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Linus Torvalds Officially a Hero 406

CortoMaltese writes "The European edition of the Time magazine has selected Linus Torvalds as one of the heroes of the past 60 years. From the main article: 'In the 60 years that Time has been publishing an Atlantic edition, extraordinary people have emerged from the churn and turmoil, creativity and chaos of a period that witnessed the aftermath of world war, the toppling of communism in Central and Eastern Europe, the vanquishing of apartheid in South Africa, the advance of women, the failure of old certainties and the rise of new fears. These people are our heroes, and in this special anniversary issue, we celebrate them and their many achievements.' The article on Linus is titled 'By giving away his software, the Finnish programmer earned a place in history.' Linus is cited in the 'Rebels & Leaders' category along with Nelson Mandela, Mikhail Gorbachev, Margaret Thatcher, and others."
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Linus Torvalds Officially a Hero

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  • Article text (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Konster ( 252488 ) on Monday November 13, 2006 @03:00PM (#16826768)
    From the article:

    "Linus Torvalds was just 21 when he changed the world. Working out of his family's apartment in Helsinki in 1991, he wrote the kernel of a new computer operating system called Linux that he posted for free on the Internet -- and invited anyone interested to help improve it.

    Today, 15 years later, Linux powers everything from supercomputers to mobile phones around the world, and Torvalds has achieved fame as the godfather of the open-source movement, in which software code is shared and developed in a collaborative effort rather than being kept locked up by a single owner.

    Some of Torvalds' supporters portray him as a sort of anti-Bill Gates, but the significance of Linux is much bigger than merely a slap at Microsoft. Collaborating on core technologies could lead to a huge reduction in some business costs, freeing up money for more innovative investments elsewhere. Torvalds continues to keep a close eye on Linux's development and has made some money from stock options given to him as a courtesy by two companies that sell commercial applications for it.

    But his success isn't just measured in dollars. There's an asteroid named after him, as well as an annual software-geek festival. Torvalds' parents were student radicals in the 1960s and his father, a communist, even spent a year studying in Moscow. But it's their son who has turned out to be the real revolutionary."
  • by jimstapleton ( 999106 ) on Monday November 13, 2006 @03:09PM (#16826882) Journal
    actually, a few insightfuls would be good mods to your post:

    and hence, before Linus's "heroic deeds" could even have started, we had:
    In the OS corner:
    -- Hurd: 1990
    -- Net/1 (BSD): 1989
    In the applications corner:
    -- Stallmans GNU tools: 1983
  • Who? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by delirium of disorder ( 701392 ) on Monday November 13, 2006 @03:12PM (#16826932) Homepage Journal
    Linus has done a great amount to advance freedom, as has RMS. Their actions, however, were quite safe. They certainly are not in the same category as those who have risked their lives for human rights. However, the fact that a reactionary authoritarian like Thatcher is on the list totally discredits it. So, I guess Linus's inclusion is a non-event.
  • Re:Heroes (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MikeFM ( 12491 ) on Monday November 13, 2006 @04:08PM (#16827790) Homepage Journal
    Giving native Americans blankets would have been a good thing. Giving them blankets that infect them with small pox was a bad thing. That's the difference between giving away Linux and giving away Windows.

    However, I think major good would come out of a totally open Windows - patent and copyright free - if it was released because it'd let Linux code merge into Windows, Windows code merge into Linux, and of course code merging with other free software. If Microsoft could open all it's file formats and protocols and ask hardware developers to release full specs to their devices it'd be a huge thing that I think would earn Bill an equal status as a hero.

    I think everyone that makes an effort to do things for the good of others, or especially for the good of the public at large, is a hero. Maybe a need to help others is just as selfish as any other need on some deep subconscience level but at least you leave the world a little bettr for having been there.
  • Re:Hero, why? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Chyeld ( 713439 ) <> on Monday November 13, 2006 @04:11PM (#16827830)
    Heroes are inventions of the beholder, it is the way we cope with understanding how normal people can accomplish such great things. Heroes are not defined by who they are, what they do, or even their worth as an individual. They are defined as how the populace perceives the individual and their actions.

    A good example of this concept is probably playing in a theater near you, Flags of our Fathers. This is a mostly true story about the men who were declared heroes because they happened to have their picture taken while raising the flag at Iwo Jima. (Note: My comment is not meant to be disrespectful to them, this is the view the movie presents as the view of the men who performed did the task who most vehimately did not consider themselves heroes.)

    What Linus did, may not have been individually a great feat (though I would argue otherwise), he may not have had as much to do with Linux's current popularity (though I would argue otherwise), he could even be the biggest jerk on earth (again I would disagree) but he is a hero.

    Regardless of whether he was just in the right place at the right time, or if his accomplishments are actually due to his own merits, what he did was seen as raising the torch for the Open Source movement without Linux, without Linus, and the galvanizing boot to the rear that these gave the Open Source movement, we'd all probably still be stuck in a world where *nix was exclusively the providence of huge corporations and academic organizations. And without the pressure of Linux on MS's heels, we'd probably still be using WinME.

    You might scoff that what Linus has done does not compare to the actions of the others on this list. And you'd probably be correct. But regardless of the magnitude of the action, his impact upon how what was became what is now and how both software and the Open Source movement is perceived now really can't be argued. You pointed it out yourself when you invited the "Linux fanboys" to start.

  • by Chandon Seldon ( 43083 ) on Monday November 13, 2006 @04:22PM (#16827968) Homepage

    If the Linux kernel had never been written, a GNU/BSD-kernel system would have been released at some point. There's no reason why that wouldn't have ended up in the same niche that GNU/Linux is in now. The license difference is somewhat relevant, but then we can bring up Hurd and whether or not that would have actually seen usable releases if Linux hadn't existed. Trying to get into it too much further and we'll write ourselves an alternate-history fiction novel.

    Very simple, the GNU tools *are* more important to the present-day existence of a usable free Unix operating system than the Linux kernel is. My evidence is that, in 1992, there existed a fully functional free Unix kernel other than Linux (BSD) that the GNU system could have used. There was no alternative to GCC. Today, it's possible to run a free Unix system on a whole bunch of different kernels (Linux, BSD, Solaris, Minix, Hurd). Off the top of my head, I can't think of another free C compiler today.

  • by spun ( 1352 ) <> on Monday November 13, 2006 @05:40PM (#16829370) Journal
    Plenty of businessmen act in ways that are detrimental to overal maximum efficiency in society. People are naturally more motivated by notions of fairness and reciprocity than pure, short sighted self interest. This is because genetics works on the level of species, not individuals, and for the species, fairness and reciprocity are more successful strategies than competition. We have to compete with every other species in nature, what sense is there in competing amongst ourselves for survival? For desirable mates, sure, but not survival. but when our society rewards self interest, or more importantly when it fails to punish lack of fairness and reciprocity, people feel they must be selfish in order to compete. People's natural inclination to cooperate is crushed.

    Personally, I don't think Mr. Gates, Mr. Ballmer, or any of the thousands of other corrupt bussinessmen are to blame for the situation. They are only doing what we all do, that which we see as in our best interest. Can they help it if our society does not reward and encourage us to recognize that which is truly in our interest? No, because society is something we all build together.

    But we are discussing whether they deserve to be called heroes. To me, a real hero is someone who moves society towards a more efficient way of functioning. Linus has done that. Bill and Steve have only served to reinforce the status quo. They are not bad men, merely average. They have done precisely what society expected of them: they played hardball and made lots of money. Quite frankly, any smart person could have done the same given similar circumstances and opportunities. Linus did something that reinforced cooperation. He did what he wanted to do, even when that was not what society said would make him a success. By being himself despite society, he gives courage to others who wish to be themselves as well. That makes him a hero. No one needs any further encouragement to do what society says to do and make a lot of money.

You know, Callahan's is a peaceable bar, but if you ask that dog what his favorite formatter is, and he says "roff! roff!", well, I'll just have to...