The last time I looked into my crystal ball, it told me to proceed with extreme caution if I invested in Google. Their business model was shaky at best. Needless to say, said crystal ball and I have parted company.
And yeah, I’m lousy at predictions. Sure, I could pick the “safe” things for 2014…
- Linux Torvalds will piss off a major tech company.
- Many will joke that 2014 will finally be “The Year Of Linux.”
- Apple will claim that Samsung infringed on their patent to patent patents.
So instead of predicting what might happen in 2014 within the Linuxsphere, let’s talk about what needs to happen and why.
I’m in a unique position. Since 2005, I have literally sat next to hundreds of kids and adults while they’ve explored Linux for the first time. I’m not talking about how to turn the computer on and use the mouse. I’m talking about teaching them about their new Linux computer. From the abundant software found on their default installation to using the command line to installing apps and finding files, I’ve had the opportunity to observe kids discovering these things first-hand.
The year of Linux? For these kids, it’s already here.
We’ve already talked about how much you contribute to Linux as a desktop, whether you know it or not. But here, I hope to reach another audience. I want to talk to those of you who write the software and create the artwork within your respective projects. Those of you who make the magic happen with mathematics, Inkscape or Eric IDE.
I don’t think you have any idea of the impact you have on your users. Users you don’t even know exist. I’m here to tell you they exist. I know their names, where they go to school, what their dreams and plans are, how many brothers and sisters they have and what they want to do after college. I know for certain the impact you are having upon their lives.
Quietly, and for a number of years, people have been migrating to Linux for many reasons. Let’s take our small effort, Reglue, for example. Over 1600 kids have received Linux computers since 2005. That means 1600 families have been using Linux. I know for absolute certain that working parents or siblings have taken their new Linux experience and passed it on in school, at work and among friends.
You people are famous and you don’t even know it.
The people who author Childsplay, Gcompris, Tux Math and Tux Typing…you guys are friggin’ rock stars. There are no sales figures to extrapolate real user numbers. There is no download matrix that is tied together in some database. For all you know, the relative handful of people that have downloaded your work is just that, only a handful of people.
Your work is effecting and influencing hundreds of thousands of people. Just like the rock star who didn’t know he was a rock star, you are toiling under the same misconception
Read that again. Your work is effecting and influencing hundreds of thousands of people. School systems all over Texas are discovering the suite of tools known as Google Apps. Schools are discovering there is life after Microsoft Office. Chrome and Firefox are replacing Internet Explorer at a fast pace. Linux is taking over school computer labs that are strapped for funds. Community learning labs, like the one we built on the left, are powered by Linux. Your tools to teach today’s kids are being introduced in schools all over the country.
And by means of proxy, to Linux as well.
One of our Reglue Kids decided he wanted to develop computer and console games. He’s taken trigonometry in order to learn the skills needed to do so. You shaped that decision. Your work inspired one teenager to seek a new direction. The kid hasn’t pulled less than a B in three years of college. You provided him with that motivation.
So if I were to list things that should be done in 2014, here is my list.
- Write your software or design your project as if the life of one child in Villa Grove Illinois will be changed forever. Or Portland Oregon, Seoul Korea or Istanbul Turkey.
That’s the list. That’s it. And that’s all that is needed. Anything else is just background noise.
The Year of Desktop Linux has already come and gone. Now the Linux train is just stopping long enough to pick up new passengers along the way. I see them get aboard every day. I see the wonder and excitement as a child explores her new computer for the first time. I watch her as she learns new ways and sees new directions. Directions learned on her new computer.
A computer fueled by the will of a Global Community. A computer fueled by Linux. A computer fueled by your work.
Your work is currently shaping tomorrow’s teachers, scientists and doctors.
Make it count.
Ken Starks is the founder of the Helios Project and Reglue, which for 20 years provided refurbished older computers running Linux to disadvantaged school kids, as well as providing digital help for senior citizens, in the Austin, Texas area. He was a columnist for FOSS Force from 2013-2016, and remains part of our family. Follow him on Twitter: @Reglue