Linux: It’s Everywhere and Nowhere

Linux is Nowhere

Yet nobody talks about it. It’s almost as if it doesn’t exist. Again, I would not be surprised if for many of my blog readers, due to the intended target audience of this blog, are hearing about Linux for the first time right here. I would put money down that more people have used a Linux-based system than have even the faintest notion of what it is.

In some cases, it has even become taboo to use the word. In some industries the word brings up notions of incompatibility, tedious installation, difficult maintenance and the dreaded command line interface. Or it may be because it is simply not the word, “Windows.” In a recent radio interview, the CEO of a company releasing a Linux-based product commented, “I don’t like the using the word ‘Linux’ on a radio” (source: PC Pro. There are also accounts from bloggers, with more time to research than me, of larger companies being hesitant to advertise that their products use Linux (source: Computer World).

As if taboo were not enough to prevent discussion, Linux itself hinders discussion by simply getting the job done, doing it well, and not advertising the fact. By being able to customize Linux so extensively, a company is able to custom-tailor solutions that just work. Linux becomes dependable infrastructure, and to take on an old analogy, when buying a house, realtors do not try to sway you with the sexiness of the plumbing and its amazing utilization of the principles of gravity. No. Instead, you ask, “Does the plumbing work?” and the realtor says yes or no. Plumbing just works and that is all that matters. In, “mission critical,” applications of computer software you don’t ask how it works or what it’s doing, you just ask, “Does it work?” Sometimes it is possible to be too good for your own good.

Therefore Linux is nowhere, but it is not the nowhere that does not exist, rather it is the elephant in the room, the elephant that is very much present but nobody wants to talk about. The caveat to that is that in this case not everybody in the room even knows what an elephant is. Even if people wanted to, they would be unable to discuss it. Where do you even begin? “Oh, I was curious, what operating system does my TiVo use?” With the exception of maybe a dinner-party of plumbers, how much dinner-time conversation revolves around the internal waterworks of your humble abode.

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