APC: Before you wrote the kernel you wrote a clone of Pacman. Do you play games at all and if you do which ones?
LT: I don’t games that much I don’t tend to find it interesting enough. And when I do play I tend to play things that are more kids or teenager games: more of a “platformer” kind of thing. I played the original Prince of Persia a long time ago before I started Linux and for that reason I tried out the modern versions and liked those too (“Sands of Time” in particular the later ones were a bit too serious).
APC: Would you write another game if you had the time? If yes what would it be? Do you have a favourite type of game such as adventure?
LT: I really only wrote some (fairly bad) games because I was interested in the programming not so much the playing. I found it more interesting to just do flicker-free graphics at high performance than the actual game-play.
So no I’d probably never do a game again. Especially in these times when games are a lot more about the content and less about the things I used to worry about.
APC: What do you like to do in your spare time? Do you have any particular hobbies or interests outside of computing?
LT: I spend a lot of time at the computer. But I’m writing this one-handed because our puppy is sitting in my lap right now. And when not at the computer or with the family I tend to read a lot.
APC: What books do you like reading and what have you read over the past few months?
LT: I read mostly just random pocket-books – horror sci-fi fantasy thrillers you name it. I tend to not really remember the books it’s not like I read them because they leave a lasting impression…
The more serious stuff I read tends to be biology and especially genetics. Richard Dawkins was a big hero of mine even before he became an internet cult figure – I really enjoyed his The Selfish Gene (and I find his books on evolution more interesting than “The God Delusion” even if his atheist worldview is perhaps what he’s now most famous for – probably because I just find genetics more interesting than religion 😉
APC: You like to use your computer as you said. Aside from writing kernel code what do you like to do on your computer?
LT: These days most of the time I write less kernel code than I write code for git and in fact for the last year even that has no longer been a full time job. What I really end up doing most of the time is just communicating. Reading emails forwarding them writing replies…
And reading other peoples patches (and bug-reports – most of them never get elevated to “let’s bring Linus into this” but it happens often enough that I end up being personally involved enough with some regression most days..)
And that really does fill my computer time. I waste time browsing the web when I’m bored of course and I have my classic rock going on random selection in the back-ground but what I do most of the time is literally revolving around email and the kernel.
APC: Do you use a specific distribution of Linux at home or work?
LT: A “specific” one? No. I have changed distributions over the years and it tends to really end up depending on various random circumstances like just when I switch machines around and what happens to be convenient.
So right now I happen to run Fedora on my machines which largely came about from me running on POWER for a few years and Fedora supported it pretty well (and since I actually don’t care that deeply about the distribution I tend to prefer running the same thing on everything just to keep any distro issues away).
Before Fedora had PowerPC support I ran YDL for a while and before that I had SuSE. Funnily enough the only distributions I tend to refuse to touch are the “technical” ones so I’ve never run Debian because as far as I’m concerned the whole and only point of a distribution is to make it easy to install (so that I can then get to the part I care about namely the kernel) so Debian or one of the “compile everything by hand” ones simply weren’t interesting to me.
APC: What software do you use everyday? Your browser desktop (if any) email client and so on?
LT: Well ignoring the actual development stuff (make compiler editor etc) it ends up being mostly just xterms and “alpine” (the newer version of the venerable old “pine” email reader. Strictly text-based thank you very much).
And yes a browser is mostly open in the background. There’s a few technical discussion forums I’m active on when I have nothing better to do (or when I do have better things to do but get frustrated with them 😉 and then the normal “random” sites (boing boing etc).
APC: You’ve worked on Linux for 15+ years. Do you think you’ll ever stop working on it? If you did what do you think you’d do?
LT: “Ever” is a long long time. I didn’t expect it to end up being 15+ years when I started and I still don’t really have any plan on what I’ll do in the future. But one reason I’ve done it for 15+ years is that I like concentrating on something and don’t like flittering from one project to another. And I simply like doing Linux.
So no I’m not planning on ever stopping working on it but maybe some day somebody better simply comes along and I certainly hope I’ll just have the good grace to realize when I’m simply not needed any more and not adding anything to it.
APC: You’ve been to Australia and rumour has it that you were bitten by a penguin. Is that true? How did you find Australia how many times have you been there any favourite town or city? Was there any kind of activity like bush-walking and things like that which you really took to in Australia?
LT: I’ve been to Australia several times these days mostly for Linux.Conf.Au. But my first trip – and the one when I was bitten by a ferocious fairy penguin: you really should keep those things locked up! – was in 93 or so talking about Linux for the Australian Unix Users Group.
And I’d never go bush walking. Not that I mind the idea of poisonous animals (or the drop-bears) but simply because I’m just not into that whole outdoor thing. I tend to go to zoos and I love walking around the strange creatures you have down there but let’s face it – one of the biggest draws is that it’s warm and sunny there when it’s nasty and horrible in the northern hemisphere. I’m from Finland so “warm and sunny” means more to me than it may do to some other people.
One of these days I hope to find myself on the Great Barrier Reef and do scuba diving (which I love) but for some reason I’ve always ended up in other parts.
APC. Thank you Linus. Linuxus Victa! (Heh!)
Recommended reading for how Linus’ terminal emulator ended up a kernel in glorious technical detail: Just For Fun: The Story of an Accidental Revolutionary by Linus Torvalds with David Diamond. TEXERE Publishing Ltd. ISBN 1587990806.This particular chapter also pretty much details how to write a kernel and how he did it. The book also contains a lot of extra interesting information on Linus and his background.
APC Interviewer James Buchanan is an Australian programmer writer and cartoonist.