The Bigger Linux Metaphor

Who was it that said that Linux was like lumber? Was that Doc Searls? I don’t think it was Mad Dog. Well, I don’t see how the metaphor fits. Linux is not lumber, it’s a tool based on a legacy of programming. But none of the tools we use now (and I’m being really general) were not here when System V was new. We had to use our tool to make more tools.

What do you call that? No… Not a multi-tool. No, you call that a workshop. Linux is my workshop with my tools. Perl is my lathe for text, tcpdump is my oscilloscope for packets, and C is my blowtorch for welding libraries into new tools (I don’t actually like C).

Linux is a tool for craftswomen1: a workshop for data and logic carpentry. A machine shop for grinding out the programs that are the gears and sprockets for business. The lumber? You feed lumber into the machine. Our lumber is time. No time? No gizmo. Short a project on time? You get a wooden mallet for your business.

[1] $craftswomen = m/\bcrafts(m[ae]n|wom[ea]n)\b/ig;

Now, that is a rich metaphor for Linux! One that conveys the best scenario for teaching people the nature of computers, too. The word workshop causes you to bypass thinking about the beige box on your desk and immediately skips your thinking to the tasks and tools you do with one instead. It emphasizes the multitude of skills and techniques needed for data and networking.

Hasn’t this all been solved, though? Can’t you get everything already on your iPhone or your Windows desktop? Sure, if you like hitting your problems with wooden mallets. (Ever try to run your enterprise web application on top of Microsoft Access? Yeah.)

Luckily, not all problems have been solved! This means jobs. This means hope. Don’t your kids use Linux yet? What are you waiting for? Teach your daughters2 Linux.

2] $daughters = m/(daughter|son|cousin|niece|nephew|grandchild|stranger|friend|lover)s?/ig;
Jed Reynolds
Jed Reynolds has been known to void warranties and super glue his fingers together. When he is not doing photography or fixing his bike, he can be found being a grey beard programmer analyst for Candela Technologies. Start stalking him at

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