Linus Torvalds: Playing By His Own Rules

Linus Torvalds has always played by his own rules when it comes to software development. The celebrated software developer most recently made headlines by announcing that he would postpone the release of Linux Kernel 5.0.

Though the version was past the self-imposed 6 million Git objects mark, Torvalds held off on making the update in an announcement last month, opting to release version 4.17 instead.

The features for this latest version include improvements which can lead to a reduction in energy consumption by up to 10% and modifications on the Linux Kernel Memory Consistency Model, which analyzes and reports on how the kernel uses memory.

Torvalds has been a ubiquitous name in software circles since the early 1990s when he created the Linux kernel. This relatively small piece of source code is now embedded in the DNA of numerous software operating systems.

As the number of contributors to the Linux kernel has ballooned over the years, Torvalds’ contribution to the overall source code has shrunk to less than 5%. He acknowledges that these days he is more often than not merging code and doing very little writing of code himself anymore.

Although a major face for the open source software movement, Torvalds has even managed to buck this community on occasion as well. He has said in public that he sometimes uses proprietary software if it is the right tool for a given job. In response to a backlash from his using a proprietary distributed revision control software known as Bitkeeper, Torvalds wrote the version control software Git, a major component in the omnipresent GitHub platform. GitHub has increased open source software contributions exponentially since it first appeared in 2008.

Over the years, his contributions to the software community at large have not gone unnoticed. In addition to numerous awards and achievements, Torvalds was awarded options in two key companies, Red Hat and VA Linux in 1999 simply in recognition of the fact that he built the Linux platform. Soon after, shares for these businesses ballooned up to a value of $20 million.

Currently, Torvalds is sponsored by the Linux Foundation, which allows him to work full time on Linux.