Why Linus Torvalds would rather code than make money

LT: Yeah, but there hasn't been anything better. The Debian people will point to the advantages of Debs, but technically, they're different but not better.

People have strong opinions about it. Debian people had serious problems with things like signing because the Deb packages didn't have the capability.

So they had some things they did better and some worse.

So to some degree packaging isn't easy, and at the same time nobody really cares. The bugs people have in the packaging format...

LXF: Users care.

LT: Yes, but I mean, they don't... the bugs they see aren't the bugs of the packaging format.

The bugs they see are things like "Oops, the package is technically correct, but it doesn't actually specify all the dependencies".

LXF: But they want to install the latest Firefox, and they don't want to know what a packaging manager is.

LT: Right, and they shouldn't...

LXF: What we're saying is the LSB would be the ideal way of solving that problem.

LT: Yes, and to some degree the LSB tried to do that, but the LSB tried to aim for a smaller thing than Firefox.

So the problem, when you mention Firefox or Chrome, they are particularly nasty packages. Which is true of games, too.

They need more than just the Linux standard base. They need to be huge. They need sound, and static linking won't help them. Sound is a systems issue.

LXF: But not if it was a standard system.

LT: Right, but nobody can force that. If we had tried it wouldn't have worked anyway.

Some of the things that people hated, like PulseAudio...

LXF: But it is awful. It's really powerful, but have you tried to configure it?

LT: These days it actually works.

LXF: But it's hideously complicated.

LT: So is every alternative. Have you tried Jack? It's better in some respects, but worse in the hideously complicated aspects.

LXF: One of the things Apple gets right is CoreAudio, since the user sees nothing.

LT: Right, and that's the advantage, but it's the disadvantage too. This was Microsoft's big advantage.

They were the one-stop shop.

LXF: Do you think that's still their advantage, with Windows 8?

LT: I think they clearly lost a lot of the advantage. They lost the momentum, their user base hated them for a lot of reasons.

People are so happy to jump ship when they can, and Apple is obviously taking a lot of that jumping ship, but they still... I mean, people love to say how Apple is doing great, Apple is like 10% now.

It's much better than it used to be, but Microsoft are still huge.

LXF: Maybe it's a personal thing, but we feel if Linux provided PulseAudio tools as a volume control, and everyone had to conform to that, things would be better.

LT: Well, yes, some things would be easier if there was no choice, I agree with you.

Linus Torvalds

We drove out to meet Linus while he was sitting at home waiting for the delivery of his Google Nexus 7

The benevolent dictator

Apart from feeding the sharks with laser beams on their heads in his hollowed-out volcano, what does Linus do with his time nowadays?

He could have made billions, like Paul Allen and Bill Gates of Microsoft, Larry Ellison of Oracle, or the late Steve Jobs.

Instead, he just wants to fix code. And argue, of course...

LXF: We read that you mostly spend your time committing the merges to the kernel. How do you manage to stay enthusiastic when it's not coding anymore?

LT: Most of my merges, technically they take two seconds to do the actual merge.

It takes me more time to actually read and copy and paste the Git address, and read what's going on. I mean, the merge itself takes no time.