Sunday, July 27, 2008

Q&A with Linus Torvalds, by simple-talk

The Linux and open source have became the most talked about topic for a brief time especially this end of the weekend, with the OSCON 2008 is wrapped up.

I know some of you are bored and fed up with the open source and Linux topics, and few of you can't get enough talking & brag about them.

Although I'm not particularly interested to talk about Linux, this can't be avoided since Ubuntu is taking the spotlight at last OSCON 2008 with the release of
Canonical's Ubuntu Netbook Remix beta. The future of open source is looking bright, so many software developers and computer manufacturers have gathered and shared their ideas on what to be expected from it in the future.

But open source's key; its openness, is the key to its success and it's also the problem need to be solved together. With so many people are taking part in open source, miss-communication and chaos are easy to happen. Without a strong party to take the lead on where Linux should head to, it'll take a lot more time to make it grow. But who should be the leader? The people and fans behind open source are usually indepent, open minded, and a bit self-centric people ~LOL~, so it'll be hard for them to accept big companies to take the lead.

Thus making the open source die-hard fans can't stop reminiscing of the maker, the father, the godfather, the first brain of Linux: Linus Torvalds. Perhaps, it should Linus who take the lead and pointed out where Linux should go from here; after years he gave birth of his brainchild idea.

But Linus Torvalds is not a type of person who gloat over power and famous, instead he's a low profile legend who rarely share what's in his mind with mass media. So Richard Morris from
simple-talk is indeed very lucky to have Linus for an interview, and get some of what the godfather of Linux himself is thinking about Linux nowadays. Here are some parts of the interview that I cut-off, which I think might interest you my dear or PalmAddict readers to know:
  • RM: 'In your famous debate with Tanenbaum on micro versus monolithic LT: kernels you say that "From a theoretical (and aesthetical) standpoint [micro kernels are better]". Could you foresee a day where the practical matches the theoretical and aesthetical and the Linux Kernel does become obsolete?' --- LT: 'I can certainly imagine the Linux kernel becoming obsolete - anything else would just be sad, really, in the big picture. That said having now worked in the OS area for the past, what, 17 years or so, I don't think it's micro kernels per se that would make it happen. ...But what can make a big deal to what is the best way of doing things is simply hardware changes or changes in what users do and how they interact with their computers. And while I don't see any big fundamental shift in how things are done, I think that is ultimately what may make Linux obsolete. -not in the near future, though. Software and hardware have an amazing inertia, and ways of doing things tend to stay around for decades. So I'm not exactly worried.'
  • RM: 'Many significant projects such as Apache, PHP etc do not use the GPL license. Do you think this damages the free software source community or do you think the heterogeneity of open source licenses has allowed more people to contribute to the overall effort? ' --- LT: 'I think heterogeneity is good. People don't agree on their goals and their motivations, and they shouldn't. There's no real reason why everybody should agree on a single license - it's not only unreasonable to expect people to all agree to begin with, but different areas of endeavor may simply have fundamental reasons why they want to do things in different ways. ...So even from a purely rational standpoint it makes sense to have different licenses. And no, I'm not claiming that programmers are always purely rational. There's a lot of ego involved, and a lot of personal quirks, which may explain exactly why there are so many subtly different licenses to try out. But hey, choice is good! And there really isn't a lot of confusion, since there really are just a handful of very popular and common licenses.'
  • RM: 'Recently we interviewed Dr Richard Hipp of SQLite fame, what do you think about his decision to remove all restrictions on the use of his code and place it in the public domain? Why didn't you do the same with Linux - surely then the code would really be free? ' --- LT: 'That word ‘free’ is actually a word I try to avoid using, because it means so many different things. And no, I don't mean just the trivial difference between ‘free of cost’ (as in ‘gratis’) and ‘freedom’. Even in just the ’freedom’ meaning, different people have so many different ideas of exactly what and who should have the ‘freedom’. It's one reason I use the term ‘Open Source’, and one reason I'm actually known to butt heads with the FSF. They make a big deal about the "freedom" term, and they define it in just very particular way.'
  • RM: 'What do you think of Microsoft's efforts to take part in the open source community? Do you think they are sincere in their efforts or do you see it as some sort of embrace-extend-extinguish approach? ' --- LT: 'I have no real way to judge that. I personally think that parts of Microsoft certainly are sincere, and other parts are almost certainly not. It's a pretty big and bloated company, and when one hand says it wants to participate in open source, I doubt the other hand knows or cares about it.'
  • RM: 'If Microsoft were to approach you to go and work in their Open Source labs would you consider it?' --- LT: 'I'm not a Microsoft hater, so I'm not going to say ‘No! Never! I will fall on my sword before I give in to the Dark Side!’ That said I find it unlikely that MS would ever offer anything that I would consider relevant. Money? Hey, they have it, and I like it, but I obviously don't value it over everything else. And they are unlikely to offer the things I really value.'
  • RM: 'Which Linux distro do you use? ' --- LT: 'I've used different distributions over the years. Right now I happen to use Fedora 9 on most of the computers I have, which really boils down to the fact that Fedora had fairly good support for PowerPC back when I used that, so I grew used to it. ...
  • RM: 'Do you think that products such as open office can gain acceptance by being clones of more widely used commercial products or do you think they need to innovate before they will gain acceptance?' --- LT: 'I think that ‘innovation’ is a four-letter word in the industry. It should never be used in polite company. It's become a PR thing to sell new versions with. ...
    RM: 'Is the proliferation of Linux distributions, a good or a bad thing on balance? Would he rather there was more focused effort on fewer distributions. ' LT: 'Me personally, I'm a believer in choice. Yes, it can be confusing, and yes, it can cause the market to look more fragmented, but on the other hand, it also begets competition. And competition is good - and it's good even within a project. It's what makes people try different things, and it ends up being very motivational. ...
  • RM: 'I can’t end without asking you about the Steve Ballmer quote. You know the one where he said 'Linux is a cancer that attaches itself in an intellectual property sense to everything it touches.' What do you think he meant by this?' --- LT: 'I have a hard time really seeing what the heck Ballmer is doing. First the monkey dance, then the chair throwing. At some point he called Linux 'un-American', apparently because he doesn't like the competition. Then the cancer thing. And now this fixation with Yahoo! When will it end?So what can I say? I think he tried to say that open source grows very aggressively and takes over (which is good - if you're into that whole expanding markets thing), but he wanted to put it in terms of something that grows out of control and is bad for what it is growing in. Thus: cancer. So I can certainly see the logic of choosing that word.'
  • RM: 'Do you think it makes any sense?' --- LT: 'Do I think it makes sense? No. Of course open source grows aggressively: what's not to like? Low cost, great quality, and a lack of being shackled to some commercial company that you can't really trust further than the fact that they'll happily continue to take your money. Sure, it grows. And yes, it does grow at the cost of Microsoft, but that's called ’competition’. It doesn't make it 'cancer' any more than it ever made it 'un-American'.

For the detailed interview, please head-on to simple-talk website.

[blogged with my Treo 750v]

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