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EDITIONS
Saturday, 5 October, 2002, 06:44 GMT 07:44 UK
Mr Linux basks in the limelight
Penguin, symbol of Linux
The culture around Linux has become big business
Linus Torvalds has revealed he is happy to be the poster boy for the anti-Microsoft campaign but would not know what to say if he met Bill Gates.


If you start doing things because you hate others and want to screw them over the end result is bad

Linus Torvalds
Talking to BBC World ClickOnline at his home in Silicon Valley, the inventor of the Linux operating system admitted that he has never been in the same room with his arch-rival.

"We have been at the same conferences but never in the same room. I wouldn't know what to say to him," he told ClickOnline.

Mr Torvalds enjoys the notoriety he has achieved as the man that challenged the Microsoft empire with his open source alternative operating system.

Rising to the challenge

"In a way it is fun. I'm pleased to be a poster boy. It gives me some self-importance," he said.

He would not, however, want to become personally involved in the dispute with Microsoft.

"I've tried to stay out of the Microsoft debate. If you start doing things because you hate others and want to screw them over the end result is bad," he said.


People may hate Windows but they run it despite that because, quite frankly, they don't care about computers

Linus Torvalds
The main reason he developed Linux in the first place had as much to do with wanting a challenge as being fed up with an operating system that would not do what he wanted it to.

Like most technology projects it ran way over the time allotted to it and, to this day, is not truly finished.

"It was a lot harder than I expected. I thought, like most of my projects, it would talk half a year and then I'd lose interest," he said.

To the relief of his legion of followers he did persevere and eleven years on is still working on it.

Reluctance to change

While Linux is gradually gaining ground on Microsoft it might well not be suitable for everyone, Mr Torvalds admitted.

"Most people don't want to change. They may hate Windows but they run it despite that because, quite frankly, they don't care about computers," he said.

Linux facts
Worth about $280m by 2006
Cheaper than Microsoft software
Source code is open for others to look and change
IBM is one of its biggest fans
And even those that do care, often install Linux without much idea of what they want it to do, he said.

Mr Torvalds is not convinced that the open source movement, which has radically altered both the operating system landscape and the mindset of Microsoft itself, will ever entirely topple the Gates empire.

"I think, in the end, Linux will be a big part of why it happens but Microsoft is not going to shrink into nothingness in the foreseeable future," he said.

Instead it is more likely that Microsoft will become like IBM - "still huge but not the dominant force anymore", he said.

The world of coding is beginning to lose importance as Mr Torvalds, ubergeek, admits he has finally found a balance between work and play.

Uber-geek grows up


I'm somewhere between geek and normal,

Linus Torvalds
"I have a life too. I have kids now. Linux has been a big part of my life but now I want to have my own time," he told ClickOnline.

He revealed that he is more likely to have childrens' parties with bouncy castle and candyfloss than to have a bunch of programmers round.

"Part of doing Linux was that I had to communicate a lot more instead of just being a geek in front of a computer.

"It has made me more used to talking to people. I still like coding but I have other things to do," he said.

Although his followers would dispute it, Mr Torvalds is not convinced the phenomenon of Linux has made him entirely cool.

"No-one has ever called me a cool dude. I'm somewhere between geek and normal," he said.

See also:

20 Aug 02 | Technology
13 Aug 02 | Technology
03 Jun 02 | Business
25 May 02 | Science/Nature
15 Mar 02 | Science/Nature
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