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You Can Hack An OS But You Can't Hack People - part 3: More Maps

Date/Time Permalink: 05/10/08 04:22:53 pm
Category: General

Since Apple's story is the shortest, we'll tell it out of order.

Now, the three computing republics, Unix, Apple, and Windows, had different approaches to autonomy. In Unix, they teetered cheerfully on the edge of anarchy. There was only very little attempt to reign in the free spirits there. In Windows, no stepping out of line was tolerated, but it was necessary to maintain perfect order and the people there loved it. In Apple, however, there was a balance: things were "officially" controlled, but since it was so expensive to live there, the government of Apple chose wisely to occasionally look the other way if the people wanted to go off and do their own thing. After all, giving people what they wanted was what they had in mind.

So eventually, Apple's government formed something of a partnership with the citizens. They could have a sort of controlled pseudo-freedom. They could have a free version of their operating system, and could also choose many different ways to experience Apple, such as the subdivisions of iPhone and iPod. It was preferred that the government kept complete control, but the citizens were occasionally forgiven if they hacked an iPod to run Linux or unlocked their iPhone or even helped have some control over their operating system with Darwin. Apple did everything it could, and still does, to keep their citizens from leaving, and so the republic of Apple exists today in the state of least strife. Very few people leave, and thus, they write themselves out of our story:

fig2

The next story is Unix:

Meanwhile, Unix went to hell. Because the citizens of Unix were makers and doers, everybody knew how to do everything about as well as everybody else. So the republic of Unix fragmented into dozens of parts. First, several kings moved in and tried to establish foothold republics, with varying success. But our point is not to go into the complicated history here, but to move forward to what happened.

What happened was that the whole continent of Unix got cut into so many pieces, that it basically got obliterated and was replaced by a whole archipelago of islands. Furthermore, everywhere where there was a king, there was a rebellion where the citizens went off to found their own island. Politically, the place now includes governed lands which struggle to hold even a little power, weak kings fighting each other for scraps of land, communes and democracies and oligarchies and colonies and autocracies and everything else.

fig3

It is no exaggeration to say that you can pick a word out of the dictionary, and if it ends in -cracy or -archy, there's a Unix system that's run that way. Quite a few have even become floating rafts of bamboo instead of islands, occupied by a lone hermit floating around who still manages to survive somehow.

But look, there's Linux! Except that it isn't even fair to say that Linux is one chunk of land. It looks like that from up here, but if we had these maps available at a higher resolution, you'd see that Linux is actually thousands of tiny islands, with a system of bridges connecting them and the occasional land-locked bamboo raft.

But, boy, are these people ever happy! Absolutely everyone can have what they want! They can easily move between all of the republics, since they all have open borders and do most things the same way. There's even groups that will help you build your own custom designed island. No matter how quirky and peculiar you are, there's a Unix republic that will feel right at home - provided you're a barbarian engineer.

That's the thing. All you are seeing is the difference between people's cultures. What happened to Unix is what happens when you give a country to a group of self-sufficient individualists. I won't name names, but you can probably think of many nations on Earth that had this happen. Apple is what happens when you build an insulated, luxury country and have high barriers to entry and exit and then populate it with aristocrats. Again, no names mentioned, but you can think of some countries like this, too. In fact, before I forget, let me finish Apple off:

fig4

There you go, Apple users, there's your walled garden. Comfy? Good. Can we get you anything? No, you're fine? OK. Sit back and enjoy the show as the unwashed hordes have their war outside your pearly gates. I would apologize for the noise, but then I remember that you have automatic sound dampeners that kick in above a certain decibel rating.

By the way, don't think that things are primitive in Unix any more. We have bamboo rafts, but we also have luxury liners and castles and gardens, too, only without walls. But they're all single-serving, so they're too small to see on the map.

And now - this is the big one: Windows. Where is Windows today? Why... it's... it's the same solid, blue, featureless mass that it always was, but it's grown more crowded. It has the same totalitarian government it always had, but more severe than ever. And it is still not as comfortable as Apple and not as free as Unix. It is all cubicles and muzak and grit and ticket machines and scratchy speakers. Nothing has changed except that every feature has just become more and more exaggerated.

Windows is what happens when you make a country out of slaves.

We almost forgot about the Windows citizens while we were having all our fun. Then one day we looked up, glanced across the water, and saw eyes staring back at us. Thousands and thousands and thousands of eyes! Hungry eyes, forlorn eyes, dull eyes, sunken, hollow, staring eyes, starving eyes! All of them looking out at us. Us, and our tiny little self-built islands.

You can see what's coming next, can't you? That's right: part 4.

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