Linux creator credits users

Linux creator Linus Torvalds told a Comdex audience of thousands last week that user demands rather than purely technological interests have begun to drive the development of the free, open-source operating system.

"Users and what users want are really starting to show up on the radar," he said.

Torvalds cited how Linux's graphical interfaces have emphasised ease of use and even sought to mimic Windows to flatten the learning curve for new users.

Ottawa-based Corel unveiled a Windows-like version of Linux at Comdex. Competitor Caldera Systems, announced its eServer product, emphasising ease of administration over the Web. Meanwhile, Computer Associates announced antivirus software for Linux, and Check Point Software Technologies announced that it will provide virtual private network software for the Linux platform.

"People want convenience," Torvalds said. Convenience is motivating developers to improve Linux's power management to support wireless devices. Users also want power, which Torvalds said is keeping him focused on delivering a new version of Linux's kernel, Version 2.4, with support for eight or more processors and a higher limit on memory.

Analyst Bill Peterson at IDC said users are already finding a lot to like in Linux. Preliminary results from the firm's third annual survey of Linux use shows that adoption of the operating system continues to grow very quickly and that it is now installed for much more than the 13.5 percent of users who reported Linux installations a year ago.

As vendors have sought to build that market, they have begun to add technology and tinker with Linux's kernel. But Torvalds said he was heartened rather than worried that vendors are looking to bring capabilities such as clustering to Linux. Diverging development versions of Linux, called forks, are natural, he said.

Scott Lee, a systems administrator at Texas Life Insurance in Waco, Texas, said he was pleased to hear Torvalds emphasise improving Linux's multiprocessor support and endorse a variety of distributions. The company uses Linux to run Netscape browsers for all its employees who are equipped with thin clients, Lee said. Texas Life runs multiple distributions of Linux. "Each different product adds a little bit different features," he said.

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