30 Seconds of Ubuntu 💾

Why a fleeting moment in a buzzy movie makes me think 2021 is the year of Linux on the desktop.

Ubuntu saw a big, if fleeting, increase in market share during the pandemic, which felt like kind of a big deal when it happened.

If Linux is to be considered a mainstream desktop operating system, Ubuntu is its most likely vessel. But nothing could have prepared me to actually see the operating system on the screen in the movie Nobody, where version 18.04, codenamed Bionic Beaver, appeared on the screen for a brief few seconds.

Bob Odenkirk’s excellent action movie is made all the better for the fact that it may be the first placement of a bog-standard Linux interface in a mainstream film, well ever. (The SGI-friendly Jurassic Park beat it out for standard Unix by about 28 years, but still.)

The history of films using computer interfaces has often revolved around Apple, which has found a lot of success placing its products in films big and small over the past few decades—from a PowerBook literally destroying an alien ship in Independence Day to its laptops showing up in basically everything from Legally Blonde to The Big Bang Theory, along with a few more esoteric placements (Children of Men features a Twentieth Anniversary Macintosh, true story). Heck, Apple TV has become somewhat annoying for how aggressive the placements end up being in shows like Ted Lasso.

And if they’re not Apple, they’re often fake. And those fake computer interfaces, I hear, are often skinned versions of Linux.

Screen Shot 2021 04 19 at 10 06 45 PM

Screen Shot 2021 04 19 at 10 07 09 PM

Screen Shot 2021 04 19 at 10 09 11 PM

Ubuntu’s close-up. The Russian baddies in the film are the ones using it, because you can’t imagine a good guy using Ubuntu.

But Ubuntu, like the same Ubuntu you can download from the internet? Now that’s a new one. If you look close up at the interface in the film some of the mystique gets a little lost. Some fun random details:

  • A triple-monitor computer is set up from a laptop, despite said laptop not being plugged in (man, I want that Linux package)
  • The user is pinging the famed, recently deceased file repository Tucows
  • A VirtualBox share is mounted (is a VM running in the background?)
  • The person using it is in the process of installing Python packages and running ifconfig
  • The user also has an inspector-style interface open in Firefox to analyze a website, which pops up as soon as she clicks on the icon

I was really psyched to see this movie, which deservedly looks to make Odenkirk, who I’ve been a fan of since the days of Mr. Show, into a marquee movie star. But I may be more psyched to see that Linux is taken seriously enough by Hollywood to be convincingly displayed during a scene in a big-budget action movie, even if the details aren’t perfect.

Rather than faking it, as they might have done in the past, they went all in with the real thing.

The joke about this year being the year of Linux on the desktop remains a good one and as true as ever, but honestly Nobody makes that stretch goal feel just a little more real than it did just a year or two ago.

It’s a good consolation prize, though: This is the year of Linux on the desktop, at the movies.

Time limit given ⏲: 30 minutes

Time left on clock ⏲: 3 minutes, 55 seconds

Ernie Smith

Your time was just wasted by Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is the editor of Tedium, and an active internet snarker. Between his many internet side projects, he finds time to hang out with his wife Cat, who's funnier than he is.

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