Torvalds: The Linux evolution continues

There have been plenty of bumps along the way, but Linus Torvalds thinks the evolution of his Linux operating system is going just fine.

Torvalds said he enjoyed a "rare experience" last week as he was able to see his work on Linux and on Transmeta Corp.'s processors in action at the same time. The famed Finnish programmer arrived at Los Alamos National Laboratory here to see the unveiling of a 240-processor Beowulf cluster named Green Destiny that made novel use of Transmeta's chips and the open-source OS. A Beowulf cluster is, typically, a set of off-the-shelf hardware running Linux and linked together for high performance and scientific computing.

"Linux has been in this type of place for sometime, but what is notable is that I seldom get to combine the work on Linux with my real job," Torvalds said in an interview. Torvalds designed the kernel or core of Linux and is now a fellow at Transmeta. He has done work on the company's Code Morphing software and some Linux-centered software projects.

Despite its growth on servers, Linux is still struggling in certain areas, as are some of the companies that sell Linux-related software and services. One-time high flyers like VA Software Corp. (formerly VA Linux Systems Inc.) and Caldera International Inc. have had to reorganize their businesses in the face of a tough economic climate and have struggled to build a business model around the open source OS. In addition, several efforts to push Linux as a mainstream desktop operating system have failed, most notably with the demise of Eazel Inc. last year. Such disruptions in the Linux ecosystem are only natural, according to Torvalds.

As the software matures, Linux continues to show positive signs on both the server and desktop, according to Torvalds. A vast network of Linux developers makes software for the OS and has boosted its management features.

"It's not painful to see failures," Torvalds said. "Some desktop attempts are failing, but I think that is fine. It would be nice if everything worked, but I believe in biology and the evolution of Linux."

Some critics have charged that Linux developers are of too technical a mind to build in user friendly features to the OS that would help it compete with Microsoft Corp.'s Windows and Apple Computer Inc.'s Mac OS. Torvalds admitted that Linux has clearly struggled in consumer markets but remains hopeful that Linux will gain a place in the desktop.

"I have done this for ten years and have realized it takes longer than you think," he said. "Even the geeks thought Linux people were geeks ten years back. Now, lots of people are using it, and the stuff I do is not as important as it was before (with regards to the development of the operating system). I am very confident about where we are going."

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