toymaking elves are rumored to moonlight as game developers, but when it comes to doling out holiday happiness, the big fat guy is in charge. So with his checklist in tow, Santa's looking for features like good GUI and easy hardware installation, quick bootup and a wide range of wallpaper choices -- things that a large percentage of the computer-using population consider important when it comes to operating systems.

First of all, how does Linux look? Has it been wearing clean, fashionable clothes, or is it still hanging around in wrinkled tee-shirts and jeans with holes in the crotch? Santa's little helper says that several Linux distributions are dressing spiffier than ever this year, especially the little rich kid, Red Hat, and his brother Mandrake. Santa gives a nice big checkmark to these two. (Cousin Corel also had potential, but just when things were starting to look up, it seems this distribution is about to have its inheritance yanked out from under it.)

When it comes to moving into a new house (like Santa's desktop system), does Linux play nicely? Santa's little helper says yes and no. Great strides have been made, especially on the rich side of the tracks, but sometimes Linux is still finicky about where it wants to live. Everything has to be just so -- and when it's not, Linux may or may not tell you what the problem is; it just sits down and refuses to budge. Santa says, no checkmark -- gotta work on this.

Does Linux share its toys? Well, Linux is climbing a learning curve when it comes to hardware support, and if you're on the down side of that, you probably think Linux needs a spanking. But you'd be in the minority, and Santa agrees that this is one OS that is trying to be generous. In an interesting but odd twist, sometimes the big boys won't let Linux share, so it's not necessarily its fault. Checkmark in this category for effort.

Many Linux fans have extolled the virtues of uptime and stability; Santa has heard these kudos, but doesn't take anyone's word for it. Unfortunately, Santa hasn't experienced the same level of un-crashiness that others have; in fact, he's beginning to think maybe it isn't the chilly North Pole climate that's causing all the big freezes on his system lately. Not only that, but Santa's Linux box has been known to hang on restart, just like the old Windows setup. Nothing like familiarity for breeding contempt. But Santa remains cheerful as he says, "No checkmark for you, little Linux. Try harder next time."

And in the "hard work" category, Linux also falls short. It will do only a limited number of chores, and while it does those very well, Santa has diverse needs and finds himself yearning for the smorgasbord-like availability of applications that Windows provides. "But there are ways to gain access to those programs with Linux," some would say. Santa says yes, but it's a long and winding road, and he wants instant productivity. No checkmark.

But when it comes to cooperation, it's no surprise that Linux gets the big A+. With Linux's great attitude toward teamwork, and its willingness to bare its source, Santa is so pleased with this aspect of Linux's character (even though it's not immediately apparent to him what the benefit is), that he's willing to give two checkmarks. Santa also gives checkmarks for the efficient use of resources which make his system run so much faster (most of the time), the low price (read "free" ever since Santa picked up a CD-RW drive), and mostly, just because Santa likes Linux, and we all know Santa is the boss.

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