Linus Torvalds

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Do you pine for the days when men were men and wrote their own device drivers?

Linus Benedict Torvalds (born 28 December 1969) is a computer programmer, best known as the creator of the Linux kernel.

Sourced[edit]

There are literally several levels of SCO being wrong. And even if we were to live in that alternate universe where SCO would be right, they'd still be wrong.
Some people have told me they don't think a fat penguin really embodies the grace of Linux, which just tells me they have never seen an angry penguin charging at them in excess of 100 mph …

1990s[edit]

1991-94[edit]

  • I'm doing a (free) operating system (just a hobby, won't be big and professional like gnu) for 386(486) AT clones.
  • Do you pine for the nice days of minix-1.1, when men were men and wrote their own device drivers?
    […]
    I can (well, almost) hear you asking yourselves "why?". Hurd will be out in a year (or two, or next month, who knows), and I've already got minix.
  • Well, with a subject like this, I'm afraid I'll have to reply. Apologies to minix-users who have heard enough about linux anyway. I'd like to be able to just "ignore the bait", but … time for some serious flamefesting!
  • Well, I probably won't get too good grades even without you: I had an argument (completely unrelated – not even pertaining to OS's) with the person here at the university that teaches OS design. I wonder when I'll learn :)
  • No. That's it. The cool name, that is. We worked very hard on creating a name that would appeal to the majority of people, and it certainly paid off: thousands of people are using linux just to be able to say "OS/2? Hah. I've got Linux. What a cool name". 386BSD made the mistake of putting a lot of numbers and weird abbreviations into the name, and is scaring away a lot of people just because it sounds too technical.
    • Torvalds, Linus (1993-03-16). Post. comp.unix.pc-clone.32bit. Google Groups. Retrieved on 2011-02-19.

1995-99[edit]

  • It's a bird … it's a plane … no, it's KernelMan, faster than a speeding bullet, to your rescue. Doing new kernel versions in under 5 seconds flat …
  • The main reason there are no raw devices [in Linux] is that I personally think that raw devices are a stupid idea.
    • Torvalds, Linus (1996-10-17). Message. linux-kernel mailing list. IU. Retrieved on 2006-08-28.
  • Some people have told me they don't think a fat penguin really embodies the grace of Linux, which just tells me they have never seen an angry penguin charging at them in excess of 100 mph. They'd be a lot more careful about what they say if they had.
    • Torvalds, Linus (1996-06-09). Post. comp.os.linux.announce newsgroup. Google Groups. Retrieved on 2006-08-28.
  • Only wimps use tape backup: real men just upload their important stuff on ftp, and let the rest of the world mirror it ;)
    • Torvalds, Linus (1996-07-20). Post. linux.dev.kernel newsgroup. Google Groups. Retrieved on 2006-08-28.
  • …the Linux philosophy is "laugh in the face of danger". Oops. Wrong one. "Do it yourself". That's it.
    • Torvalds, Linus (1996-10-16). Post. linux.dev.kernel newsgroup. Google Groups. Retrieved on 2006-08-28.
  • See, you not only have to be a good coder to create a system like Linux, you have to be a sneaky bastard too ;-)
    • Torvalds, Linus (1996-07-05). Post. comp.os.linux.development.system newsgroup. Google Groups. Retrieved on 2006-08-28.
  • (In answer to the question: In the extreme case, if it was just you doing all the code, and the rest of the world quietly used it, would it make sense to give it away free? Unless you're particularly grateful for other free things you've got off the Net, would the answer be No?":)
I don't necessarily think so. It might be true in certain niche areas, but almost any project will give a developer that "feel good" feeling when he has users and he feels he is doing something worthwhile. I really don't think you need all that much "quid pro quo" in programming - most of the good programmers do programming not because they expect to get paid or get adulation by the public, but because it is fun to program.
  • "Regression testing"? What's that? If it compiles, it is good; if it boots up, it is perfect.
    • Torvalds, Linus (1998-04-08). Message. linux-kernel mailing list. IU. Retrieved on 2006-08-28.
  • I'd like to say that I knew this would happen, that it's all part of the plan for world domination.

2000s[edit]

2000-04[edit]

  • Note that nobody reads every post in linux-kernel. In fact, nobody who expects to have time left over to actually do any real kernel work will read even half. Except Alan Cox, but he's actually not human, but about a thousand gnomes working in under-ground caves in Swansea. None of the individual gnomes read all the postings either, they just work together really well.
    • Torvalds, Linus (2000-05-02). Post. Linux kernel mailing list. Google Groups. Retrieved on 2006-08-28.
  • I'm a bastard. I have absolutely no clue why people can ever think otherwise. Yet they do. People think I'm a nice guy, and the fact is that I'm a scheming, conniving bastard who doesn't care for any hurt feelings or lost hours of work, if it just results in what I consider to be a better system. And I'm not just saying that. I'm really not a very nice person. I can say "I don't care" with a straight face, and really mean it.
  • To kind of explain what Linux is, you have to explain what an operating system is. And the thing about an operating system is that you're never ever supposed to see it. Because nobody really uses an operating system; people use programs on their computer. And the only mission in life of an operating system is to help those programs run. So an operating system never does anything on its own; it's only waiting for the programs to ask for certain resources, or ask for a certain file on the disk, or ask to connect to the outside world. And then the operating system steps in and tries to make it easy for people to write programs.
  • Hey, that's not a bug, that's a feature! You know what the most complex piece of engineering known to man in the whole solar system is? Guess what – it's not Linux, it's not Solaris, and it's not your car. It's you. And me. And think about how you and me actually came about – not through any complex design. Right. "Sheer luck". Well, sheer luck, and:
    • Free availability and crosspollination through sharing of "source code", although biologists call it DNA.
    • A rather unforgiving user environment, that happily replaces bad versions of us with better working versions and thus culls the herd (biologists often call this "survival of the fittest").
    • Massive undirected parallel development ("trial and error").
    I'm deadly serious: we humans have never been able to replicate something more complicated than what we ourselves are, yet natural selection did it without even thinking. Don't underestimate the power of survival of the fittest. And don't ever make the mistake that you can design something better than what you get from ruthless massively parallel trial-and-error with a feedback cycle. That's giving your intelligence much too much credit. Quite frankly, Sun is doomed. And it has nothing to do with their engineering practices or their coding style.
  • Yeah. And as Linus once said: most numerical problems today in pure CPU cycles are actually 3D games. … It's not "incorrect" to say that you want the result faster, even if that result doesn't match your theoretical models.

Linus did not originate this quote. It is a reference from David Braben following the release of Elite, and is itself a rephrasing of a reference to relative worth of game coding.

  • Once you realize that documentation should be laughed at, peed upon, put on fire, and just ridiculed in general, THEN, and only then, have you reached the level where you can safely read it and try to use it to actually implement a driver.
  • Personally, I'm not interested in making device drivers look like user-level. They aren't, they shouldn't be, and microkernels are just stupid.
    • Torvalds, Linus (2002-05-25). Post. mlist.linux.kernel newsgroup. Google Groups. Retrieved on 2006-08-28.
  • Really, I'm not out to destroy Microsoft. That will just be a completely unintentional side effect.
    • "The Way We Live Now: Questions for Linus Torvalds". New York Times. 2003-09-28. 
  • Modern PCs are horrible. ACPI is a complete design disaster in every way. But we're kind of stuck with it. If any Intel people are listening to this and you had anything to do with ACPI, shoot yourself now, before you reproduce.
  • They are smoking crack.
  • There are literally several levels of SCO being wrong. And even if we were to live in that alternate universe where SCO would be right, they'd still be wrong.
  • Anybody who tells me I can't use a program because it's not open source, go suck on rms. I'm not interested. 99% of that I run tends to be open source, but that's my choice, dammit.
  • Nobody should start to undertake a large project. You start with a small trivial project, and you should never expect it to get large. If you do, you'll just overdesign and generally think it is more important than it likely is at that stage. Or worse, you might be scared away by the sheer size of the work you envision. So start small, and think about the details. Don't think about some big picture and fancy design. If it doesn't solve some fairly immediate need, it's almost certainly over-designed. And don't expect people to jump in and help you. That's not how these things work. You need to get something half-way useful first, and then others will say "hey, that almost works for me", and they'll get involved in the project.

Just for Fun (2001)[edit]

Co-written with David Diamond.

  • My name is Linus Torvalds and I am your god.
    • As quoted in: Young, Robert; Goldman Rohm, Wendy (1999), Under the Radar: How Red Hat Changed the Software Business – and Took Microsoft by Surprise, p. 111
    • Jokingly introducing himself, at the 1998 Linux Expo in Durham, North Carolina
  • Oh fuck. If I kill this guy, I'll have millions of nerds on my case.
    • When Diamond took Torvalds body-boarding and saw him struggling with leg cramp in the whitewater.
  • My personal opinion of Mach is not very high. Frankly, it's a piece of crap. It contains all the design mistakes you can make, and even managed to make up a few of its own.
  • You see. I don't think any new thoughts. I think thoughts that other people have thought, and I rearrange them. But Sara, she thinks thoughts that never were before.
    • Torvalds to his mother, about his sister
  • Most days I wake up thinking I'm the luckiest bastard alive.
  • I'm personally convinced that computer science has a lot in common with physics. Both are about how the world works at a rather fundamental level. The difference, of course, is that while in physics you're supposed to figure out how the world is made up, in computer science you create the world. Within the confines of the computer, you're the creator. You get to ultimately control everything that happens. If you're good enough, you can be God. On a small scale.

2005[edit]

  • 2.6.<odd>: still a stable kernel, but accept bigger changes leading up to it (timeframe: a month or two).

    2.<odd>.x: aim for big changes that may destabilize the kernel for several releases (timeframe: a year or two)

    <odd>.x.x: Linus went crazy, broke absolutely everything, and rewrote the kernel to be a microkernel using a special message-passing version of Visual Basic. (timeframe: "we expect that he will be released from the mental institution in a decade or two").

  • Which mindset is right? Mine, of course. People who disagree with me are by definition crazy. (Until I change my mind, when they can suddenly become upstanding citizens. I'm flexible, and not black-and-white.)
  • Don't bother. Bram doesn't know what he's talking about.
  • It was such a relief to program in user mode for a change. Not having to care about the small stuff is wonderful.
  • I chose 1000 originally partly as a way to make sure that people that assumed HZ was 100 would get a swift kick in the pants.
  • The fact that ACPI was designed by a group of monkeys high on LSD, and is some of the worst designs in the industry obviously makes running it at any point pretty damn ugly.
    • Torvalds, Linus (2005-07-31). Message. linux-kernel mailing list. IU. Retrieved on 2006-08-28.
  • I personally just encourage people to switch to KDE.

    This "users are idiots, and are confused by functionality" mentality of Gnome is a disease. If you think your users are idiots, only idiots will use it. I don't use Gnome, because in striving to be simple, it has long since reached the point where it simply doesn't do what I need it to do.

    Please, just tell people to use KDE.

2006[edit]

  • For example, the GPLv2 in no way limits your use of the software. If you're a mad scientist, you can use GPLv2'd software for your evil plans to take over the world ("Sharks with lasers on their heads!!"), and the GPLv2 just says that you have to give source code back. And that's OK by me. I like sharks with lasers. I just want the mad scientists of the world to pay me back in kind. I made source code available to them, they have to make their changes to it available to me. After that, they can fry me with their shark-mounted lasers all they want.
  • I claim that Mach people (and apparently FreeBSD) are incompetent idiots.
  • I like colorized diffs, but let's face it, those particular color choices will make most people decide to pick out their eyes with a fondue fork.

    And that's not good. Digging in your eye-sockets with a fondue fork is strictly considered to be bad for your health, and seven out of nine optometrists are dead set against the practice.

    So in order to avoid a lot of blind git users, please apply this patch.

  • …git actually has a simple design, with stable and reasonably well-documented data structures. In fact, I'm a huge proponent of designing your code around the data, rather than the other way around, and I think it's one of the reasons git has been fairly successful […] I will, in fact, claim that the difference between a bad programmer and a good one is whether he considers his code or his data structures more important. Bad programmers worry about the code. Good programmers worry about data structures and their relationships.
  • … even if the Hurd didn't depend on Linux code (and as far as I know, it does, but since I think they have their design heads firmly up their *sses anyway with that whole microkernel thing, I've never felt it was worth my time even looking at their code), I don't believe a religiously motivated development community can ever generate as good code except by pure chance.
    • LKML, September 27, 2006 [2]
  • I'm a huge believer in evolution (not in the sense that "it happened" – anybody who doesn't believe that is either uninformed or crazy, but in the sense "the processes of evolution are really fundamental, and should probably be at least thought about in pretty much any context").
    • LKML, September 28, 2006 [3]
  • It's one of those rare "perfect" kernels. So if it doesn't happen to compile with your config (or it does compile, but then does unspeakable acts of perversion with your pet dachshund), you can rest easy knowing that it's all your own damn fault, and you should just fix your evil ways.
  • I think people can generally trust me, but they can trust me exactly because they know they don't have to.

2007[edit]

  • If you have ever done any security work – and it did not involve the concept of "network of trust" – it wasn't security work, it was – masturbation. I don't know what you were doing. But trust me, it's the only way you can do security, it's the only way you can do development.
  • So the whole "We have a list and we're not telling you" should tell you something. Don't you think that if Microsoft actually had some really foolproof patent, they'd just tell us and go, "nyaah, nyaah, nyaah!"?
  • You try to claim that the GPLv3 causes "More developers", and that, my idiotic penpal, is just crazy talk that you made up.
    • LKML, 18 June 2007 .
  • I don't ask for money. I don't ask for sexual favors. I don't ask for access to the hardware you design and sell. I just ask for the thing I gave you: source code that I can use myself.
  • Controlling a laser with Linux is crazy, but everyone in this room is crazy in his own way. So if you want to use Linux to control an industrial welding laser, I have no problem with your using PREEMPT_RT.
  • Is "I hope you all die a painful death" too strong?
    • Linus to the hardware manufacturers that refuse to release the specifications of their hardware so they could operate with the Linux kernel.
    • Torvalds, Linus (2007-08-22). Linus Torvalds talks future of Linux. Retrieved on 2007-08-22.
  • C++ is a horrible language. It's made more horrible by the fact that a lot of substandard programmers use it, to the point where it's much much easier to generate total and utter crap with it.
  • C++ is in that inconvenient spot where it doesn't help make things simple enough to be truly usable for prototyping or simple GUI programming, and yet isn't the lean system programming language that C is that actively encourages you to use simple and direct constructs.
  • I'm an egotistical bastard, and I name all my projects after myself. First Linux, now git.
  • Me, I just don't care about proprietary software. It's not "evil" or "immoral," it just doesn't matter. I think that Open Source can do better, and I'm willing to put my money where my mouth is by working on Open Source, but it's not a crusade – it's just a superior way of working together and generating code.
It's superior because it's a lot more fun and because it makes cooperation much easier (no silly NDA's or artificial barriers to innovation like in a proprietary setting), and I think Open Source is the right thing to do the same way I believe science is better than alchemy. Like science, Open Source allows people to build on a solid base of previous knowledge, without some silly hiding.
But I don't think you need to think that alchemy is "evil." It's just pointless because you can obviously never do as well in a closed environment as you can with open scientific methods.

2008[edit]

  • Your problem has nothing to do with git, and everything to do with emacs. And then you have the gall to talk about "Unix design" and not gumming programs together, when you yourself use the most gummed-up piece of absolute sh*t there is!
    • Torvalds, Linus (2008-12-17). Message. Git mailing list. Gmane. Retrieved on 2008-12-18.
  • The fact is, there aren't just two sides to any issue, there's almost always a range of responses, and "it depends" is almost always the right answer in any big question.
  • Security people are often the black-and-white kind of people that I can't stand. I think the OpenBSD crowd is a bunch of masturbating monkeys, in that they make such a big deal about concentrating on security to the point where they pretty much admit that nothing else matters to them.
  • It's what I call "mental masturbation", when you engage is some pointless intellectual exercise that has no possible meaning.
  • Sometimes "pi = 3.14" is (a) infinitely faster than the "correct" answer and (b) the difference between the "correct" and the "wrong" answer is meaningless. And this is why I get upset when somebody dismisses performance issues based on "correctness". The thing is, some specious value of "correctness" is often irrelevant because it doesn't matter. While performance almost always matters. And I absolutely detest the fact that people so often dismiss performance concerns so readily.
    • Git mailing list, Fri, 8 Aug 2008
  • I think Leopard is a much better system [than Windows Vista] … but OS X in some ways is actually worse than Windows to program for. Their file system is complete and utter crap, which is scary.

2009[edit]

  • Crying that it's an application bug is like crying over the speed of light: you should deal with reality, not what you wish reality was.
  • Theory and practice sometimes clash. And when that happens, theory loses. Every single time.
  • The thing that has always disturbed me about O_DIRECT is that the whole interface is just stupid, and was probably designed by a deranged monkey on some serious mind-controlling substances. [*]

    [*] In other words, it's an Oracleism.

  • I may make jokes about Microsoft at times, but at the same time, I think the Microsoft hatred is a disease.
  • There are "extremists" in the free software world, but that's one major reason why I don't call what I do "free software" any more. I don't want to be associated with the people for whom it's about exclusion and hatred.

2010s[edit]

2010[edit]

  • Every time I see some piece of medical research saying that caffeine is good for you, I high-five myself. Because I'm going to live forever.

2011[edit]

  • Toto, I don't think we're talking white-socks-and-sandals any more.
    • Torvalds (2011-03-01). pearls before swine. Retrieved on 2011-03-01.
    • Torvalds contemplating his appearance at a Oscar Party.
  • Why don't we write code that just works? Or absent a "just works" set of patches, why don't we revert to code that has years of testing? This kind of "I broke things, so now I will jiggle things randomly until they unbreak" is not acceptable. [...] Don't just make random changes. There really are only two acceptable models of development: "think and analyze" or "years and years of testing on thousands of machines". Those two really do work.

2012[edit]

  • We're not masturbating around with some research project. We never were. Even when Linux was young, the whole and only point was to make a *usable* system. It's why it's not some crazy drug-induced microkernel or other random crazy thing.
  • [In response to [4]] Good job. More public indecency, less TSA, that's what I say.
  • Somebody is trying to kill all the kernel developers.
First we had two earthquakes - fine, this week God not only hates republicans, but apparently us kernel developers too. But we kernel developers laugh in the face of danger, and a 5.5 earthquake just makes us whimper and hide in the closet for a while.
But after we've stopped cowering in the closet, there's a knock on the door, and the conference organizers are handing out skate boards, with the innocent explanations of "We're in San Diego, after all".
If that's not a sign of somebody trying to kill us, I don't know what is. Handing out skate boards to a bunch of geeks sounds like a seriously misguided thing to do.
  • Obsessing about things is important, and things really do matter, but if you can't let go of them, you'll end up crazy.
  • I'm not sentimental. Good riddance.

Audience Q&A following interview panel at Aalto University Center, 2012[edit]

Torvalds, Linus (2012-06-14). Audience Q&A following interview panel at Aalto University Center. Retrieved on 2012-06-17.
  • I like offending people, because I think people who get offended should be offended.
  • Nvidia, fuck you!
  • I wish everybody was as nice as I am.
  • I started Linux as a desktop operating system. And it's the only area where Linux hasn't completely taken over. That just annoys the hell out of me.

2013[edit]

  • I realize that lawyers are brought up (probably from small children) to think that "technically true" is what matters, but when you make public PR statements, they should be more than "technically" true. They should be honest. There's a big f*cking difference.
  • But this is definitely another of those "This is our most desperate hour. Help me, Al-biwan Ke-Viro, you're my only hope" issues. Al? Please don't make me wear that golden bikini.
  • I hope I won't end up having to hunt you all down and kill you in your sleep.
  • Whoever came up with "hold the shift key for eight seconds to turn on 'your keyboard is buggered' mode" should be shot.
  • There aren't enough swear-words in the English language, so now I'll have to call you perkeleen vittupää just to express my disgust and frustration with this crap.
  • That's the spirit. Greg has taught you well. You have controlled your fear. Now, release your anger. Only your hatred can destroy me. Come to the dark side, Sarah. We have cookies.
  • Because if you want me to "act professional", I can tell you that I'm not interested. I'm sitting in my home office wearing a bathrobe. The same way I'm not going to start wearing ties, I'm *also* not going to buy into the fake politeness, the lying, the office politics and backstabbing, the passive aggressiveness, and the buzzwords. Because THAT is what "acting professionally" results in: people resort to all kinds of really nasty things because they are forced to act out their normal urges in unnatural ways.

2014[edit]

Attributed[edit]

  • The memory management on the PowerPC can be used to frighten small children.
    • Source: quoted by Alan Cox here
  • 95 percent of all software developers believe they are in the top 5 percent when it comes to knowledge and skills [citation needed].
  • Guess what? Wheels have been round for a really long time, and anybody who "reinvents" the new wheel is generally considered a crackpot. It turns out that "round" is simply a good form for a wheel to have. It may be boring, but it just tends to roll better than a square, and "hipness" has nothing what-so-ever to do with it.
  • I don't doubt at all that virtualization is useful in some areas. What I doubt rather strongly is that it will ever have the kind of impact that the people involved in virtualization want it to have.
  • Now, most of you are probably going to be totally bored out of your minds on Christmas day, and here's the perfect distraction. Test 2.6.15-rc7. All the stores will be closed, and there's really nothing better to do in between meals.
  • First off, I'm actually perfectly well off. I live in a good-sized house, with a nice yard, with deer occasionally showing up and eating the roses (my wife likes the roses more, I like the deer more, so we don't really mind). I've got three kids, and I know I can pay for their education. What more do I need? The thing is, being a good programmer actually pays pretty well; being acknowledged as being world-class pays even better. I simply didn't need to start a commercial company. And it's just about the least interesting thing I can even imagine. I absolutely hate paperwork. I couldn't take care of employees if I tried. A company that I started would never have succeeded – it's simply not what I'm interested in! So instead, I have a very good life, doing something that I think is really interesting, and something that I think actually matters for people, not just me. And that makes me feel good.

External links[edit]

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