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"Linus likes penguins". That's it. There was even a headline on it in some Linux Journal some time ago (I was bitten by a Killer Penguin in Australia - I'm not kidding). Penguins are fun.
As to why use a penguin as a logo? No good reason, really. But a logo doesn't really ave to _mean_ anything - it's the association that counts. And I can think of many worse things than have linux being associated with penguins.
Having a penguin as a logo also gives more freedom to people wanting to use linux-related material: instead of being firmly fixed with a specific logo (the triangle, or just "Linux 2.0" or some other abstract thing), using something like a penguin gives people the chance to make modifications that are still recognizable.
So you can have a real live penguin on a CD cover, for example, and people will get the association. Or you can have a penguin that does something specific (a Penguin writing on wordperfect for the WP Linux CD, whatever - you get the idea).
Compare that to a more abstract logo (like the windows logo - it's not a bad logo in itself). You can't really do anything with a logo like that. It just "is".
If you have seen the movie "March of the Penguins", then you can see some parallels: Teamwork, struggle for survival, etc.
Look at the scene where they are all huddled for the winter--keeping each other warm and protecting their eggs. That's us.
The brutal antartic winter is of course a metaphor for the MS establishment.
What would you have Linux use as a logo or symbol a butterfly, who in there right mind would use a butterfly.
Oh wait never mind.
Why not a butterfly? I have a nice butterfly tattoo on my back!
No, not the M$ butterfly - a butterfly I was drawing for a while, then saw a tat with the exact same butterfly I had in mind and had been drawing, just changed the coloring a bit and had it done.
The same could be asked of the BSD logo: why a devil? Isn't Satan supposed to be evil? Wouldn't Beastie, being a demon, be a servant of Satan? The answer is: it's just a cute recognizable drawing and the FreeBSD folks liked it, so they used it as their logo for a good long while. With that said, Tux is cute and is a great memorable logo.