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June 29th, 2012

Google’s Nexus Tablet; Maddog’s Blog; Patent News & More

Jon “maddog” Hall’s Courageous Blog

This week, Jon “maddog” Hall, Executive Director of Linux International, began an article on Linux.com celebrating the 100th birthday of computer pioneer Alan Turing with the following words:

“If you are homophobic, you probably want to stop reading now. Just go to the next blog, or dial up Fox News, because the rest of this blog entry will not be satisfying for you. Do not worry, you will be able to read my next blog, just not this one.”

It’s no secret, of course, that Turing was gay. It’s also no secret that due to the narrow mindedness of his era, his homosexuality was something of an albatross. Addressing this issue in his article, Hall stated that he can relate to the difficulties Turing faced because he, too, is gay. He said that although is sexuality is known to some of his friends, he had not come out publicly until now because he didn’t want his parents to know and because “I did not want my sexuality in any way to hurt Linux and Free Software.”

He expanded on this by writing:

“In fact, computer science was a haven for homosexuals, trans-sexuals and a lot of other ‘sexuals’, mostly because the history of the science called for fairly intelligent, modern-thinking people. Many computer companies were the first to enact ‘diversity’ programs, and the USENIX organization had a special interest group that was made up of LGBT people.

“That is not to say that all computer science people are homosexual, or even non-homophobic, but for the most part the CS community and companies have been more accepting and accommodating than others.

“Nevertheless, as I went through life I have sometimes found that the people that should be the most understanding and accepting are not, and I did not want this to reflect upon Linux or FOSS in any way.”

Three days after penning this article, Carla Schroder published a beautiful response on Linux.com in which she addressed the issues of bigotry and suppression before getting around to the subject of diversity:

“Where does imagination come from? Diversity. A lack of diversity leads to a lack of imagination. We need each other. While it’s good to cultivate a culture of, at the very least, not being mean to people, it’s even better to invite people in and build good relationships, and to seek out Those People, the ones who are not like us. The Apache Foundation says ‘if we look after the community then good code will emerge from that community.’ Dreamwidth says ‘We believe in being inclusive, welcoming, and supportive of anyone who comes to us with good faith and the desire to build a community.'”

The coming out of Hall saddens me, in a way. Not because he’s gay, I couldn’t care less about that, but because he came of age during an era when gay people were forced to live in fear and shame, and I wish he’d never had to suffer due to other people’s narrowness. I think that all of us in the FOSS world who are sane (all of us aren’t) should raise a glass of our favorite beverage in celebration of Hall’s gayness. I’ll tell the world that Mr. Hall has been one of my heroes since I became interested in FOSS. He’s an even bigger hero to me now.

Orbitz Mac/PC Fiasco Omits Linux

I’ll leave you this week on a lighter note.

Dana Mattioli reported in a Wall Street Journal story on Tuesday that the online travel site Orbitz displays different, often higher priced, options to Mac users than they do to visitors to their site running Windows. The reason should be obvious to most; Mac folks tend to spend more:

“Orbitz found Mac users on average spend $20 to $30 more a night on hotels than their PC counterparts, a significant margin given the site’s average nightly hotel booking is around $100, chief scientist Wai Gen Yee said. Mac users are 40% more likely to book a four- or five-star hotel than PC users, Mr. Yee said, and when Mac and PC users book the same hotel, Mac users tend to stay in more expensive rooms.”

I wasn’t planning on reporting this story until I saw a “reader response” posting by NPR yesterday. It seems that after NPR reported this story on the air on Wednesday, they got more than a few “what-about-Linux” replies from Penguinistas, offering thoughts on the type of deals a Linux user might be given if Orbitz ever decides to cater to us. My favorite came from a writer using the name “Wise Adz”:

“Are they going to just show Linux users hardware stores and blueprints, so that we can build our own accommodations?”


That does it for this week. Stay out of the heat if you can – remember, Penguins don’t like it hot. I’ll see you on Monday. In the meantime, may the FOSS be with you…

Christine Hall has been a journalist since 1971. In 2001, she began writing a weekly consumer computer column and started covering Linux and FOSS in 2002 after making the switch to GNU/Linux. Follow her on Twitter: @BrideOfLinux

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