Why Linus Torvalds would rather code than make money

You can still hear it here.


With regards to Tux, the famous mascot of Linux, it was indeed Linus who originally suggested a penguin might be a suitable mascot, but it was left to Larry Ewing to draw the sketches that formed the basis for the Tux we know today.

Reportedly, Linus' infatuation with penguins came about after being bitten by one on a trip to Australia in 1993.

He jokes that after the bite, he was infected with 'penguinitis' that "makes you stay awake at nights just thinking about penguins and feeling great love towards them."

We can confirm that he owns many toy penguins.


When Linux was created, the developers used relatively simple tools to work together.

Using an FTP server for collaboration wasn't a big problem when there were only a few people working on the kernel and it was relatively small. As the project increased in scope, the developers began to use more powerful tools.

Source code management (SCM) systems were one such category of tools that make their lives easier.

These track revisions to the code and enable developers to work on different versions of the software, then merge their changes together.

For a while, the kernel team used a proprietary SCM called BitKeeper, the creator of which had offered them use of the software for free.

Following a dispute, the offer of free use was withdrawn and the kernel team needed a new SCM. None of the other existing systems, such as CVS and SVN, met Linus' high standards for speed, efficiency and a robust, distributed workflow (he has said that he hates both systems).

Frustrated by the lack of options, on 3 April 2005 Linus started writing his own SCM, which was later named Git.

Despite Linus saying how hard a problem to solve this was, the 2.6.12 release of the Linux kernel, released on the 16 June, was managed by Git - just two months later.

It wasn't just released quickly, but it met its performance goals. Linus had noted BitKeeper taking 10-15 seconds per email patch, during development Git was recorded as applying patches at 6.7 per second.

On the name, Linus said "I'm an egotistical bastard, and I name all my projects after myself. First 'Linux', now 'Git'."

Secure Boot

To get hardware certified as being ready for Windows 8, Microsoft is demanding that manufacturers enable something called Secure Boot, which is a function designed to stop malicious code being loaded into the operating system at boot time.

Quite by coincidence, this function could also be used to stop non-Microsoft operating systems from being loaded. But Linus doesn't seem too bothered by this.

Linus Torvalds

Linus seemed shocked at our measly Atom-powered laptop (he uses a Mac)

LXF: Do you have a solution for how the Secure Boot problem should be solved?

LT: I actually like Secure Boot. Signed kernels are a good idea. We're going to be doing signed kernel modules, and we should have done that 10 years ago, but nobody wanted to do that and take the flak from the crazies.

LXF: It's a good idea that everything is signed. What we don't understand is, is Verisign controlling the signing process? Do you have some kind of say?

LT: We don't have any say. The argument is that it's a slippery slope, which is not necessarily a real argument - you can argue it for anything.

The worry people have is the device manufacturer, right now you have EFI and you're supposed to have a way to insert your own keys or say 'don't bother with the signed stuff', so you can install other things.

LXF: That's the answer?

LT: That's the answer, but right now Microsoft says you need to support signing. Five years from now, what if Microsoft says 'this is the only key you can support'.