True believers: The biggest cults in tech

You may be a member of one of these IT cults or simply know someone who is. Here's what makes each cult tick.

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Tech cult No. 3: The Ubuntu tribe
Established: 2004
Gathering of the tribes: Ubuntu Developer Summits
Major deity: Linus Torvalds
Minor deity: Mark Shuttleworth
Animal spirit guides: Breezy badgers, dapper drakes, feisty fawns, gutsy gibbons, hardy herons, intrepid ibexes, jaunty jackalopes

An offshoot from the Debian clan, Ubuntu may be the largest of the many Linux pagan belief systems, says Scott Steinberg, publisher of gadget site Digital Trends, in part because it's more accessible to less tech-savvy geeks.

"Ubuntu is one of the more robust and user-friendly builds of Linux available, and one that -- at odds with typical elitist mentalities -- comes with a community that's generally receptive and friendly to beginner- and intermediate-level users," he says. "Audience participation is welcomed and invited, and sincere efforts have been made to ensure appeal to a wide demographic."

[ Is Ubuntu as slick and user-friendly as its tribe claims? Find out in Neil McAllister's first look at Ubuntu 9.04. ]

Ubuntu code is governed by a council of more than 120 Masters of the Universe (MOTU), who handle development chores for the Universe and Multiverse repositories, plus another 55 mystics (core developers) and thousands of lay-programmers, says Ryan Troy, founder of Ubuntuforums.org. However, it is ruled by a single shaman: Mark Shuttleworth, CEO of Ubuntu's commercial sponsor Canonical, but more commonly known as Self-Appointed Benevolent Dictator for Life.

Although the word "Ubuntu" derives from an African philosophy meaning "I am what I am because of who we all are," disagreements abound among the faithful. Troy admits there's "a pretty good amount of drama" in the Ubuntu user forums, but says that overall the Ubuntu community is tightly knit and well governed. However, holy wars with followers of Windows, Mac, and other Linux distros continue to rage.

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