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Interview with Linus Torvalds

Jana Jaeger

Web Portal: Take a look at your crystal ball. What will be the greatest and most exciting thing for Linux/OpenSource this year?

Linus: Zzazzam.. Hocus Pokus.. Crack. Uhhuh. ENOCRYSTALBALL [1]. I'll have to use my plastic pocket-sized ICan'tBelieveIt'sNotCrystal ball instead. It's not as reliable, but at least it hasn't cracked.

PlasticBall predictions for the year 2001:

  • "AntiTrust" the movie will be a big hit, and as a result Miguel de Icaza will move to Hollywood to start a career as an actor. However, he hits on some bad times, and ends up being featured only in a few B-class porno flicks. Later in the year, after he gets out of rehab, he comes back to Gnome development.
  • Telsa decides to shave and give a haircut to Alan Cox while he is sleeping. Alan, in a disgusted rage, doesn't even notice that she also set out the dark suit he normally reserves for funerals. He stomps off, vowing never to return. Telsa is heartbroken - it was just meant to be a small joke.
  • Three hours later, Alan sheepishly returns after he was mistaken by a mob of teenagers for being the missing band-member of N'Sync. Even Alan sees the irony of that, and decides to make up with Telsa. As long as she doesn't try any funny stuff again.
  • Linus gets pulled over by the cops for speeding, and one of the officers on duty recognize him as FBI wanted #1 druglord Luis "the tech" Escobar. After a wild car-chase, going almost 40 mph on US101 in rush hour, Linus is finally apprehended. Future Linux development happens from the California State Penitentiary.

There. It's not all good news, but I think we'll manage.

Web Portal: What Linux related item made you the most happy last year?

Linus: Ehh... I thought I was going to get 2.4.x out. Does that count? Or the house that RedHat bought?

Web Portal: How do you manage the work on the Kernel and at Transmeta, and to handle the rest of life, without introducing the 48 hour day? And without tearing yourself into pieces - as Alan Cox supposedly does, who is said to be a collection of Gnomes?

Linus: Basically, by taking as much credit as possible for work that others do. It's the Tom Sawyer fence-painting scam in a modern guise. It's a real time-saver, and it's the whole point with Open Source. Of course, people point to other reasons why Open Source makes sense, but in the end it all comes down to "somebody else does the work". I end up spending a lot of time co-ordinating and reading email, but the fact is that I get too much credit. I get to sleep too.

Web Portal: What was the best and the worst experience that you had related to Linux?

Linus: The worst one isn't an experience, it's the feeling of guilt I get for not doing stuff that people hope that I'd do. It's people asking me to conferences and me saying "No", because I don't have the interest. It's people who see me as more than just another person, and expect me to be available for everything.

The best experience is pretty much the same thing in reverse. The feeling of making a difference, of doing something worthwhile. Waking up most days with the feeling that you have something you're good at, and that people really care about.

Web Portal: What happened to the computer on which the first version of Linux was "born"?

Linus: I have to admit that I don't know. I can't say that I really care: I upgrade computers to better ones as soon as I get unhappy with the last one, and I have absolutely no emotional attachments to the ones I leave behind.

I think I gave the original motherboard to Lasu (Lars Wirzenius), so that he could upgrade from a 386-25 to my "studly" 386-33 + 387 combination. He probably threw it away eventually. You'd have to ask him.

[1] Error messages of the kernel begin with "E".



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