Has Linux's Tux Lost His Job?

A stand-in mascot that has appeared in the latest Linux kernel isn't intended to push out the traditional penguin named Tux, who has been the face of Linux for years, but to benefit the plight of the Tasmanian devil.

A meat-eating marsupial, the devil is bordering on extinction as the animal has been ravaged over the past decade by a transmittable cancer, one of only two known in the world. The devil is found only in the Australian island state of Tasmania.

The Linux kernel team is trying to bring awareness to the animal's plight, and Linux creator Linus Torvalds has added a patch to the mainline Linux kernel, version 2.6.29, that provides a caricature of a Tasmanian devil wearing a penguin mask.

The image shows up at boot time for a number of configurations, wrote Jonathan Corbet, a Linux kernel contributor, on his Linux Foundation blog.

Tuz was the mascot for January's Linux conference in Australia, which was held in Tasmania and where the show's annual charity auction was dedicated to raising funds to research devil facial tumor disease (DFTD).

DFTD over the past decade has wiped out up to 50 percent of devils, known for their offensive odor when under stress and their loud and disturbing screech. (See Tasmania's Save the Tasmanian Devil project.)

The conference raised $40,000 Australian dollars (US$27,257), including money bid to have Torvalds shave the 27-year-old beard of Bdale Garbee, a computer specialist who works with Linux and is the Linux CTO of HP. The before, during and after work by Torvalds was caught in pictures.

After the conference, Torvalds decided to insert Tuz into the kernel.

"There are a lot of reasons why developers create open source software. Beyond the fact that it's simply fun, many of us are motivated by a desire to make the world a better place. The strong support in the development community for causes like the Tasmanian devil shows that this desire to improve the world goes beyond the creation of great, free software. It's something we can all be proud of," said Corbet.

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