Linux Turns 20, Baby Brother Charged with Disorderly Conduct

Android Kombat copy

Dear Linux,

First, let me wish you a happy 20th Birthday! It seems like just yesterday that you were a child, so full of hopes and dreams and yet so young and naïve; and look at you today: all grown up and so popular with all the kids. As we watched you grow, we watched the Internet grow with you, and you adopted trendy new looks with colorful new outfits, wearing brands like Gnome and KDE. I guess that’s why your uncle, Steve Jobs, decided that his kids needed to be like you, too.

 I have to make a confession: I’ve always had a bit of a man-crush on your dad, Linus. What he did changed the world as we know it. But what happened to your family, Linux? You played it safe, and that’s why all the kids wanted to be like you; but while you quietly grew into a man, so full of promise, your baby brother Android has become the stereotypical problem child. Even though he has the best intentions, he just doesn’t want to play well with others. All the while, I think your big brother UNIX has been insanely jealous of your popularity. And don’t get me started on your Uncle Steve, who secretly wanted to be so much like you, and yet publicly, so different.

All the best,


Linux just turned 20, and it seems like pure irony that the milestone is marked by controversy. The ubiquitous OS has encountered tremendous success, partly because of its open source nature, partly because it’s so sublimely stable, secure and beautiful. Its very existence invokes the metaphor of a love child, if Windows and MAC OSX were ever to mate. In the tumultuous decade of the 1990’s, when our world changed forever, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs duked it out for supremacy. One of those contenders vied to be installed on every single computer appliance in existence, while the other took a decidedly boutique approach, inventing a beautiful work of art that would slowly and steadily grow in popularity and acceptance. All the while, lowly Linux quietly waited in the shadows for its big debut.

As GUIs every bit as good – or better – than its competitors began to appear in Linux, apps began to appear and distros flowed like sweet honey. Linux became the OS of choice for geeks and network admins everywhere, and even though it hasn’t gained the commercial success of Windows or OSX, everyone who uses a browser touches Linux in one way or another. Secure, stable and just plain good, Linux in its 20th year is a huge success story, even if most people are unaware of its existence.

But two things happened along this journey, and suddenly Linux is in a bit of a pickle. While not directly responsible for the controversy mentioned above, its siblings have a little explaining to do. While generally stable and secure in its own right, OSX of late has been experiencing its own problems, and Android has been a source of concern pretty much since day one. And that spells spamhorrific troubles for anyone – like me – who decides to dump iOS for Android.

Before you go hating on me, let me explain my reasoning. For nearly 20 years, the OS was a model citizen of the GNU universe, meaning that no matter which distro you opted for, you were pretty much guaranteed a smooth ride without the bumps normally associated with other OSes. Antivirus and antimalware software – the main weapons against spam – are difficult to find for Linux, because malware simply isn’t the threat it is on Windows. OSX is relatively stable, as any MAC owner will tell you, but for no other reason than hackers just didn’t pay attention to it. Now, however, murmurings of MAC exploits are more common, and Android is just plain open to attack.

It’s not really Linux’s fault, but how could this happen? It seemed strange to me that the first thing I did when I got my Android phone was to purchase antivirus and antimalware software. It felt decidedly like a Windows moment. “Wait!” I thought with some dismay, “Isn’t this a spinoff of Linux?” Yes it is, but it’s a whole different world and poor ol’ Linux can only watch, like a Mortal Kombat match with Windows and Android battling to see which is the more vulnerable. All the while, Apple sits idly by, the sensei watching and waiting to see if it’s next to enter the ring.

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