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Richard Morris

Linus Torvalds, Geek of the Week

17 July 2008

Linus Torvalds is remarkable, not only for being the technical genius who wrote Linux, but for then being able to inspire and lead an enormous team of people to devote their free time to work on the operating system and bring it to maturity. We sent Richard Morris off to interview Linus, and find out more.

Linus Torvalds, an acknowledged godfather of the open-source movement, was just 21 when he changed the world by writing Linux

Today, 17 years later, Linux powers everything from supercomputers to mobile phones. In fact ask yourself this: if Linux didn't exist, would Google, Facebook, PHP, Apache, or MySQL?


I don't personally think we'd have
gotten anywhere without all those
wild-and-wacky distributions. I'd
rather have a bit of spirited
discussion and even infighting
than a staid landscape with a
single vendor
               ”

Linus is the son of the journalists Anna and Nils Torvalds, He was attracted to computers from an early age and attended the University of Helsinki from 1988 to study Computer Science. In 1991, he purchased a PC. As the computers at the university were Unix-based, he bought a copy of Andrew Tanenbaum’s MINIX operating system. He was dissatisfied with it, and set about writing his own Unix clone from scratch, unaware of the enormity of the task.. After four months work, in his bedroom in his mother’s apartment, he announced, in the MINIX newsgroup comp.os.minix …

“I'm doing a (free) operating system (just a hobby, won't be big and professional like gnu) for 386 (486) AT clones. This has been brewing since april, and is starting to get ready.”

Torvalds called it Linux (short for Linus' MINIX). He took a break from his studies to work full-time on the project. By the end of October he was able to announce, ‘It has finally reached the stage where it's even usable’, and released Linux under the GPL (GNU General Public License). It soon became the focus of the largest collaborative ‘open source’ project ever undertaken, including geek superstars Fred van Kempen  and Alan Cox.. Linus led the development work, not just by his technical brilliance, but by his engaging and genial personality.

Linus went on to spend a total of ten years at Helsinki University, as student, researcher and instructor. His M.Sc. thesis was titled 'Linux: A Portable Operating System'

From 1997 to 1999 he was involved in 86open, helping to choose the standard binary format for Linux and Unix.


patents are
very much
used to stop
competition
             ”

After a visit to the Transmeta Corporation in late 1996, he accepted a position at the company in California, where he worked from February 1997 through to June 2003. He then moved to the Open Source Development Labs, which has since merged with the Free Standards Group to become the Linux Foundation where he works today. He continues to work on Linux’s kernel, creating code under the GNU GPL (General Public Licence) and leaving other people to package and distribute it.

Unlike many open source legends, he likes to maintain a low profile and generally refuses to comment on competing software products - happily he’s decided to relax his rules and talk to us.

RM:

'In your famous debate with Tanenbaum on micro versus monolithic LT: kernels you say that "From a theoretical (and aesthetical) standpoint [micro kernels are better]". Could you foresee a day where the practical matches the theoretical and aesthetical and the Linux Kernel does become obsolete?'

LT:

'I can certainly imagine the Linux kernel becoming obsolete - anything else would just be sad, really, in the big picture. That said having now worked in the OS area for the past, what, 17 years or so, I don't think it's micro kernels per se that would make it happen.

IOW, having done "traditional" kernels for that long, I've become convinced that they are done the way they are done traditionally for the same reason wheels are round - it's just the right way to do it: The same way that wheels are round because it's practical and they just roll better that way, you don't want to split a monolithic kernel up into many smaller things. In a kernel, you basically need to know what all the pieces are doing to make certain global decisions, and that's hard if you split things up too much.

But what can make a big deal to what is the best way of doing things is simply hardware changes or changes in what users do and how they interact with their computers. And while I don't see any big fundamental shift in how things are done, I think that is ultimately what may make Linux obsolete. -not in the near future, though. Software and hardware have an amazing inertia, and ways of doing things tend to stay around for decades. So I'm not exactly worried. '

RM:

'Many significant projects such as Apache, PHP etc do not use the GPL license. Do you think this damages the free software source community or do you think the heterogeneity of open source licenses has allowed more people to contribute to the overall effort? '

LT:

'I think heterogeneity is good. People don't agree on their goals and their motivations, and they shouldn't. There's no real reason why everybody should agree on a single license - it's not only unreasonable to expect people to all agree to begin with, but different areas of endeavor may simply have fundamental reasons why they want to do things in different ways.  For example, I obviously believe that the GPL (and v2 in particular) is a great model for working together - letting everybody share the code, but also making sure that nobody can then try to take advantage of other peoples work - you "pay" for the source code by giving source code back. I call it the "tit-for-tat" model, and it works well not only in the software world, but is fairly well known in economics and game theory too.

But the fact that I like it for the kind of endeavor I'm involved with doesn't mean that others can't have other goals. For example, if you're a standards body, and you want to use open source as a way to distribute a reference model, you may not be interested in the "tit-for-tat" part, but you want to just spread the reference code as widely as possible so that people start out with a certain basic proficiency, but you also want to make that reference the base for proprietary code-bases. So in that second situation, you might want to do an Apache or BSD license.

So even from a purely rational standpoint it makes sense to have different licenses. And no, I'm not claiming that programmers are always purely rational. There's a lot of ego involved, and a lot of personal quirks, which may explain exactly why there are so many subtly different licenses to try out.

But hey, choice is good! And there really isn't a lot of confusion, since there really are just a handful of very popular and common licenses. '

RM

'Recently we interviewed Dr Richard Hipp of SQLite fame, what do you think about his decision to remove all restrictions on the use of his code and place it in the public domain? Why didn't you do the same with Linux - surely then the code would really be free? '

LT:

'That word ‘free’ is actually a word I try to avoid using, because it means so many different things. And no, I don't mean just the trivial difference between ‘free of cost’ (as in ‘gratis’) and ‘freedom’. Even in just the ’freedom’ meaning, different people have so many different ideas of exactly what and who should have the ‘freedom’.  It's one reason I use the term ‘Open Source’, and one reason I'm actually known to butt heads with the FSF. They make a big deal about the "freedom" term, and they define it in just very particular way.

So what is ‘freedom’ to you? Is it ‘anarchy’ - the freedom to do anything you damn well want to do? If so, the BSD license is certainly much more free than the GPL is. Or is it any number of other ways to describe what "freedom" might mean? Often in very emotional terms, to boot? I'm not really interested in that kind of discussion. It's what I call "mental masturbation", when you engage is some pointless intellectual exercise that has no possible meaning.  So when I try to explain my choice of license, I use the term ‘Open Source’, and try to explain my choice of the GPLv2 not in terms of freedom, but in terms of how I want people to be able to improve on the source code - by discouraging hiding and controlling of the source code with a legal copyright license, everybody can build on the work of each other, and it basically encourages a model where people end up working together.

And don't get me wrong - I'm not saying that in a ‘sing cwm-by-ya around the camp-fire’ kind of way. It's very much an 'everybody for themselves' model, where people are encouraged to work on the things that they think matter for their needs.  But the GPLv2 is there to keep it from anarchy: it doesn't block competition and people working at opposite ends, but it does block people from trying to be anti-social and hurt each other.

People need social rules. The same is true of projects. And you need some rules that can be enforced, so that people know up-front what they are getting themselves into. And note how I'm not saying that the BSD license is bad, or that putting something into the public domain (which is even more of a free-for-all) is bad. If it was what Hipp wanted for his code, then it was the right choice. So I think that anarchy is certainly ‘more free’ than having rules, but it is also pretty certainly also less productive, and I think that at least a certain class of programmers are going to be less interested in the project exactly because they don't see the rules in place to protect their work.

So not everybody likes the GPL, but a lot of people like it exactly because it puts certain safeguards in place. Are they the safeguards you would want? That will have to be your personal choice before you join a project that uses that license, but we can certainly look back and say that they seem to be conducive to productivity and success of the project. '

RM

'Do you think software patents are a good idea?'

LT:

'Heh - definitely not. They're a disaster. The whole point (and the original idea) behind patents in the US legal sense was to encourage innovation. If you actually look at the state of patents in the US today, they do no such thing. Certainly not in software, and very arguably not in many other areas either.

Quite the reverse - patents are very much used to stop competition, which is undeniably the most powerful way to encourage innovation. Anybody who argues for patents is basically arguing against open markets and competition, but they never put it in those terms.

So the very original basis for the patents is certainly not being fulfilled today, which should already tell you something. And that's probably true in pretty much any area.

But the reason patents are especially bad for software is that software isn't some single invention where you can point to a single new idea. Not at all. All relevant software is a hugely complex set of very detailed rules, and there are millions of small and mostly trivial ideas rather than some single clever idea that can be patented. The worth of the software is not in any of those single small decisions, but in the whole.  It's also distressing to see that people patent ‘ideas’. It's not even a working "thing"; it's just a small way of doing things that you try to patent, just to have a weapon in an economic fight. Sad. Patents have lost all redeeming value, if they ever had any. '

RM

'What do you think of Microsoft's efforts to take part in the open source community? Do you think they are sincere in their efforts or do you see it as some sort of embrace-extend-extinguish approach? '

LT:

'I have no real way to judge that. I personally think that parts of Microsoft certainly are sincere, and other parts are almost certainly not.  It's a pretty big and bloated company, and when one hand says it wants to participate in open source, I doubt the other hand knows or cares about it.'

RM

'If Microsoft were to approach you to go and work in their Open Source labs would you consider it?'

LT:

'I'm not a Microsoft hater, so I'm not going to say ‘No! Never! I will fall on my sword before I give in to the Dark Side!’  That said I find it unlikely that MS would ever offer anything that I would consider relevant. Money? Hey, they have it, and I like it, but I obviously don't value it over everything else. And they are unlikely to offer the things I really value. '

RM

'What part of an Operating system do you think is the most difficult to write?'

LT:

That's actually an interesting question, just because my answer is that it's never any particular part.

Yes, all the details tend to be complicated too, but the real job is to make it all work together. Compared to that, any particular detail you might want to point at may be a technical challenge, but ultimately not anything that really puts people off. For example, one area that we had a really hard time with (and that still causes problems, even if it's gotten much better) is power management and the whole suspend/resume that people do on laptops.

And it was hard not so much because any particular detail was really intractable, but because it touches every single subsystem in the whole kernel (and many out in user land too!), and that was really what ended up making it so challenging.

RM

'Which Linux distro do you use? '

LT:

'I've used different distributions over the years. Right now I happen to use Fedora 9 on most of the computers I have, which really boils down to the fact that Fedora had fairly good support for PowerPC back when I used that, so I grew used to it. But I actually don't care too much about the distribution, as long as it makes it easy to install and keep reasonably up-to-date. I care about the kernel and a few programs, and the set of programs I really care about is actually fairly small.

And when it comes to distributions, ease of installation has actually been one of my main issues - I'm a technical person, but I have a very specific area of interest, and I don't want to fight the rest. So the only distributions I have actively avoided are the ones that are known to be "overly technical" - like the ones that encourage you to compile your own programs etc.

Yeah, I can do it, but it kind of defeats the whole point of a distribution for me. So I like the ones that have a name of being easy to use. I've never used plain Debian, for example, but I like Ubuntu. And before Debian people attack me - yeah, I know, I know, it's supposedly much simpler and easier to install these days. But it certainly didn't use to be, so I never had any reason to go for it. '

RM

'Do you think that products such as open office can gain acceptance by being clones of more widely used commercial products or do you think they need to innovate before they will gain acceptance?'

LT:

'I think that ‘innovation’ is a four-letter word in the industry. It should never be used in polite company. It's become a PR thing to sell new versions with.

It was Edison who said ‘1% inspiration, 99% perspiration’. That may have been true a hundred years ago. These days it's ‘0.01% inspiration, 99.99% perspiration’, and the inspiration is the easy part. As a project manager, I have never had trouble finding people with crazy ideas. I have trouble finding people who can execute.  IOW, ‘innovation" is way oversold. And it sure as hell shouldn't be applied to products like MS Word or Open office.

So no, I don't think people need ore innovation. I'd rather see more people sell their product on some plain old-fashioned ‘being good’.

And yes, I think open office certainly can compete. Software is a harsh area, in that the incumbent who has been in the area for many years not only has mind-share and PR and is seen as the ‘innovator’ (‘You keep using that word. I don't think it means what you think it means’), but even more so, they simply have more years of experience under their belt.

And unlike ‘innovation’, the ‘years of effort’ definitely matter in this market.

Of course, quite often, ‘years of effort’ also tends to mean ‘years of bloat’, so after a certain point, it's less helpful than it used to be. I think that's what you're seeing now with MS Office vs Open Office - the advantage of years of effort that MS has is starting to not be able to overcome the costs of bloat and self-satisfaction.'

RM

'Do you think the year of the desktop will ever happen? If it is going to happen what does the community need to do to make it happen?'

LT:

'I don't think there is a ‘year’. What happens is that usage expands. Every year.  And I don't think it's so much about the kernel per se. Yes, you need a kernel on the desktop, but the things that should be looked at from a desktop standpoint is probably not so much the kernel as it is things like Firefox and Open Office usage, and the development of Gnome and KDE. '

RM

'Is the GPL a religious issue for you or was it chosen on a whim?'

LT:

'Neither, really. It isn't religious - see my explanation above how I actually try to avoid the whole issue of ‘freedom’ because it's such a pointless argument - but it certainly wasn't a whim either. The GPLv2, still almost two decades after the choice, is still my license of choice.

Of course, I also cannot really claim that it was hugely premeditated or went through lots of planning. The GPLv2 wasn't my first license - I started Linux with a stricter license that said you had to give source code back and you couldn't sell it at all.

So the fact that I ended up with the GPLv2 was certainly due to various lucky circumstances and ‘because it was there’, but it wasn't a ‘whim’ in the sense that I didn't know what I was getting into.

Many other things have been more of a ‘whim’. I think I did a fairly good and informed job on the choice of license, but a lot of my other early choices were certainly not very informed. I never thought Linux would grow to be as big as it became - even in my wildest dreams. And the whole thing about starting to write my own OS to begin with - that was certainly a whim.'

RM

'John 'Maddog' Hall used to say that 5.2 billion people had yet to choose their operating system and as such there was all to play for. It was just a matter of getting to them before Bill and Steve did. How has that been playing out? Have India and China and Indonesia now chosen their OS? Or have the universities of the BRICs begun to appreciate the benefits of .NET over Mono ?'

LT:

'I do think that open source has a huge role to play in many places, not even so much because of cost (the incremental costs of any software copy is basically zero, so Windows can certainly make cheap copies for the developing world available) as it is for building up their own infrastructure and software knowledge.

That's one of the advantages of open source, after all - you're not just buying into a "black box", you're actually buying into a whole infrastructure that you can study and really make your own.

And I do think it seems to be playing out that way in some places. Especially parts of South America, for whatever reason (probably largely cultural). But I certainly don't think this is an all-or-nothing thing, so as those countries grow their computer usage, I don't think it's going to be radically different from any other area.'

RM

'Is the proliferation of Linux distributions, a good or a bad thing on balance? Would he rather there was more focused effort on fewer distributions. '

LT:

'Me personally, I'm a believer in choice. Yes, it can be confusing, and yes, it can cause the market to look more fragmented, but on the other hand, it also begets competition. And competition is good - and it's good even within a project. It's what makes people try different things, and it ends up being very motivational.

So I don't personally think we'd have gotten anywhere without all those wild-and-wacky distributions. I'd rather have a bit of spirited discussion and even infighting than a staid landscape with a single vendor (or a couple of vendors who carve out the market).'

RM

'It's almost as if the 'distro economy' of Linux is like the Taiwan model; i.e. the Taiwanese economy is unlike Japan, Korea and Mainland China insofar as there is a constant organic churn and limit to the growth of individual companies and yet it is still highly innovative technologically. Red Hat and SuSE once promised to be the Ford and GM of Linux but where are they now? Ubuntu came from nowhere and beat them easily. Will the same happen to Ubuntu?'

LT:

'I think that's very healthy. And I do know that the whole model means that you have to run just to keep up (in evolution, it's called the ‘Red Queen's Race’ when you have to run just to stay in place - from Alice in Wonderland).

And that's good. It keeps us all honest. And I very much say ‘us’, because I think similar effects happen inside each project too: maintainers cannot just rest on their laurels and coast along on their projects, because if you don't do the job well, somebody else can come in and do it for you - and it happens occasionally to open source projects and people talk about forking. '

RM

'Has the boom in Linux certification in the last few years had a positive effect on enterprise trust in the platform? Or did greater enterprise adoption cause the demand for certification? It seems arguable that trust in the platform has increased inversely as the support-engineer's status has been lowered from mystic guru to humble technician?'

LT:

'Hmm. I actually don't see it in those terms, because I don't think they are at all opposing viewpoints, but quite the reverse - just the natural progression of enterprise economics.

Yes, enterprise trust and adoption spurs interest in areas that enterprises pay for, so enterprise trust obviously results in more demand for certification. But yes, it's also a positive feedback cycle, where the availability of certification then feeds enterprise trust. And "trust" is really just another form of "familiarity" - the market will adopt forms that enterprises are familiar with in order to increase that familiarity. So I don't see any dichotomy there. It's not an either-or, quite the reverse.  As to support engineers and "lowered status", I think that's actually part of the same thing. The least that enterprise market wants is surprises: it wants steady, plodding, more-pf-the-same, long-term plans. In other words, it wants familiarity and trust, and it wants the _same_ familiarity and trust down the line. Not surprises.

So the last thing that market wants is "mystic guru". Linux has been around for long enough that the market trusts the model, and even likes being associated with that wild-and-crazy uncontrollable open source crowd (because everybody wants to think they are hip, even the least hip of us!), but they definitely also want the plodding boring engineer.

So it's not that things have gone from "mystic guru to humble technician", it's that the enterprise market has added the humble technician, because at the end of the day, that market really wants ploddingness.

And I realize that "ploddingness" isn't likely to be a real word, but it should be, and it's what the enterprise market wants. They also want to know that they have the mystic guru on their side (they know that long term, you do need some imagination), but for the everyday grind, they'll take the humble technician, thank you very much.

So that part isn't a one-against-the-other thing either, it's again more of a ‘I'll have both of them, please’ thing. '

RM

'I can’t end without asking you about the Steve Ballmer quote. You know the one where he said 'Linux is a cancer that attaches itself in an intellectual property sense to everything it touches.' What do you think he meant by this?'

LT:

'I have a hard time really seeing what the heck Ballmer is doing. First the monkey dance, then the chair throwing. At some point he called Linux 'un-American', apparently because he doesn't like the competition. Then the cancer thing. And now this fixation with Yahoo! When will it end?

So what can I say? I think he tried to say that open source grows very aggressively and takes over (which is good - if you're into that whole expanding markets thing), but he wanted to put it in terms of something that grows out of control and is bad for what it is growing in. Thus: cancer.

So I can certainly see the logic of choosing that word. '

RM

'Do you think it makes any sense?'

LT:

'Do I think it makes sense? No. Of course open source grows aggressively: what's not to like? Low cost, great quality, and a lack of being shackled to some commercial company that you can't really trust further than the fact that they'll happily continue to take your money. Sure, it grows.

And yes, it does grow at the cost of Microsoft, but that's called ’competition’. It doesn't make it 'cancer' any more than it ever made it 'un-American'.

Tim Berners-Lee, CmdrTaco (slashdot founder) and Richard Hipp (SQLite creator) have all been past geeks of the week. To see more of our 'Geeks of the Week', please Click here. To get an RSS feed for this site click here, click here for the Main Site Feed rss , or, even better, we'd be pleased if you registered with us so we can send you our fortnightly newsletter!

Richard Morris

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Richard Morris is a journalist, author and public relations/public affairs consultant. He has written for a number of UK and US newspapers and magazines and has offered strategic advice to numerous tech companies including Digital Island, Sony and several ISPs. He now specialises in social enterprise and is, among other things, a member of the Big Issue Invest advisory board. Big Issue Invest is the leading provider to high-performing social enterprises & has a strong brand name based on its parent company The Big Issue, described by McKinsey & Co as the most well known and trusted social brand in the UK.

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Subject: Linus
Posted by: William Naphy (not signed in)
Posted on: Friday, July 18, 2008 at 5:05 AM
Message: It's all too easy to forget what a genius Linus is. As you say would Google and some of the biggest corporations be around if it wasn't for him. An excellent article & I love the Steve Ballmer answer.

Subject: Ballmer quote
Posted by: Anonymous (not signed in)
Posted on: Friday, July 18, 2008 at 12:20 PM
Message: ... was reffering to GPL license - adoption of source protected by GPL in a sense "infects" your product and any dirivatives - you are forced to give away your source. It's a nature of GPL. I am a little surprised at the such a shallow and personal response to this question.

Subject: If Linus hadn't written Linux
Posted by: Anonymous (not signed in)
Posted on: Friday, July 18, 2008 at 3:03 PM
Message: Google, Facebook, PHP, Apache, and MySQL would all exist. They'd be running BSD, and the world would be a better place.

Subject: everyone knows what the ballmer quote is
Posted by: Anonymous (not signed in)
Posted on: Friday, July 18, 2008 at 3:30 PM
Message: Ballmer knows he's wrong. Linux knows Ballmer is wrong. Everyone knows that Ballmer is wrong and that the comment was supposedly about the GPL. The issue is very clear: you benefit from other people's work, you give them the benefit of yours. That's cooperation. That's fairness. That's how real science and real research work. Of course Microsoft can't understand such very simple things. These are the same people that didn't think the internet was going to be important. Ballmer's point was NOT to create awareness of the basic principles of humanity (sharing). He was just trying to take a cheap shot and say something stupid (though it's hard to pretend to be surprised). What is there to say about that? Steve Ballmer doesn't even understand the basic principles of humanity that we teach children?

It's funny that he uses the word "cancer", though. Cancer kills, right? Microsoft has been proven time and time again to kill competition, kill innovation, kill progress. Microsoft is the one that people get infected with, despite their will. Windows impairs people's ability to get things done. Windows renders a perfectly good computer useless. Which was the cancer?

People *choose* linux because it's far superior. People don't choose cancer (microsoft?). It's thrust upon them.

It's pretty pathetic that Steve Ballmer would attack a license that just makes you do the right thing anyways. And it's sad that there has to be a license to force people to reciprocate when they TAKE others' hard work and even more sad that there are plenty of fools that still can't understand it at even the most fundamental level.

Subject: Re: Balmer Quote
Posted by: Charles Tryon (not signed in)
Posted on: Friday, July 18, 2008 at 7:19 PM
Message: > I am a little surprised at the such a shallow and personal response to this question.

I think the point Linus is trying to make in his response is that he doesn't want to give any credence to the silly and shallow (and frankly, illogical) argument that Balmer and Microsoft in general were using in order to create an emotional reaction against Linux and Open Source. The whole "cancer" thing was an emotional ploy, and Linus is basically dismissing it as not worth the time to work up a complicated response.

Subject: brown nosing the subject
Posted by: rob enderle (not signed in)
Posted on: Friday, July 18, 2008 at 9:32 PM
Message: >his engaging and genial personality.

Really?
You obviously dont hang around mailing lists much.

Ive heard Linus called a lot of things,
engaging and genial personality, has never been one of them.

Subject: pointless intellectual exercises
Posted by: guy lafleur (not signed in)
Posted on: Friday, July 18, 2008 at 9:38 PM
Message: >It's what I call "mental masturbation", when you >engage is some pointless intellectual exercise >that has no possible meaning.

Not a big fan of philosophy classes in college?

This is Linus at his best: if he doesnt like it, then its useless.

Subject: and you, robby?
Posted by: Anonymous (not signed in)
Posted on: Friday, July 18, 2008 at 9:54 PM
Message: I've never heard anyone use the phrase "intelligent"... or even "accurate" to describe "rob enderle" either. What's your point?

Subject: Linus
Posted by: Robert Francis (not signed in)
Posted on: Saturday, July 19, 2008 at 2:51 AM
Message: The guy is awesome and Ballmer, well... make up your own mind!

Subject: Unknown Linus' quote?
Posted by: Linus_Rocks (not signed in)
Posted on: Saturday, July 19, 2008 at 3:39 AM
Message: I remember having read a few years back that Linus Torvalds once said to Bill Gates "I won't tell you what business is and you don't tell me what technology is".

Can somebody confirm if this quote is actually true? I could never find it any of the "Famous Linus quotes" editions on web.

If not, I should claim ownership of it! Oh no, I am not Ballmer/Bill Gates. Let's leave the quote anonymous, if not claimed by Linus :)

Subject: Linus n Linux Rocks
Posted by: Zenwalker (not signed in)
Posted on: Saturday, July 19, 2008 at 5:05 AM
Message: He is my guru and motivational person. He is great in every sense.. What an amazing guy he is.. Hats off to him.

And i like about what he said 2 ballmer :D

Subject: Insightful
Posted by: Anonymous (not signed in)
Posted on: Saturday, July 19, 2008 at 5:32 AM
Message: Linus has insightful replies. Kudos.

Subject: good stuff
Posted by: Joel (view profile)
Posted on: Saturday, July 19, 2008 at 6:01 AM
Message: Was a treat to read. Very inspiring.

Subject: Amazing
Posted by: Justin Wright (not signed in)
Posted on: Saturday, July 19, 2008 at 6:35 AM
Message: That was quite enlightening wasn't it.

JT
www.FireMe.To/udi


Subject: for one world
Posted by: Anonymous (not signed in)
Posted on: Saturday, July 19, 2008 at 8:01 AM
Message: hi, so i wanna thank you for you respect the one world
good thanks for all ,,,,linux for all

Subject: Ford and GM not the best "idols"
Posted by: Anonymous (not signed in)
Posted on: Saturday, July 19, 2008 at 8:37 AM
Message: "Red Hat and SuSE once promised to be the Ford and GM of Linux but where are they now?"

Hmm...maybe those companies are pretty happy not being in the situation Ford and GM are right know?

http://www.usnews.com/blogs/flowchart/2008/7/1/for-gm-ford-and-chrysler-at-least-two-more-years-of-misery.html?s_cid=rss:flowchart:for-gm-ford-and-chrysler-at-least-two-more-years-of-misery

Subject: Steve Ballmer
Posted by: Anonymous (not signed in)
Posted on: Saturday, July 19, 2008 at 9:38 AM
Message: you have to interview Ballmer & at least give him the right to reply. Fab article.

Subject: if linux didn't exists, FreeBSD would rule
Posted by: evanx (not signed in)
Posted on: Saturday, July 19, 2008 at 10:12 AM
Message: i wasn't worried about the SCO case for this reason - even if it had killed off linux, that wouldn't really matter cos we have FreeBSD et al :)

Subject: punk ass Ballmer
Posted by: Anonymous (not signed in)
Posted on: Sunday, July 20, 2008 at 2:02 PM
Message: Ballmer you punk ass forcing entire country/world to pay for your STUPID O/S by forcing PC manufacturer to pre-install your crap.

Steve if you're reading this; I challenge you to separate your O/S from PC and have people choose what they want.

Goto Bestbuy or CompUSA or any damn retailers; and every computer comes with junk VISTA.

Chicken-Monkey combo.

Subject: Please no offensive remarks towards Steve Ballmer
Posted by: Phil Factor (view profile)
Posted on: Sunday, July 20, 2008 at 4:44 PM
Message: We will be asking Steve Ballmer to be a Simple-Talk Geek-of-the-Week. As we're all geeks here, we mainly want to ask him about such things as SQL Server 2008, Entity Framework, VS2008 and Silverlight: However, you can be sure that we'd want to give him every opportunity to put his side of the story on the whole debate about Linux and the GPL!


Subject: k
Posted by: Anonymous (not signed in)
Posted on: Sunday, July 20, 2008 at 4:51 PM
Message: k

Subject: your name
Posted by: d. pucci (not signed in)
Posted on: Sunday, July 20, 2008 at 10:39 PM
Message: Mr. Torvald:
Why did you let them hack your name and put
an "s" on the end?

Subject: RMS
Posted by: gnoodle (not signed in)
Posted on: Monday, July 21, 2008 at 4:09 AM
Message: Linus Torvalds is cool, but let's not forget about Richard Stallman and the Free Software Movement. Before the word "open source" came about, people were talking about "free software" (software that respects your freedom). RMS has pretty much dedicated his life to battling DRM and patents to protect the freedom of computer users. There is no system but GNU and Linux is one of its kernels!

www.gnu.org

Subject: Loved the interview
Posted by: Virginia (not signed in)
Posted on: Monday, July 21, 2008 at 4:15 AM
Message: It is always a pleasure to read an intelligent discussion with Linus Torvalds.

Thanks

Subject: to linus
Posted by: mustakim-he220rc3 (not signed in)
Posted on: Monday, July 21, 2008 at 9:30 AM
Message: I hope you can make one software that support installation of deb, rpm and exe. I think it is a good challenge.

Subject: Very enjoyable read..
Posted by: uhmgawa (not signed in)
Posted on: Monday, July 21, 2008 at 9:49 AM
Message: I haven't followed such interviews with Linus
lately. However he seems to be mellowing somewhat
and acquiring more of a diplomatic outlook.
That's a good thing as the message still comes
across, arguably more effectively as such vs.
the traditional polarizing delivery.

And the requisite Balmer comment punctuating the
interview was well stated (and much appreciated).

Subject: Very enjoyable read..
Posted by: uhmgawa (not signed in)
Posted on: Monday, July 21, 2008 at 9:49 AM
Message: I haven't followed such interviews with Linus
lately. However he seems to be mellowing somewhat
and acquiring more of a diplomatic outlook.
That's a good thing as the message still comes
across, arguably more effectively as such vs.
the traditional polarizing delivery.

And the requisite Balmer comment punctuating the
interview was well stated (and much appreciated).

Subject: Very enjoyable read..
Posted by: uhmgawa (not signed in)
Posted on: Monday, July 21, 2008 at 10:13 AM
Message: I haven't followed such interviews with Linus
lately. However he seems to be mellowing somewhat
and acquiring more of a diplomatic outlook.
That's a good thing as the message still comes
across, arguably more effectively as such vs.
the traditional polarizing delivery.

And the requisite Balmer comment punctuating the
interview was well stated (and much appreciated).

Subject: Wrong of the bat
Posted by: Anonymous (not signed in)
Posted on: Monday, July 21, 2008 at 10:27 AM
Message: You're totally wrong of the get-go. Open Source projects could have well existed with or without the existence of Linux. It's more like the other way around. Linux is part of the Open Source movement. Other than that, you're article is ok.

Subject: Suggestion...
Posted by: John Doe (not signed in)
Posted on: Monday, July 21, 2008 at 11:13 AM
Message: Hey guys, why don't you interview Theo de Raadt too?

Subject: Inspirational
Posted by: tcpip4000 (not signed in)
Posted on: Monday, July 21, 2008 at 11:43 AM
Message: How inspiring an motivating is to read this social-tehcnical view; very hard to find anywhere else in the web or newspapers.

Subject: Re: Theo de Raadt as Geek of the Week
Posted by: Phil Factor (view profile)
Posted on: Monday, July 21, 2008 at 12:08 PM
Message: Yes, John Doe, Theo de Raadt is a Geek hero of ours. We'll be approaching him soon. There are so many, so many....

Subject: Fedora 9? Debian?
Posted by: carolinason (not signed in)
Posted on: Monday, July 21, 2008 at 2:58 PM
Message: Linus uses, "Right now", Fedora 9 and says, "as long as it makes it easy to install and keep reasonably up-to-date."

Funny that's why I don't use Fedora and when I started using Linux I used RedHat. Of course Linus could blink and his PC would update.

Funny I use Debian because, "the set of programs I really care about is actually fairly small." That's gcc, gdb, g++, vi and iceweasel/firfox. hhhmmm

No big deal I just thought it was a bit ironic.

Subject: Well done
Posted by: Anonymous (not signed in)
Posted on: Monday, July 21, 2008 at 3:06 PM
Message: An excellent interview

Subject: Great Interview
Posted by: Your Name Here (not signed in)
Posted on: Monday, July 21, 2008 at 6:50 PM
Message: Enjoyed the read, thanks.

Looking forward to the Ballmer interview as well.

Subject: four-letter?
Posted by: ppip (not signed in)
Posted on: Monday, July 21, 2008 at 10:20 PM
Message: innovation’ is a four-letter word, which word?

Subject: Fedora 9? Debian?
Posted by: carolinason (not signed in)
Posted on: Monday, July 21, 2008 at 10:26 PM
Message: Linus uses, "Right now", Fedora 9 and says, "as long as it makes it easy to install and keep reasonably up-to-date."

Funny that's why I don't use Fedora and when I started using Linux I used RedHat. Of course Linus could blink and his PC would update.

Funny I use Debian because, "the set of programs I really care about is actually fairly small." That's gcc, gdb, g++, vi and iceweasel/firfox. hhhmmm

No big deal I just thought it was a bit ironic.

Subject: Ubuntu beat Red Hat and SUSE?
Posted by: Yet Another Linux Geek (not signed in)
Posted on: Monday, July 21, 2008 at 11:22 PM
Message: Um, no. Anyone seen Red Hat's financial reports compared to Canonical's and Novell's?

Anyone looked at code commits to upstream projects from Red Hat vs. Canonical and Novell?

As far as Linux goes, Red Hat beats both of them hands down.

Subject: Linux destro !
Posted by: Ishan (not signed in)
Posted on: Tuesday, July 22, 2008 at 2:28 AM
Message:
I use ubuntu right now in the firm i worked in ..

But i like RHEL and Fedora the most ..

No dubt that Ubuntu is also gud . !

In short i like "Linux" in general ! instead of Micro...

Subject: Dissuade monopolistic practices
Posted by: Joe Bloggs (not signed in)
Posted on: Tuesday, July 22, 2008 at 3:23 AM
Message: Great article. But how do we get the CompUSA's or the Best-Buy's or the Incredible Connection's or the Dixon's - all major computer retailers around the world to allow us to pick the OS we want on our PC's - Where is the freedom of choice? I feel governments need to step up and dissuade these monopolistic practices.

Subject: Linux destro !
Posted by: Ishan (not signed in)
Posted on: Tuesday, July 22, 2008 at 4:17 AM
Message:
I use ubuntu right now in the firm i worked in ..

But i like RHEL and Fedora the most ..

No dubt that Ubuntu is also gud . !

In short i like "Linux" in general ! instead of Micro...

Subject: Ballmer
Posted by: Anonymous (not signed in)
Posted on: Tuesday, July 22, 2008 at 7:08 AM
Message: I don't understand why are you getting mad about MS and what they say. It is just lie to protect their company. Imagine you were manufacturing and selling cars and you would make a lot of money by it. And then somebody comes and starts giving cars for free! It would drive you mad the same way it does MS. For people, cars given for free are much better, so you would have to tell them yours cars are insecure etc. It is only a defensive strategy. Nothing personal or principal.

Subject: monopoly
Posted by: carolinason (not signed in)
Posted on: Tuesday, July 22, 2008 at 8:12 AM
Message: The way my government is acting, you'd think they where a monopoly.

I played the game monopoly as a kid and I always wound up in jail broke!

Subject: Really surprise !!!
Posted by: Nikesh (not signed in)
Posted on: Tuesday, July 22, 2008 at 8:25 AM
Message: I am really surprise that Linus is using Fedoar 9, which I think is one of the most buggy Linux distro among all the present Linux flavors.

Really surprise !!!

Thanks,
Nikesh
[http://linuxpoison.blogspot.com/]

Subject: monopoly
Posted by: carolinason (not signed in)
Posted on: Tuesday, July 22, 2008 at 10:57 AM
Message: The way my government is acting, you'd think they where a monopoly.

I played the game monopoly as a kid and I always wound up in jail broke!

Subject: comment code
Posted by: carolinason (not signed in)
Posted on: Tuesday, July 22, 2008 at 10:59 AM
Message: somethings buggy about the comments. all my posts, post twice... must be fedora 9 - just kidding...

Subject: Sorry.....
Posted by: UIT (view profile)
Posted on: Wednesday, July 23, 2008 at 8:00 AM
Message: Linus is nothing more than a weenie from what I read. Dont KNOW him, so I cant say for sure. Either he's getting bad press or he's exactly what the press sees and hears.

Subject: Sorry.....
Posted by: UIT (view profile)
Posted on: Wednesday, July 23, 2008 at 8:59 AM
Message: Linus is nothing more than a weenie from what I read. Dont KNOW him, so I cant say for sure. Either he's getting bad press or he's exactly what the press sees and hears.

Subject: Genius or not
Posted by: The Anti-Hater (not signed in)
Posted on: Wednesday, July 23, 2008 at 9:08 AM
Message: Genius can be a word used very loosely, especially these days. Whether Linus is a genius or not can be debated, but his creation has changed the world of computing. One thing that seems pretty unoriginal is those who use Linux (me too) can sometimes get on the Microsoft bashing band wagon (of this, I am not). Come on, Microsoft is a company fighting for its survival just like Oracle, Google, and any other uull. It would be pretty stupid for any company to want more competition in their arena.
Linus gave choice and that is something very large indeed. This way of thinking is one of several ways computing has gotten better through the years. I am very happy there are those of us who can see the value in GPL, BSD or Microsoft's standard of close the door and lock it with a key. I see it pretty ridiculous to bash either side of the coin. Thanks for your great work Linus - keep it up.

Subject: Great Article
Posted by: kd7sjt (view profile)
Posted on: Wednesday, July 23, 2008 at 11:25 AM
Message: I very much enjoyed this article and found it fascinating to get a peak into the man that made my computer what it is today. Thank you Linus and Thank You Simple-Talk. I tried to rate the article but got an error every time, so I just decided to post a comment instead.

I followed a link to this article off of Distrowatch.com

Thanks again for a great read!

Subject: Room for everyone
Posted by: Don Burr (not signed in)
Posted on: Wednesday, July 23, 2008 at 4:37 PM
Message: Linus is clearly a remarkable man with vision, and I enjoyed the article.

What I find interesting is that even though he continually emphasizes how important competition is and clearly stated his fondness for money, his "followers" don't seem to embrace this concept. I continually hear how Micorosft is evil because they have the gaul to charge for their product, and how all software should be free.
1.) This is and will always be a capitalistic nation.
2.) Microsoft IS competition and Open Source is free to compete in open markets; and last time I checked commercial products based on Linux are not "Free".
3.) Anyone/Company has the right to protect thier self interest and not divuldge proprietary business or product information, its called commerce. There is nothing sinister or worng about a company owning the rights to its own product, whether its software or beer. Companies work very hard to product thier intelctual property and there is nothing wrong with that.
4.) GPL is not without cost as pointed out by Linus when he explained the "tit for tat" concept, its still a cost, its just barter not coin of the realm.
4.) GPL DOES attach itself to any product derived from that license, so in essence it does spread out to all its derivatives.


There is plenty of room in the market for both models to exist and the markets will ultimately decide which model is more successfull over time, again this is called capitalism and free markets.


Subject: Re: Room for everyone
Posted by: WBrewer (view profile)
Posted on: Thursday, July 24, 2008 at 4:54 AM
Message: I'm sure I'm not the only one who supports Open Source, but earns their living off the back of Microsoft's products. I think that the whole IT market is immeasurably enriched by the friction between the two. They keep each other honest. What I dislike is the suggestion that Open Source is 'unamerican', what ever that means. I'd like to read a reasoned response by Steve Ballmer, on an independent forum like this, that reflected the views of the majority of Microsoft's management, before making a judgement, though.

Subject: Excellent interview
Posted by: elcaset (not signed in)
Posted on: Thursday, July 24, 2008 at 6:55 PM
Message: An excellent interview. Cheers to Richard Morris & Linus Torvalds for it.

Subject: OpenSource
Posted by: Anonymous (not signed in)
Posted on: Friday, July 25, 2008 at 2:48 AM
Message: I don't understand why opensource Operating Systems have to be Unix-like Systems. I know that it is beacuase the kernel is Unix-like. But isn't it possible to crate an Operating System that is open source but that is not based on the Unix model ?

Subject: Keep it up!
Posted by: Anonymous (not signed in)
Posted on: Tuesday, July 29, 2008 at 2:15 PM
Message: Linus,

I am a big fan of Linux. Thank you for your contributions. Please keep it up.

Alex Kuznetsov,
SQL Server MVP

Subject: Distro of Choice
Posted by: Anonymous (not signed in)
Posted on: Tuesday, July 29, 2008 at 6:54 PM
Message: GNU/Linux is constantly being improved. How can I, as a home/desktop user, take advantage of those improvements?

There seem to be two choices. First, install a new distribution every so often (6 months in the case of Ubuntu and its variants) or second, find a distribution that provides frequent updates. After many years of regular re-installations, I took the second path and chose Debian Testing. The initial installation is definitely more difficult than, say, Ubuntu, but once the hardware is all working, updated packages come along regularly. I just finished updating to a 2.6.25 kernel and expect that there will be a 2.6.26 kernel coming along in a couple of months. This is a lot less painful than reinstalling every 6 months.

Subject: incredible
Posted by: Anonymous (not signed in)
Posted on: Wednesday, July 30, 2008 at 3:08 PM
Message: "But I actually don't care too much about the distribution, as long as it makes it easy to install and keep reasonably up-to-date."

The only credible is that Linus is really focused in kernel development, at the point he is absolutely blind for the rest. APT can resolve without problems installing/uninstalling whatever you want in seconds. With RPM you must deal with dependencies, I've lost hours installing software with Mandriva. Fedora is worst, a default installation hangs after reboot because it tries to auto update in the same way apt does. But with RPM fails in most cases. Linus has absolutely no idea of he saids in this subject.

Subject: to Open Sourse
Posted by: from Finland.. (not signed in)
Posted on: Thursday, July 31, 2008 at 4:53 PM
Message: " Anonymous (not signed in)
Friday, July 25, 2008 at 2:48 AM
I don't understand why opensource Operating Systems have to be Unix-like Systems. I know that it is beacuase the kernel is Unix-like. But isn't it possible to crate an Operating System that is open source but that is not based on the Unix model ?"

There is.. Reactos (dos/win based) from Russia. Never tryed, I am a linux user.

Subject: Re: to Open Sourse
Posted by: Anonymous (not signed in)
Posted on: Friday, August 01, 2008 at 9:01 AM
Message: Ok, thanks. I hope that more developers will join that project in the future.

Subject: Unix-like
Posted by: Anonymous (not signed in)
Posted on: Saturday, August 02, 2008 at 9:36 PM
Message: Even Windows gets more Unix-like with every release. Unix is simply the most robust, proven OS model that's been created so far. I too, wonder when someone will design something new to replace Unix, but that day has not yet come.

Subject: cash, only cash
Posted by: Sputnik (not signed in)
Posted on: Sunday, August 03, 2008 at 9:08 AM
Message: Ballmer & his friends from the dark side feel the force of open source, feel the power against their "shut up and sing" movement on this globe. Somehow it reminds my to STAR WARS - the EMPIRE strikes back, but open source allways will win, because the majority of mankind is not willing to be dominated & controlled by some money-generating US Imperialists.
That's the advantage of LINUX, share knowledge.

Linus, 1000 tak !!!

Subject: OS / Unix
Posted by: Bruce Sinton (not signed in)
Posted on: Thursday, August 14, 2008 at 3:02 AM
Message: The gent. above wondering why open source OSs have to be Unix based .

Well it does not have to be that way, he just needs to get his head down & arse up , and get working on the project.

The way Linus did, not so long ago.

Peace and Joy to you all

Subject: Standing on the shoulders of the giants
Posted by: sufehmi (view profile)
Posted on: Monday, August 17, 2009 at 7:34 PM
Message: But isn't it possible to crate an Operating System that is open source but that is not based on the Unix model ?
-----------

It is indeed possible. But feasible? Not necessarily.

One quote that Linus likes to quote is "standing on the shoulders of the giants" - he like to start his work based on the great works of others.
It's more efficient, and you get the benefit of their greatness to base your work on.

It avoids "reinventing the wheel"

So, yeah it can be done. It has been done.
But that would also make them standing on their own. Not on the shoulders of the giants.


Subject: Genial personallity
Posted by: sufehmi (view profile)
Posted on: Monday, August 17, 2009 at 8:34 PM
Message: You obviously dont hang around mailing lists much.
-----------

You obviously don't engage around mailing lists much.

It's a terrible communication medium. Sure there's emoticons. Still :

(1) Slow : it takes time. Sometimes I can spend hours creating posts on the mailing lists. I'd rather code if I can help it.

(2) Miscommunication : being sterile from body language, it's very prone to misunderstandings.

So I'd rather be frank, efficient, and to the point there, than try to be seen as polite.

Looks like Linus is doing similar thing.

 

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