Enterprise: Linux, Starships and Postscripts

Ready or not, here it comes.

Always playing with the semantics of each issue's focus, Marcel Gagné reminds us that for many, the word enterprise conjures up visions of Captain Kirk and the starship under his command. But by Captain Kirk's time, the name Enterprise (sometimes Enterprize) was already an old one for warships. A 12-gun US naval schooner built in 1799, the third US naval vessel to bear the name, is perhaps the most famous (next to the starship, of course). It was this little ship that spawned the tradition of passing the famous name to innovative or “enterprising” ships in the 20th century (i.e., a WWII aircraft carrier and the first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier). The schooner served with distinction through the engagements with the Barbary corsairs, the Quasi War with France and the War of 1812. She was commanded by some of the most notable names in US naval history, such as Stephan Decatur, Isaac Hull and James Lawrence (of “Don't give up the ship” fame). Michael Bosworth writes that “Enterprize, in her original schooner rig, had a reputation of being fast, and she was remarkably lucky in her assignments, her timely refits and her officers and crew.” When the time came in 1803 to build more naval schooners, it was hoped that the Enterprize could serve as a model. But alas, no Enterprize plans were to be found, and the schooner, while lucky in her own right, could not be reproduced. Her career was a collection of serendipitous and fortuitous events that entice one to believe she was fated to succeed.

Despite the hard work of thousands, the point where Linux now sits can similarly be considered a lucky or fated enterprise, especially when one considers the role initially played in that success simply by the personality of Linus Torvalds. But now Linux seems to be at a juncture. The initial hype and excitement are gone, the bandwagon jumpers-on are gone, and it's time to see whether Linux can continue its maturation rate and present a viable solution to an ever-increasing variety of applications.

While it's important not to forget the many improvements yet to be made to Linux, I like the attitude in David Bandel's column this month—that the existence of many large companies using Linux is proof that it is ready for the enterprise. Our article on Bike Friday and their move from Microsoft to Linux supports this, and this month's Linux Bytes Other Markets highlighting a manufacturing firm that uses Linux for everything, including every employee's desktop, is another drop in the bucket of evidence that this player is ready for prime time.

As a side note, plans for a ship believed to be the schooner Enterprise were recently found in Venice. The plans are being used to construct a replica in Washington, DC that will be used as an educational ship and goodwill ambassador.

email: richard@ssc.com

Richard Vernon is editor in chief of Linux Journal. He enjoys studying naval history and really knows his way around a dinghy.

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