There’s plenty of definitions for the word “master” – my Oxford English Dictionary lists over thirty – and most of them are unproblematic. That is, they do what they say on the tin. There’s also a meaning connected to slavery. Slavery is an evil that I’m glad is partly destroyed from the world, sad that it is only partly destroyed; like smallpox, it should be gone.

We can talk about things that do not exist, and things that should not exist, and things that exist metaphorically. But we should be – when I say “we should be” I mean “I personally pledge to do”, as well as meaning “this is a moral imperative to all of us” – we should be careful to use words with the right etyomological, historical, and metaphorical baggage.

I don’t want to use the word “master” with a meaning connected to slavery, unless it’s speaking specifically about slavery, the evil that it is, and its abolition.

Calamares uses the phrase “master boot record”. That’s the first 512 bytes (one block) of an old-fashioned hard disk. The meaning on the tin, and the etymological background, is one of “original version”. The one from which copies are made. This is still the meaning held by MBR, the terminology is current, and Calamares is going to keep using it.

Since Calamares deals with hard disks – even old-fashioned ones – it might have to deal with two disks attached to the same PATA cable. Since 1994, those disks have been called device 0 and device 1 in the ATA standard (says Wikipedia), but earlier terminology persists, like on a hard disk from 2004 (cable is not connected, just a reminder of 40-pin connectors with 80-strand cables).

PATA Connectors and Jumpers

So if Calamares were to talk about hard disk addressing, it shouldn’t use the technically and morally wrong word “master”. The metaphor is clear, and I will have no part of it: “master” with metaphorical connections to slavery is to be used to speak of slavery, the evil that it is, and its abolition.

I checked: Calamares doesn’t deal with this level of detail, so this is a cheap commitment from me.

But today I learned something new, about the history of the naming of git branches. Brendan O’Leary has a good write-up, though I found that from following Reginald Braithwaite. Brendan describes the history of, and the metaphorical baggage of, git’s “master” branch.

I will have no part of that, and so the default branch, the branch from which new releases are cut, and the branch I generally merge my git alligators to, is calamares from this day forward.

If you git pull from the Calamares repository, you may need to switch: do a git fetch -p followed by git checkout calamares.