Pallinux: Olly Olly Oxen Free! The Open Source metaphor

[Italian version: here]


Pallinux: Artwork by Fabio "Pixel" Colinelli
Pallinux: Artwork by Fabio “Pixel” Colinelli

In a world far away, in the dark Land of Digitos only populated by machines and computers, the evil Mister Woo was ruling over all. Over time, this terrible dictator was becoming a horrendous fire-eyed giant, walking the whole day by vibrating the heavy steps into his Kingdom, leaving behind him a trail of smoke and terror. Mr. Woo always wore a long, shabby and dirty top hat that had once been white, so old and ragged that he could not even keep it up straight on his head.

Throughout the Land of Digitos, the inhabitants – computers – were scattered, each one segregated in a narrow metal cage. As he passed, Mr. Woo was extracting a plug from his pocket, connecting it to a computer and from the other end he sucked all the sap, leaving the poor one in the cage every day more exhausted and worn out. And if sometimes it happened that one of them was not able to recover from Mr. Woo’s aggression, the giant turned around and shouted to his slaves, the strong sound coming out of his throat:


This strange word was a terrible command feared by the poor computers who hoped it would never be pronounced. It meant erasing all their lives and child memories and starting a new sad cycle subjected to the wishes of Mr. Woo. When the giant shouted that word, a silence of fear fell in the Land of Digitos and all the little machines in the cages began to tremble, terrified.

Nevertheless, at birth, computers were used to be born free and happy. What so wicked a thing could happen as to force them to that life? Well, for every newborn machine, Mr. Woo was immediately alerted and went near the baby. Once near the cage of the parents, he would stretch his rough and hairy arms and take the baby with him. Shortly after, among the lamentations of the mother, he inserted into the newborn a CD that he extracted from under his hat: from that moment, the baby would never be free anymore, condemned to live his entire life in the cage.

Mister Woo: Artwork by Fabio "Pixel" Colinelli
Mister Woo: Artwork by Fabio “Pixel” Colinelli

To survive, the Digitos computers had to eat a strange food called software, but it was very expensive and often there was not enough for everyone. The software market was also controlled by the evil Mr. Woo who was offering only the bare minimum and of poor quality. The food distributed by Mr. Woo’s army was often rotten, damaged or unsafe for the health of the computers which weakened more and more until they got so weak that they inevitably needed to be reformatted!

It was really a sad life that was lived in the Land of Digitos ruled, at that time, by Mr. Woo.

One cloudless night, when all the stars shone mightily trying to relieve their splendor and the sadness that enveloped the inhabitants of the Land of Digitos, from the dark of the night a light began to approach from the sky, brighter than the others, moving at great speed through space. After a few minutes, in a rapid zigzag trajectory, the light came closer and closer until it fell down on Digitos with a huge puff of dust and noise. All the computers awoke intrigued from the small prisons and when the yellow cloud slowly cleared, each one stood with the disc tray open, in an expression of general amazement.

A strange little thing had appeared at the point where the light fallen: it had a large orange head with two arms on the sides, supported by a long neck that was directly connected to a wheel. The face of the newcomer was so infectiously funny that no one felt fear of the unknown. He smiled with his big mouth while the small antennas were waving on his head and turning like in a merry dance. Suddenly he frowned in an attitude of deep concern and approached one of the cages.

«Why are you all in jail? » he said, «Look at those sad faces… Who got you here? ».

«But… » a shy computer said with a whisper «… who are you? ».

«Hey! I am Pallinux! »

«We don’t know you… Mr. Woo keeps us all in a cage and we cannot get out of here. Moreover, even if we went out, we would not have to feed us, that it is he who sells the software … ».

«Does he sell the software? » Pallinux answered, amazed. “What do you mean? The software may not be sold; we all have the right to eat it freely».

«Oh… it’s easy for you… But there is no free software… ».

Pallinux shows OS: Artwork by Fabio "Pixel" Colinelli
Pallinux shows OS: Artwork by Fabio “Pixel” Colinelli

«Dear friends, I see that you need an explanation. Let me start over. I am Pallinux and I bring you exactly what you need: free software, so that everybody can enjoy, eat and then grow happy together. I know that Mr. Woo, I heard about him. Giving you to eat his software, he keeps you as poisoned, addicted at life to him and now – look at you – you are all battered and in poor condition. Look there… weighed down, you move with difficulty and the oldest are thrown in the cemetery of the computers… They have told you a wrong world! Come on, open these cages, here … one, two, three… … six million… ten million… Done! Olly olly oxen free! »

Tentatively, each computer began to slowly step out of the cages until they were all in the night around Pallinux.

«Now do as I say… Take and put in your mouth this CD that I am delivering to you. Then copy it and give it to eat to your friends, children and relatives».

«Copy it? » a tiny computer shouted, «But Mr. Woo said that it is forbidden to copy the software».

«Well, » Pallinux replied «In a sense he is right. It is forbidden to copy HIS software: don’t do it, because that food is poisoned! This – as I said – is free software, prepared for you by all Pallinux’s friends: millions of young people working in other worlds so you can feel free and go out of the cages, lighter and safer. Ah! And don’t forget one thing; give a few even to those poor old computers that Mr. Woo sent to the cemetery of the machines. You will see that they will soon recover».           

The environment around Pallinux was turning into a festive coming and going of computers, each with his new free software in his mouth. Each machine that ate one suddenly resumed forces and began to run everywhere, shining with new colors so that the valley had become like a vast expanse of flowers tossed by the wind. Pallinux jumped here and there on his wheel, spreading joy and freedom.

Suddenly the earth trembled with gloom and everyone ran for cover.

«Run” it was heard in the air, «Hide yourself, Mr. Woo is coming».

«Don’t be afraid, » Pallinux said, trying to reassure the millions of computers that fluttered in terror.

«What’s happening here? » roared the angry voice of Mr. Woo, from under his hat.

«It happens that you have finished telling fibs, Woo! » said Pallinux, facing a high forehead with his arms at the waist.

Mr. Woo squinted, trying to see who was that strange being, then dropped to the ground to get closer and lurched backwards.

Mr. Woo is transformed in a penguin: Artwork by Fabio "Pixel" Colinelli
Mr. Woo is transformed in a penguin: Artwork by Fabio “Pixel” Colinelli

«You? Little dwarf, you still dare to challenge me? I’ll crush you with one foot…».

Woo started toward him menacingly and in that while Pallinux took a running start, launching his mono-wheel to a nearby boulder. Hitting the obstacle, Pallinux rose in flight and once arriving at the mouth of the giant, he slipped one of his CDs into Woo’s jaws.

Mr. Woo blinked back, putting his hands to his throat. He seemed to be suffocating, moaning voiceless while two long trails of smoke came out dense out of his ears. Suddenly, he could scream out, shaking the whole Land of Digitos and, as he raised his arms to the sky, a loud noise was heard accompanied by a blinding flash that dazzled everyone.

When everyone was able to clearly see again, only Mr. Woo’s top hat was left on the ground. Strangely, however, the hat was not still but wobbling and trembling. After a few moments it started moving on the ground, as if it was alive, and all the computers were frightened clutching each other.

Pallinux then approached the top hat and with a flick of the hand he made it fly away, revealing a little hopping penguin hidden under Woo’s hat.

«But… » a computer behind him said «… Where is Mr. Woo?… what happened? ».

Pallinux turned around, opened his arms, raised his eyebrows and said:

«He’s gone … Reformatted! »



Creative Commons License
Pallinux by Fabio Marzocca (drawings by: Fabio Colinelli) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

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