Linus Torvalds on his autobiography

On the occasion of the publication of the Japanese edition of his autobiography, Linus Torvalds sat down with Linux World Japan's Toshiko Imabayashi to talk about "Just for Fun: The Story of an Accidental Revolutionary." The book covers Torvalds' historical background, his everyday life, the birth of Linux and his philosophies on open source. With this interview, the author himself reviewed and talked about the book.

How the book came to be: "My co-author, David (Diamond) first approached me about writing this book and that was the beginning. At that time, I was looking for something I'd never done before, and I wanted to try something new and to see if I could enjoy it. In other words, I can't help finding challenges, that's a part of my nature. And all I could say after finishing writing up the book is, I did have fun."

What the book accomplished for him personally: "In order to write this book, I had to reflect upon myself. And as a result, I now have a better understanding of myself. I can explain who I am and how I have lived my life through the course of action. In that sense, I have improved myself with writing the book."

On raising his daughters in the U.S.: "The first part of the book talks about my personal life and my family. I have three daughters.They are growing up with American culture, unlike myself, who was born and was raised in Helsinki (Finland). Some might think there will be a gap between their sense of values and my sense of values but I don't see it that way. Because children's sense of values are formed by their school lives as well as by their families."

His view of U.S. schools: "To tell you the truth, I was worried about the school systems in the United States. At one point, I was thinking of going back to Finland for my children's sake. But as I was researching the American education system, I learned what is important is to find the right school for kids rather than just letting them go to any school. And as long as I choose the right one, my children can receive a very good education there. That is something different from Europe where all the schools are standardized around the same level."

Why he went the open-source route: "By the way, I decided to let Linux be open source because I thought it would be the best way to build up a better operating system. Programmers all over the world share open source and develop the best technology -- that sounded the most attractive to me."

What the GUI did for Linux: "At first, Linux was a very complicated operation system, of which only a limited number of programmers could make use. But since GUIs (graphical user interfaces) have been introduced, Linux has become a popular system that everybody can use. Linux used to have functions only programmers could handle, but then home users started joining the Linux community and demanded things like a GUI. That has made Linux more accessible to use for more people. This kind of process, I must say, is its biggest merit for both programmers and home users and I hope Linux would continue to be developed in this way."

Open source as a business model: "I have never thought about making money out of the open-source project, and generally speaking, one cannot expect automatic business success when a user downloads open-source software. But it may be possible to use open source as 'infrastructure' and to build up a better quality product on that foundation in order to be successful in business. In fact, there are several companies which have succeeded in doing so. Moreover, as I mentioned in the book, those companies' supports were needed for Linux to become a better operating system."

Life as a programmer: "For me, work means 'doing something what I want to do'. It is unfortunate to know that some see programming as just another job. But I don't see it as just a mere job. Programmers have dreams, and a very enjoyable job full of possibilities. I hope readers of this book, especially those who are striving to become programmers, can feel that, too."

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