The Heart of Linux
How a nonbeliever discovered that there is a Santa Claus, Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy and a Linux community. Well…he discovered the Linux community anyway.
It was back in 2008 that I got a good dressing down for a comment I made about the Linux community. It wasn’t so much a comment as it was a declaration that there isn’t a Linux Community.. Let me quote that declaration for you:
“There is no Linux Community. On our best day we are nothing more than a group of rivaling factions, running and gunning, leaving a bloody trail across the Internet badlands.”
That’s what I said. That’s what I believed. The Linux community, as an entity, ranked right up there in viability with Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy. Of course, that particular period wasn’t exactly a happy time for me. A surprising demand for a divorce coupled with another family member being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s had me on the ropes emotionally. I wasn’t particularly receptive to hand holding and Kumbaya. I held that opinion about the Linux community for a number of years.
And then I got sick. Extremely sick. Sick unto death.
Stay with me here because I need to tell you the whole story in order for this all to make sense. Some of you may know, some may not, but on February 26th, 2012 I was diagnosed with stage four throat cancer. The tumor had grown so quickly and aggressively that I had to go to the emergency room in order to be able to breath. Did I already know I had cancer? Yes I did, but I was uninsured and it’s hard to find care when the provider knows you are a charity case. I just didn’t bother.
Oh, The VA you ask?
I had the poor judgement to become ill right in the middle of the Veterans Administration scandal. For those not knowing, many major VA centers were busted for throwing away or deleting patient contact forms in order to not be snowed under by those needing their services. You know, those people who bled into the sands of foreign lands in order to protect those who could not protect themselves. Are you suggesting that I go see those “medical professionals” in order not to die? It wouldn’t have mattered. They would have lost my records anyway.
So there I was, in an emergency room, having a trach brutally punched through my throat, without anesthesia or any deadening. It was brute force grinding through gristle and sinew until the blunt punch broke through into my airway, bypassing the tumor and allowing me the ability to breath without any blockage.
I was then anesthetized and placed into ICU. I don’t remember much of the next few days, until I woke to my family and loved ones around me. The emergency room ENT who had placed my trach had told them there was nothing that could be done. I was terminal and the best they could do was take me home and make me comfortable until the end.
Well, obviously someone was full of…uh, bull. Diane demanded an oncologist look me over. I went home, I got comfortable, and here I am, alive and relatively well, fairly comfortable telling you the story of how I was supposed to die and how I didn’t bother to follow those instructions. After fifteen days and now undergoing radiation and chemotherapy, I was sent home.
Now, with me not having any idea, the love of my Life, Diane, began talking to people online, telling people that I needed surgery and that she was trying to raise money in order to make that a possibility. At the same time, I was talking to my good, good friend and award-winning author Thomas Knight. I needed a side-light monitor in order to spend any time at my computer. The back light monitors emitted a frequency that made me horribly nauseous, which was a side-effect of the cancer treatments. Thomas started an Indiegogo fundraiser, along with two other good friends, in order to get me the monitor. I got monitor, so I knew about those fundraising efforts. But let me tell you what I didn’t know.
Thomas began conspiring with people in and around his Google Plus circles, and those people began to make contact with other people. Before I was aware of it, Thomas, Dave Rea and others had extended that Indiegogo effort in order to help raise the money needed for my surgery.
I’ll stop here, because most of the rest is well known. Those people raised in excess of $50,000 for my medical needs. But here’s the part that took all the wind out of my sails, so to speak. The donation amount stayed stagnant at twelve grand for a couple of weeks. Do you want to know where the spike in donations came from? The spike that took that figure up tand over the 50K goal?
It was when my story hit the Linux news sites. Sites like Linux Today and Lxer. The Hacker News and other Linux magazines and news outlets began publishing about my ordeal. I had to ask that the donations stop. We had met our goal and if that campaign had not stopped, I have no doubt that it would have brought in 100K. But I didn’t need that much money. I had reached the sum necessary, a sum that had been reached after the Linux community rallied behind and around me, and literally saved my life.
Thank you. Even after I denied your existence and looked down my nose at such rabble-rousers, you people stepped up and carried me through the hardest ordeal I’ve ever experienced.
So…let’s fast forward to this past Sunday.
Good, long-time friends Don and Lisa had threatened to come all the way from Llano Texas to visit Diane and me in Taylor. Don mentioned that he might need to purchase some components I have and we made the arrangements for that to happen, with lunch at Applebee’s a precursor to those sale negotiations.
Now, I said they are long-time friends, and they are. We talk daily and sometimes more than once a day, but that’s via our connection through Google Plus. We have never met Lisa and Don face to face. Funny thing about that. We know what they do, how they do it, who they do it with and why they do what they do. Heck, I’ve lived next door to my current neighbor for two years and I don’t know a fraction as much about them as I do about Lisa and Don.
They made good on their threat and made the trip to Taylor. We had a great time and I even gave them the grand tour of our recently reopened Reglue facility. As much of a mess as it is, they wanted to see “where it all happened.”
It was a great Sunday, because we spent it with real friends. And those friends would have never become friends, or even acquaintances, if not for the Linux community.
Yes Virginia, there is a Linux community. It’s alive and well in just about every place you want to imagine. And it’s doing quite well for itself. Quite well.
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