Open Source

Spock loves Linux, Vader is a Mac Daddy

Columnist Charles Brooker once wrote "Sometimes you have to slap [a PC] to make it work properly, just like the Tardis (Doctor Who, incidentally, would definitely use a PC)." This got me thinking about into which desktop computing camp various science fiction characters would fall. So here's my list.

A while back, TR member Hope.hare pointed me to this Guardian article by Charles Brooker, titled "I Hate Macs," which included this intriguing presumption: "Sometimes you have to slap [a PC] to make it work properly, just like the Tardis (Doctor Who, incidentally, would definitely use a PC)." This got me thinking about into which desktop computing camp various science fiction characters would fall. So here's my list.

Linux borgThe Borg = Linux: Don't let their love of Steve Jobs-esque cubism fool you, the Borg are open source all the way. Their entire way of life is about distributed architecture and collectivism, which is how we get SourceForge and Linux server farms/grid computers. Sure, the Borg have a technology acquisituion strategy—"You will be assimilated!"—inspired by a Microsoft patent lawyer, but when you think about it, all they really do is reverse-engineer someone else's proprietary tech and integrate it into a universally compatible, homogenized standard. That's Linux all over. Besides, at their heart, the Borg are really just a bunch of pasty-faced antisocial types with a tech obsession and an unhealthy interest in Federation starships. Sounds like nearly every Linux geek I've ever met. Agent Smith(s)Agent Smith = PC: He's a machine that hates interacting with human users. He's almost unstoppable, unless confronted by an avatar of choice (the "bug" in the Matrix, according to The Architect, AKA Steve Ballmer). He wants everyone to look and act and work just like him, effectively converting the entire machine landscape into one standardized techno-clone army. He forcibly upgrades his old counterparts to become extensions of himself (XP to Vista?). And the only way to defeat him is to surrender to him. Seriously, could Agent Smith be any more of a Windows PC? The dude should have the Microsoft logo stamped on his lapel. VaderPodDarth Vader = Mac OS X: When you boil the Empire down to its core philosophy, it's this: Order at any cost. Hate to break it to you Mac fans, but that's Steve Jobs' mantra as well. He'll build you the slickest personal computer in the world, so long as you're willing to give up any control over the inner workings of your tech. Besides, just look at the stormtroopers—they're walking iPods. Or take the Death Star: Clean lines, efficient design, impressive features—you could almost hear Jobs introducing it at some MacWorld expo in a galaxy far, far away: "One more thing...it blows up planets." The downside of this orderly, simplistic scheme is that any R2 unit with a USB link can access your ultimate weapon and shut down all the garbage mashers on the detention level, any decrepit old Jedi can disable your tractor beam generators thanks to an intuitive interface, and your security-through-obscurity principles mean any consular ship or Bothan spy can intercept plans for this battlestation, exposing the inadequacy of your thermal exhaust systems (dude, you need more case fans). That is why you fail. Spock loves LinuxMr. Spock = Linux: Besides "Live long and prosper," Spock's signature quote has always been "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few...or the one." Loosely translated, that means "DRM sucks...Remix fo' real, sucka" (Spock is actually very street). Logically, the son of Sarek would placidly browbeat you for your needlessly emotional loyalties to PCs and Macs, and explain how proprietary software inhibits innovation in the same way that unpublished research inhibits scientific progress. And if Steve Gates got all Adam Smith/capitalist imperative on Spock, everyone's favorite Vulcan would simply remind him that "it is easier to destroy than to create," then neck-pinch King Nerdlinger into submission. Fascinating. Data and LCARSLt. Commander Data = Mac OS X: Have you seen all the touchscreen displays on the Enterprise D? It's like the iPod scroll wheel had kittens. And the head cat-wrangler on this starship is none other than Lt. Commander Data. In more than one episode, this Soong-type automaton directly interfaces with these so-comfy-it's-creepy computers with a single wire link—call it isolinear cable, AppleTalk, FireWire or USB, it's all the same breed of Apple peripheral. And while we're at it, let's take a look at this palefaced android—designed by an iconoclastic genius (Soong or Jobs?) to be far more advanced than any invention of his kind, yet there are only one or two of him around and almost nobody is clamoring to clone him or make him standard issue. Plus, he only comes in white. Data practically is a Mac. TARDIS USBDr. Who = PC: I'm with Brooker on this one, The Doctor is a PC freak of the first order. He holds onto his Tardis long after its gone buggy and can't display properly, but hidden somewhere in its heavily patched feature sets are unbelievable abilities everyone wants but no one can use—sorta like the guy still running Microsoft Office 95. Also, whenever support for an older version runs out, the good Doctor himself his upgraded to a newer model, and this is termed a benefit to the user, regardless of whether it's true or not. (Tom Baker or Win2K? You decide.) His show may not have the most cutting edge features and effects, but it's been around so long and been seen by so many it's the de facto standard, regardless of whether any of the current incarnations are worthy. I can't describe Windows any better than that.

About

Jay Garmon has a vast and terrifying knowledge of all things obscure, obtuse, and irrelevant. One day, he hopes to write science fiction, but for now he'll settle for something stranger — amusing and abusing IT pros. Read his full profile. You can a...

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