Linux Foundation Explains a "World without Linux" and Open Source

Would the world really be tremendously different if Linux, the open source operating system kernel, did not exist? Would there be no Internet or movies?

Christopher Tozzi, Contributing Editor

November 26, 2015

4 Min Read
Linux Foundation Explains a "World without Linux" and Open Source

Would the world really be tremendously different if Linux, the open source operating system kernel, did not exist? Would there be no Internet or movies? Those are the questions some viewers of the Linux Foundation‘s ongoing “World without Linux” video series are asking. Here are some answers.

In case you’ve missed it, the “World without Linux” series is a collection of quirky short films that depict, well, a world without Linux (and open source software more generally). They have emphasized themes like Linux’s role in movie-making and in serving the Internet.

To offer perspective on the series’s claims, direction and hidden symbols, Jennifer Cloer, vice president of communications at The Linux Foundation, recently sent The VAR Guy responses to some common queries about the movies. Below are the answers, in her own words.

The latest episode takes Sam and Annie to the movies. Would today’s graphics really be that much different without Linux?
In episode #4, we do a bit of a parody on “Avatar.” Love it or hate it, the graphics in the real “Avatar” are pretty impressive. In a world without Linux, the graphics would be horrible but we wouldn’t even know it because we wouldn’t know any better. But in fact, “Avatar” was created using Linux. Weta Digital used one of the world’s largest Linux clusters to render the film and do 3D modeling. It’s also been reported that “Lord of the Rings,” “Fantastic Four” and “King Kong,” among others, have used Linux. We hope this episode can bring attention to that work, which hasn’t been widely reported.

Some people criticized the original episode for concluding there would be no Internet without Linux. What’s your reaction?
We enjoyed the debate that resulted from the debut episode. With more than 100,000 views to date of that episode alone, it brought awareness to the role that Linux plays in society and to the worldwide community of contributors and supporters. Of course the Internet would exist without Linux but it wouldn’t be the Internet we know today and it wouldn’t have matured at the pace it has. Each episode makes a bold and fun statement about Linux’s role in our every day lives. We hope this can help extend the story of Linux to more people around the world.

Why is Sam and Annie’s cat named String?
Nothing in the series is a coincidence. Look closely and you’ll find all kinds of inside Linux and geek jokes. String is named after String theory and was named by our Editor Libby Clark. In physics, string theory is a theoretical framework in which the point-like particles of particle physics are replaced by one-dimensional objects called strings. String theory describes how these strings propagate through space and interact with each other. Kind of like Sam, Annie and String in a World Without Linux.

What can we expect from the next two episodes and, in particular, the finale? When will it air?
In episode #5, we’ll go to space and experience what a world without Linux would mean to exploration. It’s a wild ride. In the finale, we finally get to see Linus in a world without Linux. There have been clues throughout the series as to what this finale will include but I can’t give more than that away since there are ongoing contests to find the clues. And I can’t give away the air date for the finale! You’ll have to follow #WorldWithoutLinux to learn more.

Can you give us a hint on the clues in episode #4?
There is another reference to the Free Burger Restaurant in this episode. Linux also actually does appear in this world without Linux but in a very covert way; you could say it’s like reading Linux in another language. And, of course, just for fun, String makes another appearance.

Is the series achieving what you hoped?
Yes. We’re really happy to see people share and engage with these stories. We hope that it’s reaching people who might not otherwise know the story of Linux or understand its pervasiveness in the world today. It’s really about surfacing this to a broader audience and giving thanks to the worldwide community of developers and companies that support Linux and all the things it makes possible.

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About the Author(s)

Christopher Tozzi

Contributing Editor

Christopher Tozzi started covering the channel for The VAR Guy on a freelance basis in 2008, with an emphasis on open source, Linux, virtualization, SDN, containers, data storage and related topics. He also teaches history at a major university in Washington, D.C. He occasionally combines these interests by writing about the history of software. His book on this topic, “For Fun and Profit: A History of the Free and Open Source Software Revolution,” is forthcoming with MIT Press.

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