Thursday, March 26, 2009

Linux: Finding the Crazies at the Asylum

A friend of mine who went to West Point told me that the ones who went bonkers were the ones who tried to justify everything. After many years, I've come to the conclusion that Linux serves the same purpose in the context of computer geeks.

So imagine you are running some school that churns out people that have the unhappy job of sending lots of young people off to be killed in horrible ways and you are trying to find all the ones who are completely bonkers out of this group. You don't want to completely remove such people, I mean as long as they get the job done you leave em alone, but you want to know who they are so that, at least most of the time, you don't leave them in charge of everything.

You're sitting there working on a migraine and are just about to reach for the bottle of spot remover when you remember cadet what's-his-name. He's the one that doesn't have a problem with the sort of insane discipline that this place arbitrarily flings at everyone, he wants more of it.

He doesn't feel that it's wrong at all. He thinks everything's just fine. Where many of the cadets might, for example, be biting their nails and wondering when the hell they can get out of this place, he's looking around with the face that says "This is it! I've found my home!"

The really interesting thing that I've found is that most of the people I've met who have been through places like West Point are nice, well balanced, caring people. Perhaps it's sort of like "now that I've gotten all that out of my system, I think I'll be sane for the rest of my life."

At any rate, I've noticed a similiarity with computer people.

There's one group of people who, having seen the total hell and insanity that is Linux, have decided that, you know, they really don't need any more of that crap in their lives. They are the ones that realizes that while computers can be interesting, at the end of the day they are tools created to help make things easier, not some sort of goal in and of themselves.

The other group are the ones with the crazy light in their eyes. They don't think that some weird, command-line approach to using a system is too difficult! It all makes sense! It's what real men use. What do you mean that some cryptic blather like

semanage fcontext -a -t samba_share_t "/var/eng(/.*)?"

Doesn't make sense? The only problem with Linux is that it's not complex enough!

In the mad, "conspiracy everywhere" part of my mind, I see these two things and say "Hmmm...maybe that's what Linux is for!" You expose a group of people to sheer perversity and madness that only technical people can create and weed out the really crazy ones because they actually like it. Once this is done, you keep them away from everything else so that there is some tiny chance that it will actually work.

The true beauty of it all is that you don't have to do anything to keep them away: you just keep them working on making it worse! One generation of nuts helps you find the next generation of whack-jobs...what could be better?

This, my friends, is what I think has happended with Linux.

What may have started as a means to create a free and high quality operating system has degenerated through cannibalism and madness to create a sort of crazy person proving ground. Those who enter the realm of Linux and come out, gibbering and scared, are to be embraced and fostered: they are the sane ones.

Those that stay in the labryinth, however, grinning madly and gesturing for the others to come back, they are the crazy ones. Keep them away. Let them play in their asylum, capering about to the cheers of their fellows. Let them occasionally flight their detritus, in the form of books with strange, vaguely disturbing pictures of animals on their covers at the rest of us. It is a small price to pay.

And it is every generation's duty to send the next generation through those crooked halls so that we will know which people we can trust, and which ones were lost before they ever set foot in the place.

Image "asylum for insane" by kwazar@flickr.com

3 comments:

Ben said...

What you have just said speaks to me. I've put in my time in silly programing languages like C++ and linux scares the crap out of me. Call me a draft-dodger. I think something like that exists in every realm of study. It gives the nuts something to feel hardcore about. In Literature, that thing is called "Chaucer". :-)

SandyCarlson said...

I enjoyed this very much. If only there were an easier way to find the nut cases.

Whatever said...

Ben: be afraid...be VERY afraid. But one day, the Great Programmer shall simplify the mess that is Linux; and revamp the healthcare system. Till then...

Sandy: The problem is that the difference between a nut and a genius is generally success. And you need hindsight to judge success :-)