Tux Takes A (Tasmanian) Vacation
One would be hard pressed to find a Linux user who hasn't at one point or another become acquainted with Tux, the fine-flippered fellow who serves as mascot for all things Linux. Everybody needs a break now and again, though, and so Tux has gone on sabbatical — reportedly to work as a barber — leaving the face of a very worthy cause to hold down the fort.
Many in the Linux community will be familiar with the story of how Tux came to be the Linux mascot. Linus Torvalds, creator and developer-in-chief of the Linux kernel, reportedly has a "fixation for flightless, fat waterfowl" that led to the choice of a penguin, though there are a few explanations of how he came to be such a fan. Perhaps best known among them is Linus' claim that he was savaged by a killer penguin during a visit to Australia — an anecdote he shared with Linux Journal way back in 1995 — and from which he may or may not have contracted a rare condition known as penguinitis, said to cause one to "stay awake at nights just thinking about penguins and feeling great love towards them."
What the community is less likely to be familiar with — and the reason for Tux's vacation — is the horrific infectious facial cancer that threatens to render Australia's Tasmanian Devil extinct. In an effort to raise awareness of the Tasmanian Devil's plight, Tuz — the Tasmanian Devil-cum-penguin logo from the 2009 linux.conf.au held in Hobart, Tasmania — is standing in for Tux for the 2.6.29 Linux kernel cycle.
This is only the latest effort on the part of the Linux community to aide the ailing Devils. During linux.conf.au's Penguin Dinner, over $40,000 was raised for the cause, including a $25,000 pledge that resulted in Linus personally shaving off the beard that had adorned the face of Bdale Garbee, HP's Linux CTO, for over 27 years.
During the three months of this kernel cycle — and after it as well — the Linux community is encouraged to learn a little about this endangered species, help raise awareness about the threat to the Tasmanian Devil, and — where possible — contribute to the cause, so those who come after us will have the opportunity to see the Tasmanian Devil somewhere other than the extinct section of their science books.
Tuz is a "penguin" with a cause - are you?
Justin Ryan is a Contributing Editor for Linux Journal.