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The NetWare blues

Oct 28, 20033 mins
Enterprise Applications

* Novell sings the Linux blues

A few weeks ago I watched the Public Television Service’s series called “The Blues,” seven films made by seven directors each emphasizing a different aspect of what’s considered America’s only native art form. I was struck by the continuity of the form, the music, the topics and even the words from the songs first written down by W.C. Handy in the early years of the last century right through to the music I heard B.B. King play in concert last summer. The blues, I thought, the more it changes the more it stays the same.

On an airplane last week, though, I was reading an article about the blues (in the October “American Way” magazine) and was struck by something attributed to 38-year old blues singer Chris Thomas King who is often criticized for introducing modern ideas and concepts into the blues form.

King said: “…when cars and telegrams were new people wrote songs about that. But if you mention the Internet in a blues song, some people say, ‘Hey, that’s not the blues.’ Well, what do you mean? If I’m trying to e-mail my woman and she won’t e-mail me back, that’s the blues.” (

Maybe what Chris Stone and company at Novell are trying to do to NetWare is similar to what Chris Thomas King is trying to do to the blues – make it relevant for today. Maybe the whole NetWare on Linux push is just a way of taking those things we know are best for networking and applying them to a new era of computing.

I know that I’ve been at the forefront of those railing against the move to Linux, but it may be time to re-examine those thoughts in a new light – could it be that I was taken with preserving what was great rather than with applying what’s great to a new era of computing?

Chris Thomas King points out that the blues came from the sharecroppers’ experience in the Mississippi delta but today’s singers haven’t ever seen the delta, never mind the sharecropping. In the 1920s and 1930s the subjects reflected the singer’s move to the bigger cities of the south, Birmingham, Nashville and Memphis. A decade or so later, the “urban blues” took the basic structure of the delta and applied to it the everyday heartbreak of the big city. And then it stopped growing. Chris Thomas King wants to bring the blues to bear on our modern life, just as Chris Stone wants to bring NetWare to bear on our modern networks. There just might be something to that.