Official website for Linux User & Developer

Linux users: why you should watch The Wire

by Simon Brew

Simon Brew ponders one of the finest television programmes in recent memory, and wonders if its advocates share parallels with some in the open source community…

This article originally appeared in issue 92 of Linux User & Developer magazine.Linux users: why you should watch The Wire Subscribe and save more than 30% and receive our exclusive money back guarantee – click here to find out more.

Linux users: why you should watch The WireI absolutely love the TV show The Wire. Seen it? It’s the quite brilliant HBO drama that examines the problems of a city – Baltimore, in this case – from the perspective of those trying to make and enforce the law, and those who, on the whole, don’t. It’s devastatingly good, and the final episode, after five excellent seasons of the show, had me blubbing like a baby.

Now I’ve long since come to realise that the world is divided into two. There are people who have seen The Wire. And then there are those who have, at some point in their life, been told that they should watch it. Quite often, as I’ve discovered, said people have been nagged to the point where it’s put them off the show full-stop. That because The Wire seems to attract evangelists as much as fans, it has the effect of putting people off the programme. I hate to say it, friends, but Linux has a habit of going the same way. And appreciating that any currency I’ve earned over the past months of writing these columns is about to be cashed in, I can’t help but conclude that we’re not doing ourselves any favours at times.

For I would argue this: that there is a groundswell of well-meaning Linux advocates, whose dedication and enthusiasm for the open source cause may well be sending people running in the opposite direction. That is, whether we like it or not, a natural by-product of something that we feel passionate about
and I’d always argue that we win more than we lose here.

What bothers me though is when there are elements of snobbery involved. One of the most pointless debates I’ve seen come up from time to time in all the while I’ve had an interest in Linux is its name. I have absolute respect for GNU, for the work it did in establishing the foundations on which the Linux kernel was built, and for its vision in pushing a free open source operating system when most of the market was heading in the opposite direction. I also appreciate that the proper name for Linux, if you go by the book, is GNU/Linux. Sadly, I can’t recall a point where I’ve called it that in my life.

I do this not out of disrespect for GNU, which deserves appreciation and thanks. I also don’t aim these words at it. Instead, my frustration is that, ultimately, naming isn’t the first thing that needs to be put across to people. And twice now in the past month or two, I’ve seen that happen. I’ve witnessed, both online and in person, someone expressing an interest in ‘Linux’, only to be corrected – with different levels of politeness – as to its moniker. What also didn’t help was the snobbery intoned in one of these conversations, where the enquirer was treated with a degree of disdain for running Windows on their system.

This, surely, helps nobody. It’s a tough enough goal as it stands to try and woo a world weaned on proprietary software to something just a little bit different. But what’s crucial in spreading the reach of open source software is approachability, both in the software itself and the people who advocate it. Sadly, on a few occasions now (and I accept that they’re the exception rather than the rule), it’s the latter that’s been letting the side down. And it’s meant that I know of at least one person who has been put off for the time-being as a result. That’s surely something simple, where an obvious improvement can be made. And in the meantime, you really should watch The Wire. It’s bloody brilliant.

Return to the Linux User homepage
Click here to read more opinion columns from the magazine

Click here to see what features in the latest issue

twitter follow us
  • Tell a Friend
  • Follow our Twitter to find out about all the latest Linux news, reviews, previews, interviews, features and a whole more.
    • bananaoomarang

      too true…

    • ToungeInCheek

      Sorry, but this Linux user has never seen The Wire. I am too busy not subscribing to the lock-ins known as cable / satellite companies and premium channels. Have you ever tried to order service without the shopping channels? Not possible.

    • Robert

      Well, it’s not a great analogy because in order to experience The Wire someone must put out money. First they have to establish pay TV service of some kind, then they have to subscribe to HBO. It would be a lot cheaper to purchase the series on DVD if it’s available. But, people can experience using Linux for free. No monetary commitment of any kind. Just a lot of time, too much time for many people.

      I think a better analogy is to compare the normal reaction you feel when someone proselytizes their religion or their heart felt political beliefs. It’s like a push to be a part of some kind of “movement” about something that you don’t feel you’ll ever share the kind of passion being expressed by the evangelist. For the majority of the population who are not software developers or IT people, computers are just a tool/device they use for doing certain tasks. They are naturally leery of someone exhibiting what can seem like excessive zeal towards something that’s really just a type of appliance.

    • geraldo rivera

      hat because The Wire seems to attract evangelists as much as fans, it has the effect of putting people off the programme. I hate to say it, friends, but Linux has a habit of going the same way.

      So wait, Mac fanbois are not the most insuferable prigs online?

      Sorry but your argument is generic and can be ported to any situation.

      The only Linux group I find annoying are the new Buntuistas so you are not wrong.. totally.
      Like as friend mentioned, do you blame them? People are monkeys, they mimick other monkeys thinking thats how your supposed to act. New Buntu users love what they discovered and want to share it with anyone and anyone who doesnt share their love of Linux or Justin Bieber is a big doodoohead. They take their cues on tech blogs and forums and just repeat the pattern that Apple users have perfected but that you will find among other tech lovers. PS3 fans seems like particular douchebags but Nintendo fans have been equally as annoying thoughoyut the decades.

      Lots of non tech groups also have their annoying quotient.
      New vegans? Untolerable.
      PETA fans?
      How about the fans of Bob Llama? Youre gonna spout BS and talk about reincarnation all the while forgetting little facts like ITS FICTION and the old fart had slaves into his late 20s?

      People that come back from vacation often come back with native talk (No problem mon!) for the first few weeks.

      Its a normal human reaction to want to share a discovery. The logic is that this thing has changed your life so dramatically that you feel the need to have others benefit like you do. Having someone else share your secret is a way to validate yourself.

      As my brother says, once you spend over 3000 bucks for a laptop (2200 MacBook Pro plus a few hundred bucks in Applecare and accesories and throw in our tax and its 3000plus easily) and you realize that your life is no different than it was the day before, you want company because you feel less like a youve been duped.
      ‘Everyone else does it’ is a great motivator too.

      Besides, I read your examples about someone being curt about the use of GNU.
      ANd to that I answer? So??
      I hate to bring it up to you but people are a-holes. Many, many olkl them. Many have jobs like policemen and many are actors and politicians and many are…. Linux users. Hellk, I can guarantee you that some are murderers, rapist and pedophiles. Some Linux users even voted for Bush.

      I take no responsability nor do I want to grouped in with Linux users just because we use the same OS just like PS3 users and Wii users didnt influence us when we bought a console.

      But I will give you the Buntu users… Im a Linux user (I have no distro allegiacen since they all look like KDE when I use it) and the ‘we invented this’ gene runs rampant amongst them.
      But then I realize who they are aping and forget about them. Our OS choice doesnt make us bossom buddies…