Article: The Windows/macOS/Linux Triumvirate
A humorous interpretation of three Elder Scrolls deities as an allegory for a trio of popular operating systems.
Posted: 25 November 2018
When working on cross-platform open source projects, it is quite common to hear developers refer to successful support for Windows, macOS, and Linux as achieving “the trifecta”. Although significantly less common, I have also heard developers refer to this trio of operating systems as “the triumvirate”. The term triumvirate is most commonly used to refer to two ancient Roman political alliances. However, as a fan of the Elder Scrolls series of video games, the term immediately brings to my mind the Almsivi Triumvirate, first introduced in the 2002 game Morrowind and its Tribunal expansion pack. This triumvirate consists of three gods who play a key role in the plot of the main questlines for both the base game and the Tribunal expansion.
Amusingly, aspects of these three characters are strongly reminiscent of the three most popular operating systems in use today. Although this interpretation represents a vast oversimplification of these characters’ personalities and motives, and also relies in part on real-world events that occurred many years after the release of Morrowind, I share it in the hopes that readers may find it entertaining.
The Almsivi Triumvirate as allegories for operating systems are as follows:
Sotha Sil as an allegory for Linux. Sotha Sil is depicted as an engineer who loves nothing more than to construct advanced technology, largely motivated by the act of invention itself. This depiction is strongly reminiscent of maker culture, within which Linux is firmly embedded. The Tribunal storyline suggests that Sotha Sil is something of a misunderstood recluse, which was significantly more reminiscent of Linux back in 2002 than it is in the present day, due to the mainstream acceptance that Linux has achieved in the intervening years. Sotha Sil is also stated to be a powerful wizard who utilises many complex and arcane rituals to bring his creations to life, which is commonly how Linux power users are viewed by anyone unfamiliar with the use of a command line interface.
Almalexia as an allegory for macOS. Almalexia is said to be extremely beautiful, and is worshipped and adored by her followers. This is reminiscent not just of macOS but of Apple products in general, which tend to be prized for their aesthetic qualities and have garnered a large group of extremely devoted users. During the course of Tribunal, Almalexia utilises machinery created by Sotha Sil to assist in the fruition of her plans, which draws parallels to the use of open source software components within the core of macOS. (A key point of differentiation is that Almalexia is deceptive and disingenuous in her use of third-party technology, whereas Apple is entirely transparent about it.) The Tribunal storyline instils in players an uneasy sense that Almalexia is manipulating them to further her own goals, which is subsequently revealed to be true at the climax of the main questline. Time will tell as to whether Apple is harbouring similarly villainous ulterior motives.
Vivec as an allegory for Windows. Vivec uses his divine powers to suspend a hollowed-out moonlet above his home of Vivec City for a large part of the Elder Scrolls timeline. During the events of Morrowind the moonlet is used as a high-security prison. Shortly after Vivec’s power fades at the conclusion of the main questline, the moonlet crashes into the city, obliterating it entirely and triggering a volcanic eruption that devastates both Vvardenfell and mainland Morrowind. Although a far more extreme scenario than any real-world example of a security breach or malware attack, this fictional event serves as an excellent parallel to the manner in which so many individuals and businesses worldwide rely on Windows, and the widespread damage that can ensue when the operating system is compromised and exploited. Morrowind also gives players the option to kill Vivec (albeit with consequences for the completion of the main quest), an opportunity that many frustrated Windows users have no doubt wished for on countless occasions over the years.