A Finnish Subversive's Plan to Overthrow Windows
Linus Torvalds gives his Linux operating system away for free
San Francisco Chronicle
March 4, 1998
Linus Torvalds shares one trait with Bill Gates, and it's not a stock portfolio worth billions.
Both men do, however, enjoy the rare distinction of having created operating systems that run on millions of computers.
But I'm afraid Gates' wealth has misled authorities into focusing on the wrong OS threat.
For while Gates was being grilled in the U.S. Senate yesterday, Linus Torvalds sat in his Sunnyvale home, scheming to one day replace Windows with his own operating system -- Linux -- which he gives away free!
Linux is a variant of Unix; it is popular among engineers and other technical types.
``Linux is outflanking Microsoft,'' Torvalds smiled behind wire-rimmed glasses reminiscent of Lenin.
``Because I don't need to worry about finances I can ignore Microsoft and take over the (computing) world from the grassroots,'' said this 28-year-old, foreign- born revolutionary.
Torvalds started writing Linux in 1991, while still a computer science student at the University of Helsinki in Finland.
He immediately put Linux up on the Internet, knowing computer science students at other universities wouldn't be able to resist tinkering with a free OS.
With this mind candy, he lured unwitting fellow travelers into correcting bugs and posting improvements back on the Internet, where still more innocents contributed brainpower to this insidious software collective.
Think I'm overstating the danger? To date, Linux has infiltrated 3 million to 8 million computers.
So far the invasion has been confined to universities. But Linux hard-liners like Larry Augustin, president of VA Research in Mountain View, are now bold enough to sell Linux-based PCs, using this free OS to unfairly compete with honest firms that pay OS royalties.
But tonight these schemers will make the mistake of coming into the open. Torvalds will speak at a Linux cell meeting in San Jose (see www.svlug.org).
Go, tell these software socialists to take their radical notions of cooperative development and free code back to Europe. Americans demand the right to pay for programs that dominate markets and make entrepreneurs filthy rich.
We won't stand still while some Finnish fellow subverts the most profitable industry in history!
-- Words of wisdom? After Apple Computer killed the Newton Friday, I phoned former Apple Chairman John Sculley for comment on the demise of the hand-held gadget he had championed.
He replied in a two page e-mail, saying Steve Jobs had to focus on Apple's core product. ``Dropping Newton and putting everything behind the Mac makes sense,'' he wrote.
But Sculley, who ousted Jobs from Apple in 1985, only to be forced out himself in 1993, also took the company to task.
``I have no explanation why Apple failed to develop Newton . . . The Newton in 1998 looks remarkably unchanged from the Newton in 1993, with the exception that the handwriting now works and the screen is readable. Why wasn't it miniaturized, cost reduced; why didn't it learn from the great success of the PalmPilot that simple tasks like data synchronization with your desktop PC are really useful; etc . . .?''
-- Open Doerr? Venture capitalist John Doerr poked fun at phone companies last week for being too darn slow in deploying high-speed Internet services.
Speaking at the Multimedia Summit, he parodied Moore's Law, which says microprocessor power will double every 18 months.
By contrast, phone companies follow ``Moron's Law.'' It states that they'll promise to deliver technology in 18 months, but will actually take twice as long.
After the laughter died, it occurred to me that Doerr -- who raises money and anoints CEOs for a living -- has better tools than mockery at his disposal.
Why not raise the money for a telco takeover? Surely he knows some Silicon Valley hotshot who could show the nation how to deliver bandwidth?
Contact Tom Abate at abate(atsign)sfgate.com or (650) 961-2689.
©1998 San Francisco Chronicle