LinuxWorld: Torvalds sets stage for future

Despite downplaying his role as visionary amid the swirling hype of his creation -- the open-source Linux operating system -- Linus Torvalds could not dampen the enthusiasm of several thousand LinuxWorld convention goers at his keynote presentation on Tuesday.

Referring to himself as a "pragmatic technologist" rather than a visionary, Torvalds gave a straightforward speech that touched on the history of the OS, its current capabilities, and planned improvements. However, the most applause was reserved for tongue-in-cheek references to "world domination" and the instability of other OSes.

For example, while the Linux community quickly releases patches and upgrades of the OS kernel, many people have little need for them because of the stability of the version they currently use, said Torvalds.

"I'm actually happy that there's a lot of people who haven't bothered to upgrade," he said. "It shouldn't be this endless maze of new versions that you have to upgrade just to run programs."

Torvalds also hoped to dispel notions of the OS's immaturity. "Many people think this is a new phenomenon, but I've been doing this for eight years and it's been fairly slow in growing," he added.

Audience members were generally positive about the message.

"I was surprised to hear that Linux has been stable for over two years," said Robert Reed, a self-described Linux newcomer and LAN services technician at Monumental Life Insurance Co. in Baltimore. "That goes a long way in implementing it in a business setting."

Monumental Life Insurance is looking to add Linux-based proxy servers and migrate some IBM AIX-based servers to the open-source OS.

Reed was also intrigued by the growing development and support around the OS. "People are saying that there's no support or new software, but that's not the case," he said.

As for the future of the OS, Torvalds laid out plans to make it more suited to high-availability systems. He and his team of kernel developers are working on supporting more high-end hardware, making symmetric multiprocessing (SMP)more stable, and scaling more easily to higher numbers of CPUs, he said.

Some Linux old-timers found little new in the speech but were still enthusiastic.

"The stuff about the kernel is in the documentation," said Mikey Wilsker, system administrator at The Interpacket Group in Santa Monica, California. "I just wanted to see him."

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