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Tuesday
Open Source People

Author: JT Smith

By: Julie Bresnick
Nude on the cover: One man’s heroic effort to keep the Open in Open Source

Nude on the cover: One man’s heroic effort to keep the Open in Open Source

***Disclaimer: Any connotations readers interpret to be
inferred by descriptive verbs and/or adjectives, and any double
entendres or slips that may appear to be designed by Freud,
are unintentional and not to be attributed to this
publication — or to the writer, for that matter.***

You’ve seen the picture, read the articles, heard the
heated debates. Now meet the man on the
cover.

The July 2000 issue of Linux Journal included a
supplement
dedicated to Python,
“an interpreted, interactive, object-oriented programming
language” developed openly. It was an informative compilation
of well-written articles by the reputable likes of Eric
Raymond and Python’s original author, Guido van Rossum. But
for many it wasn’t about the wisdom or the technical prowess
communicated within its pages. For the feverish few, it was
about nothing but the supplement’s cover.

Maybe Python sounds familiar to you. Maybe it brings to
your mind images of knights that go nee. Are you, perhaps,
suddenly seized by an urgent feeling to determine your
favorite color? If so, you’re probably a lot like van Rossum
himself, who has dedicated many a brain cell to studying lines
from the original series, “Monty Python’s Flying Circus.”

It was with these origins in mind that Linux Journal
created a cover recreating a scene from the celebrated
troupe’s esteemed repertoire. They sat a man, naked, at a
computer in an open field by the ocean. A playful portrayal?
Perhaps. Or an insider’s joke gone awry? Here’s the man
behind the shot. Feel free to judge, everybody else has.

His name is Jason Schumaker and he’s assistant editor at
Linux Journal. He’s not a programmer, he confesses, “just a
Python poser.” He figured if he couldn’t actually fix code,
by golly, he was going to help perpetuate the Open Source
paradigm in any way he could.

So he did. What he got in return was a good old
fashioned scandal, a slew of vituperative responses calling the act
“obscene,” “offensive,” and — gasp — gay.

Just a simple staffer at a burgeoning young publication
caught in the crossfire between the humorless masses and
those that compensate for the creative void they incur.

I recently got a chance to speak with Jason, to get
behind the image, to probe the personality, to get to the gut
of a real life exhibitionist. I learned that he’s more than
just another man with a tendency to take his clothes off,
he’s a human being. He doesn’t dance on weekends or do
private parties. He’s like any other 29-year-old
trying to navigate the seas of today’s world without losing his
soul.

Some think that’s exactly what he did when he agreed to
participate in the cover photograph, sold his soul to the
devil. But this is not a simple story of corruption, of
good versus evil, it’s a love story. He was propelled by his
affection for the Open Source community that has enabled
him to maintain his idealism in the face of the modern-day
marketplace.

In Linux he’s found a professional community with
spirit, energy, wit; characteristics clearly lacking in a large
number of its contemporaries. He arrived at LJ (Linux
Journal) as an advertising coordinator and moved into the editorial department
after a few months. But words are not the only thing he
learned to control.

I asked him if being comfortable without any clothes on
was something he’d simply continued since childhood. He
confessed that perhaps he wasn’t all that comfortable and
philosophized further about what fostered such a bold act.

“It’s all about confidence and being comfortable with
how you view yourself. The raising of my confidence is recent
— about the last two years, which is the same amount of
time I have worked with Linux and Linux Journal. This is not
a coincidence. One of the
seldom discussed ‘pros’ of using Linux (for an extended
period of time) is that it forces a person to be more
self-sufficient, to learn things about a computer that
the average Windows or Macintosh user takes for granted.
Working with Linux has given me a certain power over my
computer that I never had before. This power has translated into
confidence, which helps me to be OK with having my
naked body appear on the cover of 75,000 magazines.”

This is a revealing suggestion that takes the Open
Source precedent from the social sphere into the private. A
society is only as promising as the sum of its parts.
Knowledge is power and the more individuals understand about the
tools they use every day the more capable they are of
participating effectively and with flair.

He says sometimes he thinks he “just took the ‘open’ in
Open Source a bit too literally.” I think it was the four
years at parochial school. But either way it was about more
than broadcasting his bare bum.

He doesn’t even play volleyball or
tennis in the nude. Of course, he doesn’t play all that
much volleyball or tennis, but he does play a lot of softball
and basketball, and he doesn’t do those naked either,
usually. And the closest his naked behind got to the pool table
was when he entered his local haunt and noticed the
supplement cover by the bar propped up against a pitcher of Pabst.
His face turned bright red, he stepped outside, took a
breather and re-entered ready to face the heckling crowd.

He didn’t just participate for the free Ahi Ahi at the
lunch that followed the shoot either, and the shots of Jack
Daniels he required beforehand certainly revealed a little apprehension.
Famous for a day, a week, a month or two, maybe for
eternity in the minds of a few, or in the minds of many; he was
merely motivated by a desire to spread the word. His only
hope is that his sacrifice helps to keep the “open” genuinely
attached to more than just “source.”

“Linux came with the job [the editorial job, not the
‘modeling’ one],” Jason says. “I was oblivious to this wonderful community!
I’ve learned quite a bit about computers and the tech world
and I’ve learned that people CAN be good natured and
caring.

“Those that said it [the cover] was unprofessional
tended to be referring to receiving the magazine at work. They
argued that having a naked person on the cover of a Linux
magazine wasn’t helping them sell Linux to their
bosses/company. I guess I understand that but … We didn’t intend the
shot to look sexual and I don’t think that it does.”

When bikinis first came out a lot of people thought
that kind of “open” was no good too. In the economic sphere
people are afraid of the “open” part because it was
previously clothed — uh, I mean closed. Big business was hesitant
too, and look at the growing popularity of Linux users there.
And look what happened to dear Jason Schumaker when he got
infected with the Linux spirit: He felt so liberated that he
took of all his clothes.

The bottom line is, “selling” Linux is not about having
a pretty package (disclaimer, disclaimer, disclaimer), it’s
about quality.

His efforts, and the efforts of the LJ editorial minds
behind the cover did an even more important service than
anticipated. They weeded out those not yet ready for the
revolution. I, for one, want to thank them all, and most of all,
Jason.

Let’s just hope Jason’s mother agrees.

Category:

  • News

“What if computers get too smart?” asks ABCNews.com

Author: JT Smith

Jack Smith writes: “Here at the start of the new millennium, technology seems poised both to extend human life and to enrich it in ways we can now only imagine. But the future may not be this rosy.”

Category:

  • Linux

“I am hot 4 U, Napster,” says Prince

Author: JT Smith

ABCNews.com reports that Prince is “excited” about Napster. Hey, just how excited is he? Might be interesting to see how the former self-proclaimed slave of Time-Warner records exploits the possibilities.

Just us two, say AOL and Time Warner

Author: JT Smith

The FCC is asking whether AT&T will carry AOL’s Internet service and whether Time Warner’s cable system will carry AT&T local-phone service, Bloomberg News reported.

Category:

  • Open Source

Geek cruises are a reality with jaunts to Alaska

Author: JT Smith

The inaugural Geek Cruise combined a seven-night trip to Alaska with intensive courses from Perl language notables such as Randal Schwartz and Larry Wall. Read about it at CNET.com.

Category:

  • Linux

Augustin likes his customers sticky

Author: JT Smith

CNET staffer Stephen Shankland snagged a few minutes with VA Linux head man Larry Augustin to talk about his views on selling Linux systems.

Category:

  • Open Source

AOL for Linux – can you say oxymoron? USED TUESDAY GG

Author: JT Smith

According to a report from CNET.com, AOL has created a Linux version of its popular online software. The software, named Gamera, was snagged by techpages.com.

Sega plans to hit the Web with gaming service

Author: JT Smith

Under the planned agreement with Gigamedia, Inc., the venture in its first year of operation is projected to top US$35 million in online gaming revenue, according to this Reuters report.

The Linux IPO and Acquisition Arena: Who is Next?

Author: JT Smith

Vavra and Associates put together this report that speculates about the future of acquisitions and consolidations in the land of Linux.

Category:

  • Linux

Peering into the future of Open Source

Author: JT Smith

By Tina Gasperson
News Editor

Got a crystal ball? Trying to pin down the future of any movement in the high-tech industry is a risky proposition. The amount of change and the number of innovations in the last decade alone borders on mind-boggling. With Open Source, the problem multiplies because there is no blueprint to follow — only the whims of a randomly created community. It’s true that there’s no group consensus, but for Open Source, these aspirations loom large on the horizon: improvement of relationships with corporate America, and deepening of already established roots in the scientific community.

Talking nice to the big guys

At any given moment on the Internet, there are petition drives, letter writing campaigns, and even contests to see who can pen the most enticing missive to the creators of our favorite Linux-impaired applications. The debate rages on between the “liberals,” who want to flame them and shame them into paying attention to the open source community, and the “conservatives,” who, while not exactly embracing big business and corporate cost centers, still see the merits of convincing companies that Linux users are a sane, decent lot — and a community that, if maybe not quite sufficient in numbers to make a difference in the bottom line today, is rapidly progressing in that direction.

“I think the biggest change we’ll see over the next two to three years is that the open source community and corporations will begin interacting more,” says Mike Shaver, former Open Source evangelist at mozilla.org, and currently chief software officer at Zero-Knowledge Systems, a privacy and identity management company located in Montreal. “The community has traditionally been anti-commercial, but both sides are starting to realize that they can extend their reach this way. And the corporations are seeing that this way of making software makes a lot of sense.”

Open Source science

Already a familiar sight in many science labs at colleges around the country, Linux is making further inroads in the bleeding-edge scientific community because its flexibility and multi-user capability make it easy to develop the applications necessary to carry out complex experiments. One such project is at the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, where researchers are mapping lightning activity in spatial dimensions and in time. Linux, running on a bunch of cheap PCs, is the backbone of the entire operation.

According to an article in the July 2000 issue of the Linux Journal, written by NM Tech Graduate Student Timothy Hamlin, the project would be impossible if not for the flexibility and stability of Linux. Says Hamlin, “Show me a Windows box that can run for nearly a year, network constantly, and archive over 100GB of data without so much as a hiccup!”

Because of this characteristic strength, stability, and longevity, look for Linux to show up in more and more new and advancing technology, like wearable computers. Have you seen the GNU/Linux videophone wristwatch yet? This ordinary-looking watch has a screen that can display 640×480, 24 bit color, and outputs live video images using XF86. The creators are still working out some issues with the watch — specifically dealing with user input on such a tiny interface.

One of the most ambitious and futuristic projects underway is the ENGwear project, at the Humanistic Intelligence Lab in the University of Toronto. ENGwear is a GNU project that “uses the Internet as the most powerful, openly accessible medium of today by tapping into the mind’s eye, allowing individuals to record live, relevant content, and broadcast their message to the world.” Sounds rather esoteric today, but look for this intuitive, wearable technology to become commonplace in the next five to 10 years.

Category:

  • Open Source