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Only 'freaks' waste their time with Linux in Oklahoma

For the last two weeks, the Linux army has seized on Tuttle, Oklahoma city manager Jerry Taylor as a symbol of all that's wrong with the world. This man attacked Linux maker CentOS without cause, threatened to call the FBI on the firm and refused to apologize for these actions even after learning the error of his ways. Typical Microsoft-loving, bureaucrat thinking, right? Our ongoing investigation into Taylor, however, has revealed that he may actually be a model for Linux zealots to embrace and follow. Here's how Taylor described CentOS and the Linux fans who emailed him about the recent incidents to the local Tuttle Times newspaper. "This is just a bunch of freaks out there that don't have anything better to do," Taylor said. "When I came in to work Monday morning, I had about 500 emails, plus anonymous phone calls from all the geeks out there. (CentOS is) a free operating system that this guy gives away, which tells you how much time he's got on his hands." Before some of you hemorrhage, let's take a look at the broader context. Taylor came into work one day and found the Tuttle website he had created on the back of 22 years' experience working for government contractor Raytheon was down. Instead of a website, Taylor discovered an Apache server configuration page that mentioned CentOS. He's an Oklahoma man, and the Apache feather must have proved frightening. Taylor figured the configuration page was some manner of hack attempt on Tuttle, and he fired off a series of enraged emails to CentOS demanding that the Linux maker make the Tuttle website appear. CentOS couldn't really help as the hosting company had created the problem, but Taylor refused to think this one through and threatened to call in the FBI. Thankfully, a CentOS worker went out of his way to show Taylor his mistakes, and the confrontation evenually came to an end...sort of. In the aftermath, Tuttle was mocked the world over for Taylor's actions. One Oklahoma news station caught onto the situation and profiled Tuttle as an "international laughing stock". The Oklahoman newspaper also had a go at Tuttle and Taylor (incidentally, the paper is still trying to figure out what "the registry" is. Stay tuned). Taylor had invited such media attention. "I have no fear of the media, in fact I welcome this publicity," he told CentOS. That was until the media attention arrived. He asked us to stop writing about him, pulled his email address off the Tuttle city website and left the office when the TV crew showed up to interview him. So, how can a man who calls Linux a hobby project for "freaks" be a model for the open source community? Well, Taylor's resolve must be adopted if the Linux community ever hopes to unseat Windows as the dominant operating system. Because surely now it's a battle of wills. People will argue that Linux is just for geeky hobbyists. They will say the Linux community treats outsiders unfairly. They will say the Linux community argues from a position of insecurity. They will scream that Linux types are bigoted zealots who prefer to masturbate penguins rather than help customers in a kind, gentle manner. They'll claim that Linux's place will forever be that of a niche operating system until its supporters can grow up and face the reality that not everyone is like them. Do not listen to such weak-willed sentiments. This is war. And wars for the customers' hearts and minds are won by ridicule, bad manners and SHOUTING!!! And, above all else, never give in to reality. ®
Ashlee Vance, 08 Apr 2006

SF Wi-Fi a 'dinosaur deal' for the poor

San Francisco's municipal Wi-Fi initiative isn't the biggest such project in the world, but it may be the most keenly watched. And after this week's award to Google and Earthlink, the battle to win the best deal for the city's residents is only just starting. That's largely thanks to San Francisco's activist community, who've tackled the tough questions that evangelist sites like Muniwireless (which rely on technology vendors for sponsorship) have avoided. As the smoke clears, it's evident that San Francisco has failed to win the kind of deal for its poorer and less computer literate residents than the one Earthlink provided in Philadelphia. In San Francisco, Earthlink will operate the high speed, pay-for service, while Google will operate the free, low-speed tier. However, while Earthlink provided Philly citizens with 10,000 free computers, and skims a percentage from the paid-for service to fund training initiatives, no such guarantees have been made in Baghdad by the Bay. "It's very disappointing," said Sydney Levy, program director of Media Alliance and a co-ordinator for Internet 4 Everyone. He also said the free portion is too slow. While Mountain View residents will get 1mbit/s free from Google, San Francisco's is 300kbit/s. "It's going to be another digital divide. It's going to be another dinosaur". In fact, a municipal Wi-Fi network can widen, not close the "digital divide". The Charleston, Ga Post and Courier quotes consultant Craig Settles for the observation that: "Typically, the people who need internet access the least are the ones who use municipal Wi-Fi the most." So municipal Wi-Fi simply saves money for the people who can already afford it. "There is no way you are going to improve or resolve the digital divide issue if all you do is put up the network and say, 'that's it'," Settles said. The city should have mandated future upgrades, he said. He wants the TechConnect project team to acknowledge that training is essential, and that it isn't starting with a blank piece of paper. "There are resources being used in local communities that have the expertise to work on chunks of this issue. There are many groups involved in computer training and computer refurbishing - so any solution needs to acknowledge it's not starting from scratch. These groups know how to do it in Spanish and in Chinese, and they know how to do it in BayView." Two other areas of concern remain unaddressed, according to critics. An audit by the Electronic Privacy Information Centre earlier this week found the Google/Earthlink bid wanting. "Both [free and fee] services require the user to sign on, thus creating the opportunity for persistent tracking across sessions. The Google advertising supported service would target advertisements to individuals based on their internet usage and other information," it notes. Kimo Crossman, the computer consultant and blogger who did more than anyone to expose the backroom machinations of the project, criticizes it for failing to provide the emergency services with guarantees. Small municipalities have deployed Wi-Fi in combination with VoIP to replace older radio services for the police. Advocates say New Orleans' mesh Wi-Fi network showed its potential for disaster situation. So long as it isn't raining, it isn't foggy, and there are no leaves on the trees. "There's nothing here for the emergency services. You'd think with the 100 year anniversary of the San Francisco Earthquake, this might have been worth some thought." TechConnect's criteria for the RFP can be found here. As with other infrastructure bids, cities get what they ask for. For reasons unknown, San Francisco just didn't ask for very much. ®
Andrew Orlowski, 08 Apr 2006