Saturday, October 15, 2005

The Other March of the Other Penguins

The recent National Geographic film, March of the Penguins, has generated a tremendous amount of controversy: an avalanche of deconstructionism that surely was not intended by its creator.  It seems that the controversy started when Micheal Medved claimed, in an NYT interview, that MOTP is "the motion picture this summer that most passionately affirms traditional norms".  Andrew Sullivan was quick with a rejoinder, pointing out that some penguins have been observed to engage in homosexual behavior.  Others pointed out that some penguins engage in a form of prostitution.  Maggie Gallagher jumped in (1 2) when it turned out that some penguins in zoos that previously had been reported to be homosexual, later started to engage in heterosexual behavior.

I am not sure how the disclosure that the penguins are in fact bisexual, rather than homosexual, was supposed to salvage the point made by the Christian conservatives, but that did appear to be their line of argument.  Many bloggers and editorialists joined in the fray.  (1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12)

Having an entire Saturday to consider this issue, I realize now that all of these commentators are missing the point completely.  

You see, there is a whole nother (another whole) group of penguins, on an entirely different kind of march...and these blokes won't stop for anything...not even global warming.  And the lesson they teach, about the controversy over evolution vs. creation, is far more profound.

click to visit Icewalkers dot com


Dell offers "open source ready" desktop PC Dell today announced that it is reacting to "growing consumer demand for open source ready" computers and now offers a version of its n510-series desktop PC that ships with an empty harddrive and a FreeDOS disc. Read more...

Brazil's Serpro: Migration to Open Source Complete by Year-End
Friday - October 14, 2005
Brazil's federal data processing agency Serpro, responsible for assisting government entities with migration to open-source platforms, expects to complete its own migration to open-source software by year-end 2005. In the first quarter of 2005, Serpro had 60 percent of its systems running on open source. [More...]

Haiku, an in-development open source version of BeOS, now has its first full-time paid employee. Axel Dorfler, famed for his rapid work on the kernel and other low-level Haiku components, announced that donations to the project will help him to work full-time on the code until the end of November. He has started a blog with progress updates.

Haiku is a hugely promising open source desktop OS, and you can find it on issue 72's cover DVD. The project's website is outdated in places; you can find recent screenshots on BUG-NORDIC.

The OpenOffice.org team has postponed the expected release of version 2 of the pioneering open source office suite due to the discovery of a 'show stopping bug.' The plan was to unleash the software today (Oct 13th) to commemorate the fifth anniversary of the project's founding.

It's likely that the third release candidate will be made available tomorrow. The bug in question results in incorrect attributes being applied to graphics when saved in the .odt format; it was fixed quickly, but the developers say a new RC is a sensible precaution.

The official version 2.0 should be out before the end of next week. Site: OpenOffice.org

LQ ISO Linux Download Site Reaches One Million Downloads 
on Wed 24 Aug 2005, 11:24 AM

From our recent press release:

LinuxQuestions.org is proud to announce that LQ ISO has now facilitated over 1,000,000 Linux downloads. Founded in August of 2004, LQ ISO allows users to find and rate fast local download mirrors. The site currently allows you to download almost 120 different Linux distributions from over 430 different mirrors. The site now utilizes GEO IP data to help you find the fastest local download mirror.

Of course I could go on and on, but you get the point.  Open-source software is on the march, with Linux leading the way.  From its humble beginnings as an alternative to Unix, Linux has evolved to the point that it is a serious threat to Microsoft OS's.  

Another threat to Microsoft is that posed by the open-source applications: Firefox, Thunderbird, and OpenOffice.  Linux itself is probably in the same position as Windows 3.1 was, with respect to usability by novices.  That is, it is perfectly intuitive to use, but it is easy to break if you mess around very much.  If you try to optimize it, add weird software, or use exotic hardware configurations, you can run into problems.  If all you do is wordprocessing, web browsing, and email, you'll be fine.  Notice, though, that those three applications are all that most people ever do with their computers.  And there are full-featured, readily-usable programs that are available freely, for those three functions.

Speaking of the humble origins of Linux, there has arisen considerable debate about the its origins.  Several creation myths have been documented (see: Was Linux Forged in Mordor? and An Out of this World Theory).  The fact, that mutually contradictory myths exist, raises the question: Was Linux created, or did it evolve?  If it evolved, did it evolve randomly, or was there a Guiding Hand, or Guiding Appendage?  

MandrivaThose who believe it was created tend to argue that there is nothing else like it in the natural world.  Ordinary star-stuff consists of matter and energy.  But Linux transcends those mere things.  It consists of intellectual property, which is neither matter nor energy.  In fact, no one can really define exactlyOpenSolaris.org what it is.  The courts say that, even though nobody knows exactly how to define it, they know it when they see it.  I suppose that if the explanation is good enough for the Supreme Court, it should be good enough for the rest of us.  But serious theologians are not satisfied with SCOTUS.  They believe that when something cannot be defined, it must be evidence of a higher power.

openSUSEThose who believe Linux evolved point to the numerous animal-like features found in close association withZenwalk Linux Linux.   They say that close examination of its code base reveals similarities to the genetic code.  Information theorists talk about the similarity between the four-base system (GATC) in DNA, and the hexadecimal (base-16) system in Linux.  This, obviously, implies that Linux is more highly evolved than humans.  

Kanotix LinuxAdvocates of the evolutionary theory also point to the rapid change that occurs in successive generations of  Linux.  New forms appear all the time.  Studies have shown that all of these forms share a great deal of commonVine Linux sequences in their code, with just a few important differences.  Within each species, the code usually changes gradually.  Every once in a while, however, there is a sudden, massive shift in the code.  When this happens, important new capabilities arise, as if by magic.  

The creationists point to the sudden, seemingly-magical appearance of whole new chunks of code, with the accompanying new features, as evidence of a creator.  They do not see how little chucks of code, that serve no Bugzilla logopurpose by themselves, could arise by random chance.  Even if they serve some clear purpose when assembled, how could the individual sequences come into being?  The answer, of course, is that the process is not random.  There are elements of randomness, but the process as a whole is structured.  New code sequences are tried in various environments, and if they turn out to be helpful, they are incorporated into the whole.  If they turn out to be harmful or useless, they do not appear in the finished product.  However, if they are harmful or useless, the sequences themselves often are kept in reserve somewhere, in case they turn out to be useful at a later date.   Sometimes, the useless chunks undergo further modification to make them useful.  

Novices are likely to be perplexed by this debate, given all the complexities involved.  In actual practice, most people just take a superficial look at the technical stuff, then make a decision based on their gut instinct.  They decide that the explanation that sounds right, must be right.  With so many creation myths to choose from, such an approach is understandable.  Sloppy, but understandable.  

Knoppix dot comThose who would like to experience wonder and mystical qualities the real March of the Penguins should download a copy of Knoppix here.  Burn the ISO image to a CD or DVD (depending on which image you get) and boot it.  You will need a PC that can boot from the optical drive.  Watch as it boots, detects your hardware, and launches the operating system.  It really does seem like magic.   Do this every six months or so, and watch as the system evolves to adapt to the changes in the computer environment.  You will become a believer, I guarantee it.  A believer in what, I do not know, but you will be a believer.  

(Note: The Rest of the Story/Corpus Callosum has moved. Visit the new site here.)
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