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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 coordinator (or Benevolent Dictator for Life). A humourous aside to this is that Linus' middle name "Benedict" can be seen in the first four letters of Benevolent and Dictator. 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.

Table of contents
1 Biography
2 The Linus / Linux connection
3 Further reading
4 External links


Torvalds was born in Helsinki, the capital of Finland, as the son of Nils and Anna Torvalds. Both of his parents were campus radicals at the University of Helsinki in the 1960s, his father a Communist who in the mid-1970s spent a year studying in Moscow. This caused embarrassment to Linus at the time since other children would tease him about his father's politics.

His family belongs to the Swedish-speaking minority (as roughly 6% of Finland's population do). Torvalds was named after Linus Pauling. He attended the University of Helsinki from 1988 on.

Linus Torvalds currently lives in San Jose, California with his wife Tove (six times national Karate champion in Finland), whom he first met in fall 1993, his cat Randi (short for Mithrandir, a wizard in The Lord of the Rings), 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 seconded to OSDL to work on the Linux Kernel full-time. Although OSDL is based in Portland, Oregon, he works from home in San Jose.

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 inspired by Linus and coined by Eric S. Raymond is, "Given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow." This refers to the open source philosophy both men advocate.

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. He is neutral enough to even have been criticized by the GNU project, specifically for having worked on proprietary software with Transmeta and for his use and alleged advocation of Bitkeeper. 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 own OS; he gave a working name of Linux (Linus' Minix); but thought the name to be too egotistical and planned to have it named Freax (a combination of "free", "freak", and the letter 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.

In August of 1991, he publicized his creation on the USENET newsgroup comp.os.minix:

From: (Linus Benedict Torvalds)
To: Newsgroups: comp.os.minix
Subject: What would you like to see most in minix?
Summary: small poll for my new operating system

Hello everybody out there using 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. I'd like any feedback on
things people like/dislike in minix, as my OS resembles it

Any suggestions are welcome, but I won't promise I'll implement them :-)


Only about 2% of the current Linux kernel is written by Torvalds himself, though he remains the ultimate authority on what new code and innovations are incorporated into the Linux kernel [1]; operating system aspects such as the X windowing system, gcc, and various packaging management schemes are run by others, and many Linux distributions even have their own versions of the kernel; Torvalds tends to stay out of non-kernel-related debates. The Linux kernel written by him, 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, and others refer to it as "GNU/Linux."

Torvalds owns the "Linux" trademark and monitors [1] use (or abuse) of the trademark through the non-profit organization Linux International.

Further reading

External links