Invasion of the Dancing Penguin

Fake News written by James Baughn on Tuesday, April 20, 1999

from the copying-bad-microsoft-ideas dept.

Those annoying, dancing cartoon characters embedded in software applications are no longer confined to Microsoft programs. They have entered the realm of Linux. A new Linux distribution under development, called LinTux, promises to provide a more "user-friendly" environment through its "Dancing Penguin" assistant.

Dancing Tux will "guide" users through the installation process and will be a permanent fixture of the X root window. The LinTux staff demonstrated a prototype version of the Dancing Tux program to this Humorix reporter. It was certainly impressive, but, like the Dancing Paper Clip in Microsoft Office, it becomes annoying very fast.

According to the design goal of LinTux, the animated Dancing Tux should be able to offer helpful suggestions to the novice user. The "suggestions" offered in the prototype version, at least, didn't seem very helpful. "Click on the green dragon icon to launch Netscape" or "Press the fvwm95 Start button to open the Start Menu" aren't terribly enlightening.

In addition, Dancing Tux is supposed to "sugar-coat" error messages. If the dial-up Internet connection is lost, for example, the user will see an animation of Tux picking up a phone line and saying "Uh oh. It looks like pppd has died." Granted, LinTux is still in the prototype stage, but it seems to this reporter that Tux's animation and explanation were no more helpful than the usual "pppd really did die" obfuscated console error message.

The one redeeming feature of LinTux is that, when the system is idle, Dancing Tux becomes a make-shift screen saver. The animations included in the prototype were quite amusing. For instance, in one scene, Tux chases Bill Gates through an Antarctic backdrop. In another animation, Tux can be seen drinking beers with his penguin pals and telling Microsoft jokes. While these "screen savers" serve no useful function, they are a nice diversion.

A beta version of LinTux should be available in late June.

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