Linus Heads for Silicon Forest

Linus Torvalds, the inventor of the Linux kernel, is moving to Portland from California next week. He will oversee the Open Source Development Labs in Beaverton.

Portland’s newspaper, the Oregonian, reported that Torvalds said he wanted to be in a location that is saner and calmer than Silicon Valley, and that he would move after his children finish school.

In an e-mail interview with the newspaper, he wrote: “The plan was to try and acclimatize and have time to grow webbed feet (although I’m told there are implants available) by moving during the summer.”

Thinking Globally

The move from California should not impact Torvalds’ work in the organization, or within the open-source movement, said IDC program vice president Dan Kusnetzky in an interview with LinuxInsider.

“The open-source community is a virtual community,” he said. “It crosses time zones, languages and country boundaries. In the world of the Internet, one’s location makes less and less of a difference.”

Since Torvalds has a family, the move seems to be more of a personal and cultural shift rather than something being done for the company.

Kusnetzky said, “I suspect that Linus’ office will actually be dark a great deal of the time because he’s on the road so much.”

In an e-mail interview with LinuxInsider, OSDL CEO Stuart Cohen wrote: “Linus’ role within OSDL will not change. He will continue to oversee the development of the Linux kernel. But we are certainly delighted that he will be a new neighbor.”

Quite a Day Job

Torvalds joined the Open Source Development Labs in June 2003, after taking a leave from his position at Transmeta, where he was working on several research projects. He became the first fellow of OSDL, which is a nonprofit, global consortium of technology companies dedicated to accelerating the adoption of Linux.

At OSDL, Torvalds works exclusively on leading the development of Linux, as well as guiding a team of Linux developers around the world.

At the time that he joined the group, he noted, “It feels strange to finally officially work on what I’ve been doing for the last 12 years, but with the upcoming 2.6.x release, it makes sense to be able to concentrate fully on Linux.”

He also said, “OSDL is the perfect setting for vendor-independent and neutral Linux development.”

The work at OSDL paid off in December 2003, when Torvalds and his colleague Andrew Morton released Linux 2.6.0, the first update to the popular kernel in almost three years. When it was released, Torvalds noted that he and other developers were getting closer to “Linux for everyone.”

Kusnetzky said that Torvalds continues to lead the development process for the Linux kernel, and that he works with several trusted developers who are responsible for much of the day-to-day development. “He’s still a vital part of the whole process,” he said.

Growth of the Forest

While Torvalds may find more sanity and calm in the fresh air of Beaverton, there is also the possibility that Beaverton will benefit just as much as its newest well-known citizen.

Michael Quinn, professor in the school of electrical engineering and computer science at Oregon State University, told LinuxInsider that Torvalds’ move could bring positive attention to the technology resources in the area.

He added that the high-tech industry in the state right now centers mainly around manufacturing, which has Intel as the centerpiece in the state’s high-tech arena. When the economy took a downturn, many manufacturing jobs were lost, and the state took years to recover, battling high unemployment rates in all sectors.

With nonmanufacturing enterprises like the OSDL thriving, Quinn is hopeful that perceptions about the state will change.

“I think having him move here will really help us on the software side,” he said. “We haven’t had a big story to tell in that area, and we need more successes. With the OSDL in Beaverton, and Torvalds there, it’s definitely a step in the right direction.”

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