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Linus Torvalds

Linus Benedict Torvalds (born December 28, 1969) began the development of Linux, an operating system kernel, and today acts as the project co-ordinator. Inspired by the demo-system Minix developed by Andrew Tanenbaum, he felt the need for a capable UNIX operating system that he could run on his home PC. Torvalds did the original development of the Linux kernel primarily in his own time and on his equipment. The Linux kernel, when combined with software developed by many others (mainly the GNU system) results in a so-called Linux distribution. Many people refer to this combination as just Linux (which is misleading), or as GNU/Linux.

Torvalds was born in Helsinki, the capital of Finland, as the son of Nils and Anna Torvalds[?] and named after Linus Pauling. His family belongs to the Swedish-speaking minority (as roughly 6% of Finland's population do). He attended Helsinki University[?] from 1988 on.

Linus Torvalds currently lives in Santa Clara, California with his wife Tove (six times national Karate champion in Finland), who he first met in fall 1993, and his three daughters Patricia Miranda (born December 5, 1996), Daniela Yolanda (born April 16, 1998) and Celeste Amanda (born November 20, 2000). He used to work for Transmeta Corporation from February 1997 until June 2003, and is now employed by the OSDL to work on the Linux Kernel full-time.

His personal mascot is a penguin nicknamed Tux, widely adopted by the Linux community as the mascot of the Linux kernel.

Linus's law, a tenet of the Open source model inspired by Linus and coined by Eric S. Raymond is, "Given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow."

Unlike many open source "evangelists", Torvalds is keeping a low profile and generally refuses to comment on competing software products, such as Microsoft's dominant Windows operating system. Nevertheless, Torvalds has occasionally reacted with strong statements to what is perceived as FUD from proprietary software vendors like Microsoft.

For example, in one e-mail reaction to statements by Microsoft Senior-VP Craig Mundie, who criticized open source software for not being innovative and destructive to intellectual property, Torvalds wrote: "I wonder if Mundie has ever heard of Sir Isaac Newton? He's not only famous for having set the foundations for classical mechanics (and the original theory of gravitation, which is what most people remember, along with the apple tree story), but he is also famous for how he acknowledged the achievement: If I have been able to see further, it was only because I stood on the shoulders of giants." Added Torvalds: "I'd rather listen to Newton than to Mundie. He may have been dead for almost three hundred years, but despite that he stinks up the room less."

The Linus / Linux connection

Linus Torvalds originally used the Minix OS on his system which he replaced by his OS which he gave a working name of Linux (Linus' Minix). He thought the name to be too egotistical and planned to have it named Freax(free + freak + x). His friend Ari Lemmke[?] encouraged Linus to upload it to a network so it could be easily downloaded. Ari gave Linus a directory called linux on his FTP server, as he did not like the name Freax.

Further Reading

  • Linus Torvalds, David Diamond: Just for Fun: The Story of an Accidental Revolutionary, New York, HarperBusiness, 2001, ISBN 0066620724

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