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[humorix] Ask Humorix: Tell Me the Future [long]

Ask Humorix: Tell Me the Future
July 13, 1999

Anonymous Coward wants to know, "Recently there's been a
lot of speculation about the future of Linux: will it
achieve world domination, will it be squashed like a bug
under the Microsoft marketing machine, or will it lose its
soul to corporate interests and then flounder miserably? 
What kind of future do you predict for Linux, open source
software, and the nerd community in general?"

Unfortunately, the Humorix Oracle is currently on vacation
in some alternate dimension.  In his absense, the Humorix
staff decided to organize a panel discussion consisting of
fortune tellers with Linux experience. The following people
made the trip to Humorix World Headquarters to participate
in our informal panel discussion:

- Starla Jones, owner of the Main Street Mysticism Temple
  in Keokuk, WI

- Bob Grimaldi, fortune teller who successfully ported
  Linux to run on his crystal ball

- Madam Cosmos, founder of the 1-900-SIGH-KIK soothsaying

- Jon Splatz, Humorix's pundit and social commentator.

A condensed transcript of the event is attached below.

MODERATOR: Well, I suppose we should start off with the
father of the free software movement, Richard M. Stallman.
What do you all think the future holds for him?

STARLA JONES: Stallman's radical views about software will
further alienate him from the rest of the community he
helped to create.  He will slowly lose his mind as other
leaders gang up against him.  There's going to be quite a
bit of tension surrounding RMS, especially at upcoming
Linux conventions...

BOB GRIMALDI: Indeed.  At the next Atlanta Linux Showcase,
RMS will get worked up about a clueless reporter who said
"Linux" instead of "GNU/Linux".  The whole convention hall
will get eerily quiet as RMS starts into one of his
lectures about freedom and the evils of proprietary
software.   Tim O'Reilly and Eric Raymond, acting like
parents upset that their child is throwing a tantrum in
public, will sneak up behind RMS, shove him into a handy
Oriental rug, and dump him outside.  "Crazy Uncle Stallman"
will literally be swept under the rug.

MADAM COSMOS: What kind of stupid prediction is that? 
Microsoft Bob could foretell the future better than that. 
Your crystal ball must be running Windows 98...

BOB GRIMALDI: Hey!  My crystal ball is running Red Hat 6.0!

MADAM COSMOS: I predict a promising future for RMS.  The
Vatican Church will upgrade its computer systems to
"morally pure" GNU software, saving a vast amount of money
in the process.  As a result, the Pope will canonize RMS as
the "Saint of Free Software". As such, "Crazy Uncle
Stallman" will become "Respected Saint Stallman".

JON SPLATZ: I haven't heard a single prognostication that
sounds half-way reasonable.  

MODERATOR: Enough!  Let's move on to something else,
Slashdot. What's in store for everyone's favorite geek
watering hole?

JON SPLATZ: Everyone's favorite?  Yeah, right.  Slashdot is
getting too big; it won't be able to cope.  I expect a
"site fork" within the coming months, with a group of
disgruntled ex-Dotheads forming a renegade "News for Real
Nerds" site.  Maybe they'll call it Alterdot, or Crashdot,
or SlashDONT.  

MADAM COSMOS: I see a similar future.  People will start to
think of Slashdot as the Microsoft of the geek community; 
it's an oversized monopoly that dominates the entire "News
for Nerds" market.  The site crashes a lot, just like
Windows.  Its underlying HTML is bloated and
not-quite-standard, just like Windows.  

An "Anything But Slashdot" campaign will mount, and
alternative geek news sites will form, all with GPL'd
content preventing another evil Slashdot Monopoly from

BOB GRIMALDI: Hey, Madam Cosmos, if that is your real name,
why are you so anti-Slashdot?  Based on your "prediction",
it almost seems like you want Slashdot to fail.  I think
you're the one with the broken crystal ball.

No, I see a rosy future in store for Slashdot and Taco
Boy.  Slashdot will set the de facto standard in "new
media" websites, with Rob Malda giving seminars worldwide
about online journalism. In addition, thanks to an
unprecedented write-in campaign led by a group of Dotheads,
Paramount will cast Rob Malda as Wesley Crusher in the new
Star Trek movie "The Rednecks Generation".

STARLA JONES: Wait a minute, I don't think so.  Slashdot
can't retain its non-profit roots forever; eventually the
Suits are going to come in and turn it into yet another
portal website.  I foresee Slashdot being sold to a media
company Real Soon Now, probably Ziff-Davis or Andover

MODERATOR: Uh... Slashdot _was_ sold to Andover News a
couple of weeks ago. 

STARLA JONES: Oh.  Well, I've been on vacation, so you
can't blame me for not following everything.  Still, this
just shows that I have the psychic ability to forecast the
future _and_ the past.  I predicted something that already
happened, right?  Isn't that worth something?

MODERATOR: Moving on... What about Linux?  Will it achieve
World Domination?

(Madam Cosmos starts humming the theme to the "Pinky and
the Brain" cartoon.)

STARLA JONES: Two words... Microsoft Linux.  

BOB GRIMALDI: I'm not entirely convinced that Microsoft
will pull an "embrace-and-smother" strategy on Open Source,
but it would fit their profile.  From what I've heard, Bill
Gates' personal mantra is:

"If it moves, crush it.  If it keeps moving, acquire it.  
If it stops moving, claim victory and focus on something

MADAM COSMOS: Enough with the Microsoft bashing.  I think
Linux will achieve World Domination... or at least World

BOB GRIMALDI: I agree; I don't see how Linux could fail.  I
think the next big innovation for Linux will be automatic
software updates via TV airwaves...


BOB GRIMALDI: Let me finish!  There's plenty of extra
bandwidth available on over-the-air TV broadcasts.  Instead
of going off the air overnight, PBS stations could
broadcast the contents of an entire Red Hat 6.0 distro. 
Computers equipped with TV-to-ASCII expansion boards could
decode the broadcast, and burn the resulting data onto a
CD-ROM.  Then people with little or no decent Net access
could obtain Linux without shelling out US$80 for
shrink-wrapped Red Hat.

JON SPLATZ: That's insane!  What next?  A free copy of Red
Hat included in selected boxes of Cocoa-Bombs(tm) cereal? 
A free copy of SuSE included with selected cases of
imported German beer? This is ludicrous.

MADAM COSMOS: Don't dismiss Bob's idea.  There's nothing
worthwhile on network TV anyways, so if it's possible to
broadcast Linux to the masses, then it's a good idea.  Some
nerd will figure out how, don't worry about that.

STARLA JONES: But what about Microsoft?  If this
software-by-air scheme is technologically possible, you can
bet Microsoft has already acquired a company that's
developed the tools to do it. I can see the ads now: "Watch
the SeeBS Evening News With Dan Blather with your MS
ActiveTV(tm) set and you'll automatically receive the
latest copy of Internet Explorer 7 for free!"

BOB GRIMALDI: You know, I hadn't thought about that.  Maybe
I shouldn't have mentioned it.

JON SPLATZ: I have a better prediction for Linux: the
formation of a worldwide "Geek Disunion".  Geeks will band
together into a decentralized, non-hierarchal organization
to promote Geek Interests(tm), one which is the adoption of
Open Source Software. Linux advocacy will turn into a
wide-scale revolution against Software That Sucks (read:

MADAM COSMOS: As I recall, there was a horribly outcry
against Geek Unions recently on Slashdot.  Considering the
flare of emotions, it should be illegal to yell "union!" in
a crowded Slashdot discussion thread.

JON SPLATZ: I'm not talking about traditional labor unions
led by corrupt fatcats who make secret deals in
smoke-filled rooms.  I'm talking about an extension of the
Open Source community by geeks for geeks to solve geek

Got problems getting a date?  The Geek Disunion can help. 
Got a problem with a Human Resource weasel who insists on
Word format resumes only?  The Geek Disunion can help.  Got
a problem with your neighorhood telco monopoly that refuses
to offer broad-band Net access?  The Geek Disuion can
help.  Got a local yokel state representative who wants to
force people to obtain licenses before they can access the
Net?  The Geek Disunion can help.

With such an organization, Linux couldn't fail.  Businesses
would be afraid to "upgrade" to Windows NT/2000 because
their best geeks would call in sick or quit.  

BOB GRIMALDI: In your dreams.  That's a stupid idea.

MODERATOR: Next topic... Linux stocks.  What will happen to
Open Source as it comes face-to-face with Wall Street?

STARLA JONES: Well, Open Source is a proven development
model that produces quality software.  Linux is the media
darling right now, and everybody is talking about Open

For those reasons, I expect Open Source stocks to fail


STARLA JONES: If the past couple of years are any
indication, Wall Street has an infatuation with companies
that don't have a realistic chance of earning a profit. 
eBay? Amazon?  TheGlobe.com?  Get real.  Wall Street hates
sensible stocks. Red Hat, VA Linux, Cygnus, and SuSE are
all sensible stocks -- which means they'll be passed up in
favor of some other mediocre company that's operated out of
some guy's basement and has no business model...

MODERATOR: Like Humorix?  The IPO is coming up on July
26th, NASDAQ ticker symbol FAKE...

JON SPLATZ: Indeed.  I expect Humorix's stock to enter the

BOB GRIMALDI: Wait a minute!  Doesn't the SEC have
regulations that prohibit employees of an IPO-bound company
from speaking about the stock?  

JON SPLATZ: SEC, shmec.  Who cares?  I predict Humorix will
have one of the most successful IPOs in the history of Wall
Street. It will, after all, be the first IPO of a
Linux-related company. The fact that I'm entitled to stock
options does not in any way bias my prediction.

BOB GRIMALDI: Yeah, right.  The only thing I'm going to
invest in is an upgraded crystal ball.  

MODERATOR: Let's wrap this discussion up: What about
Redmond?  What's in store for Microsoft?

STARLA JONES: Tourism.  That's right, in the coming years
Microsoft and the local Chamber of Commerce will attempt to
turn Redmond into the "Vacation Capitol of East-Central
Washington State".  

JON SPLATZ: What kinds of tourist attractions are they
going to offer?  A skyscraper that holds the world record
for the most number of windows?  A modern art sculpture of
Bill Gates made entirely out of discarded Microsoft

STARLA JONES: No, no, no!  Think Disneyland, but with
Mickey Mouse replaced by Clippit the Dancing Paper Clip.  I
foresee Microsoft constructing an "Innovation World" theme
park near Redmond.

They'll be a "Blue Screen of Death" rollercoaster that
crashes in the middle of the ride, leaving passengers
upside down for a few seconds.  They'll be a "Kangaroo
Court" live action drama that depicts the DOJ antitrust
trial (obviously biased in favor of Microsoft). They'll be
parades featuring Clippit, the Internet Explorer "e" logo,
the ActiMates Barney Stuffed Dinosaur, and other "lovable"
Microsoft characters that will travel through the park on a
boulevard called "Microsoft Way"...

BOB GRIMALDI: Meanwhile, other localities will try to
capitalize on Microsoft.  New Mexico will establish a
"Birth of a Monopoly State Park" near the original site of
Micro-soft's offices in Albuquerque.  Historical markers
will be erected where Bill Gates was pulled over for
speeding during the 70's.

MADAM COSMOS: Linux will help tourism, too.  Dothan,
Alabama will erect a monument at the location of the first
known yard sale where a Linux CD was bought.  California
will erect a sign that says "This historical marker in not
here yet" in front of Transmeta's offices.  And needless to
say, Raleigh-Durham will try to cash in on being the
hometown of Red Hat Software.

JON SPLATZ: Let's not forget about the Microsoft offices in
Foster City, CA where the first Windows Refund protest took
place. I'm sure somebody will build a gift shop
commemorating the event.  "Buy your very own replica
Obi-Wan Kenobi costume wore by Eric S. Raymond during the
historical Windows Refund protest!  Only $49.95!"

MODERATOR: I think I've heard enough tourism ideas.  Any
final thoughts before we end this discussion?

BOB GRIMALDI: Linux rules.

STARLA JONES: Linux rules.

MADAM COSMOS: Linux rules.

JON SPLATZ: Huh?  What was that?  I was daydreaming about
my upcoming book tour.  Oh, and I have a job interview with
Wintel Shopper Magazine next week.  Can somebody tell me
what I missed?  Hello? Why is everybody leaving?  Come
back!  Please!


James S. Baughn

Humorix:      Linux and Open Source(nontm) on a lighter note
Archive:      http://humbolt.nl.linux.org/lists/
Web site:     http://www.i-want-a-website.com/about-linux/