Let a thousand Linuxes blossom

"We don't want to avoid fragmentation per se," he said, explaining that Linux is strengthened by various vendors and projects targeting a wide variety of uses.

Torvalds illustrated his point with two kinds of cool big iron: supercomputers and refrigerators. "Both are big boxes, and both can run Linux," he said. (He mentioned a "concept fridge" he saw in Japan that featured a Linux-based Web browser in the door.)"But you don't want your supercomputer vendor selling you a fridge," he said. He stressed that the Linux community's diversity allows specialisation among vendors -- a strength not shared by proprietary solutions controlled by one company.

Asked if Linux has a future in set-top boxes, Torvalds responded that Linux is ideal for all sorts of specialised devices -- such as a "Web pad" being developed by his employer Transmeta. That's because Linux is easily adapted and because current computers "are too damn hard to use" he declared.

Additionally, Torvalds discussed the forthcoming 2.4 release of the Linux kernel -- the basic code on which all distributions are built.

This version will make Linux more efficient and scalable on both high-end servers and more modest devices (like a desktop PC). The 2.4 kernel also adds Universal Serial Bus, FireWire, and 3D acceleration support. Torvalds expects to release the kernel within a few months, so 2.4-based Linux distributions could be seen by the middle of the year.

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