SuperVillain: He Has More Friends Now

Ubergeek's funny "Switch to Linux" video has a helpful subagenda: better open-source animation and tools. is a collection of animated graphics and other fun stuff that instantly achieved a kind of cult status when it took satirical aim at Apple's "switch" advertising campaign with an artfully stylized Flash movie--and hammered it right through the floor.

Mountain climbing with video artists, hang gliding with movie stars. Hang gliding. I'm interesting...

My dad used to beat me with his PC...

Ubergeek's next video took aim at a breed of true geeks: the Linux Guy. Here's the copy:

We were negotiating with the Pentagon. We had a blue screen of death. That was the last straw.

When you're holding the Moon for ransom, you value stability in an application. Linux gives us the power we need to crush those who oppose us.

It's compatible with our orbiting brain lasers.

I've got a Beowulf cluster of atomic supermen.

I have more friends now.

Genetically engineered cyber-goats. Henchmen with bad teeth. Gorgeous fembots with a penchant for evil.

I mean, Linux runs on anything.

I'm all about: Open Source. Just changed my love life.

You've got to config it. And then you have to write some shell scripts. Update your RPMs. You have to partition your drives. And patch your kernel. Compile your binaries. Check your version dependencies. Probably do that once or twice.

It's just so easy. And so simple. I don't know why everyone doesn't run Linux.

Thank God they don't, or then they would all be supervillains, wouldn't they? Heh heh.

I'm Steve, and I'm a supervillain.

The Ubergeek site is clearly the work of a lone villain. I wanted to know more about the guy, so I wrote to ask if he'd be up for a few questions.

He wrote back, "I'm completely up for it! Linux Journal's great. I'm a fan of your work."

His name is Chris Hill and he describes himself as "an American living in London, England, originally hailing from Phoenix, Arizona." As for his day job, he says,

I'm a freelance web guy. I have my fingers in every pot. I host, design, manage projects and code. Mainly web sites for mid-sized corporations in the Southwest. I originally went to school for graphic design, but I've been into programming since I was young.

When I asked him if any of the Big Boys want a piece of his success, he expanded on a World of Ends line about "companies whose value came from distributing content in ways the market no longer wants":

As a budding animator I've had tons of offers from everyone to display my animations on their web sites, set up agreements where people would host or mirror my animations. Some of these people just want to co-opt my work for their own gain. These media dinosaurs don't seem to understand that I can own AND distribute my own content by myself. Why should I attempt to strengthen someone else's brand with my own work?

Although the recording industry needs a wake up call, artists can benefit themselves from not making bad agreements. The simplicity and stupidity of the Internet can keep artists from having to make more complex and limiting agreements with greedy third parties. Then the idea of a recording industry as we know it would be just as outdated as the media dinosaurs themselves.

I've also written a short article, "Making Animation Open Source". It's not stellar writing, but it outlines a lot of major hurdles [that need to be cleared] and paradigm shifting that needs to happen to push on-line animation to the next level.

When I asked him about his own Linux setup, he replied,

Well, I run RH 7.3 and 8 on two boxes (dual boot with Win2K), and OS X on my iBook. I use Macromedia Flash to create my animations. I draw directly into Macromedia Flash MX using my Wacom tablet. I also draw by hand a lot, scanning them into Photoshop.

I must admit I actually do most of my work in Win2K, but I wish that I was able to do that work in Linux. That was one of the main reasons I made the animation--to improve awareness of Linux. My Linux activities are mainly Java programming, PHP and doodling little programs, scripts, whatever. I'm back in the DOS days again through a lot of it, which I like.

My server also runs RH 7.3, which is where my real Linux time is spent. I host my own site and all my friends'.

I asked if "Steve" is based on anyone in particular. He said,

Visually, Steve is mainly influenced by Steve Mann and a bunch of wearable computing geeks on my hard drive.

The Steve character is based on real hardcore Linux evangelists, who are like giant command-line brainsponges, able to grok and compile anything without a single semicolon missing. These guys can just do it; and when you can't, they don't understand why. Accidentally a bit egotistical and a bit evil. Hence, a Linux supervillain.

(For context, check out Steve Mann's cyborg-community-antenna and secret photoborg stuff.)

I asked him what he's up to next.

I don't want to reveal too much, but the next animation is about Toast and XML. I'm also working on a larger animation with friends called Robot Parade. This one's more involved, using 3-D to composite 2-D animation and exporting to video.

He also said he was closer to crafting future animations in Linux:

Actually I've been thinking a lot about improving on the ideas in that article. I've had a bit of feedback and done more research. I've also found a useful open-source animation tool, Blender. It needs work, but it might be feasible to create great 2-D animation in this 3-D program. I think I might be able to create an animation fully in Linux.

Given his track record, we're expecting some killer stuff.

Doc Searls is Senior Editor of Linux Journal.



Doc Searls is Senior Editor of Linux Journal