Salon: The Free Software Project

[ Excerpted from a the text of a book to be published by the
author – LT ed. ]

Chapter 1: Boot Time
Part 1: Linus Torvalds at the Villa Montalvo”

“So perhaps the half-eagle, half-lion stone griffins that guard
the narrow winding road up to the Villa Montalvo were not too
surprised to see, one rainy morning in January 2000, a horde of
journalists, analysts, chip designers, money men and high-tech
industry flacks invade their peaceful territory. For this was no
ordinary press conference; this was the ultimate Silicon Valley
dog-and-pony show. A company named Transmeta — notorious, on the
one hand, for being the most secretive start-up in the valley, and
on the other, for employing one of the world’s most famous
programmers, Linus Torvalds* — was about to raise the curtain on
its tomorrowland product. The next little piece of the mythological
Californian future was at hand. Who would dare miss it?”

“Splayed out across my lap, as I sat in the small theater where
Transmeta execs, grinning from ear to ear, declaimed upon their
unique ‘code morphing’ software and the astonishingly low power
consumption of their chips, lay my own cherished gadget, a
brand-spanking-new Sony Vaio laptop computer of which I was
inordinately proud.”

“It wasn’t just the sleek, burnished design or the feather-like
weight that pleased me about my laptop. My laptop made me happy
because, in microcosm, it exemplified some of the changes sweeping
through the software industry that were personified, on a much
larger scale, by Transmeta’s products and Torvalds’ code.
I bought the machine, it came installed with Windows 98. But
with surprisingly little trouble, I was able to transform it
into a ‘dual-boot’ system:
Depending upon my whim, I could
choose which operating system the computer loaded, or ‘booted up,’
first — in this case, Windows 98 or Red Hat Linux

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