The Linux insurgency

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Insurgent methodology clearly fascinates master tactician Peter Mandelson who recently urged the UK Government to behave more like insurgents in order to beat the Conservative Party in the forthcoming election. Superficially, it is a mildly bizarre statement but maybe not.

General McChrsytal no less believes that the US is in real danger of never being able to beat the Talebs... unless they find the 'right strategy'. Pretty shocking statement that.

However the prospect of defeat of an incomprehensibly technically advanced superpower by an ostensibly rag-tag insurgency is not remotely new. In my short memory the Vietcong did it to the US and her allies in Vietnam and the Mujahidin did it to the Soviets in Afghanistan.

Before that we have the then mighty British Empire getting a dusting in the 1842 defeat by the Afghans (they crop up a lot, maybe they should run some training camps?) and then kicking off the 20th century by getting a kicking from the Boer Guerrillas in South Africa.

Why am I going over this ground?

The reason is that a Microsoft Presentation is doing the rounds at the minute in which its vendors are instructed on how to convince people that Windows 7 is better than Linux, more of which later. Turns out that this presentation is controversial.

So, for now let's indulge the analogy that Microsoft is the Superpower to Linux's Insurgency and explore what that means. No more history, but what on earth makes some Insurgents/Guerillas/FreedomFighters/Terrorists so darned good at what they do?

Or rather why can't Superpowers defeat them? A clue can be found in an unlikely place..school.

School ICT Insurgency

Many years ago when I was a college teacher I had the privilege of teaching some very bright teenage boys. I was in charge of the ICT at the time, it was in the Windows 98 era.

The boys made it their mission to gain control of the network, day in day out. It was like a mini war in which they were the insurgents and the school was the superpower. Windows 98 obliged by being amazingly insecure.

Any good teacher in this situation knows one thing... go head to head with your young protagonists and you will lose. They move faster, are more devious and cunning than you can imagine, have no scruples and never let up. In contrast you plod after them with a thousand other things to do, constraints on your actions... constantly playing catch-up. Sound familiar?

All you can do is accept that you are beat and start turning as many poachers into gamekeepers as you can. Every geek reading this article will know what I am saying is true because its likely that you too were one of the 'insurgents' :)

Some less experienced teachers or those who truly believe that might would prevail, ratchet up the conflict status with the pupils increasing sanctions and so on until at the end of the war, all too frequently the computer suites were locked and made unavailable...some 'win'!

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