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So what exactly did Linus Torvalds do at Transmeta?

Seriously.  Not a troll.

A while back I read that he had left Transmeta to join some open source group.  And I got curious.  I don't remember reading anything about what he actually did at Transmeta.  Now somebody who can write a multi-user/multi-tasking operating system from scratch strikes me as a pretty smart guy.  So you would think that if some company hires him, it would be for for some pretty important cutting-edge stuff.  And yet, it seems like he had plenty of free time to continue as Lord Master of Linux development.

So I did some Googling, and what I found -- or what I didn't find - was interesting and puzzling.

I found an article saying that he got some stock options when he joined Transmeta and made a couple million on that.  And I found a couple of blogs, apparently by Transmeta employees, complaining that noboby - not even Transmeta employees - seems to know just exactly what Linus did while he was there.

Apparently, as near as anyone can figure out, his was mainly a PR position - he was sort of their "Celebrity Spokesperson".

Other than that, it seems to be something of a mystery.
muppet 3.11 pro gold Send private email
Monday, September 13, 2004
 
 
Okay we are reading the different newspapers, but the way it was written for me was that he worked on a Linux kernel porting to the Transmeta chipset. Transmeta is a different bread of chipset so he probably had to spend more time than the average college grad doing the basic port (which for most modern OSes, isn't exactly rocket science). I would also venture to said he was a bit of a rock star in the OSS/Free soft world so that probably helped a bit. The first people to pick up Transmeta-based PDAs and Ultralight notebooks are going to be same blokes picking up Linux World, Linux World Europe, and Linux World Japan.
Li-fan Chen Send private email
Monday, September 13, 2004
 
 
" he worked on a Linux kernel porting to the Transmeta chipset."

What a completely foolish thing to do (from a business perespective).

Lets take a marginal O/S and spend a lot of time porting it to a marginal new chipset.

Makes no sense.

The whole benefit (IMHO) of Linux is that its' a find O/S that runs on the cheapest commodity hardware around: Intel chipsets.

I'm really curious: what was the rational for doing this?
What the huge demand for Linux going to drive sales of the Transmeta chip?
Mr. Analogy {Shrinkwrap ISV owner} Send private email
Monday, September 13, 2004
 
 
Sounds like a few startups I've worked for - a bunch of people who work there, but no one knows what they did...

My guess is he was there for PR, and just let him work on Linux to keep him amused.
Erik
Tuesday, September 14, 2004
 
 
If you're developing an x86 processor it probably helps to have someone who's an expert on the platform as an employee even if he spends half his time working on Linux...
Almost Anonymous Send private email
Tuesday, September 14, 2004
 
 
Correction. Linus did not "write a multi-user/multi-tasking operating system from scratch". He didn't do it alone, and by no means he did it from scratch. He wrote a minimal Unix kernel according to pre-existing design. The rest of the OS was supplied by GNU, which didn't seem to be able to decide on the kernel development for too long, so Linus's kernel caught on. After which other people began contributing to the kernel, until Linus's job became keeping everything patched together.

So he still undertook a big task, but big in terms of workload, not mental challenge.
.
Tuesday, September 14, 2004
 
 
What exactly did Claudia Schiffer do for Citroen?

My guess is this was a decent PR move on the part of Transmeta, and that appart from showing up at a few VC smoozes and refraining from badmouthing the company or talking about his exact role in it, his duties were nil.
Just me (Sir to you) Send private email
Tuesday, September 14, 2004
 
 
http://investor.transmeta.com/ReleaseDetail.cfm?ReleaseID=30891

"Transmeta announced two Crusoe product families in January. The TM5000 family is targeted at the mobile PC or notebook market and would typically run the Microsoft Windows operating system. The TM3000 product family serves the newly emerging Internet appliance market and would typically use our Mobile Linux operating system, which is a version of Linux developed at Transmeta under the guidance of Linus Torvalds."
Martin A. Bøgelund
Tuesday, September 14, 2004
 
 
A few Million $ for being on a distro team, and he wasn't even the lead on that project (which seems to have been one Dan Quinlan according to http://www.linuxdevices.com/articles/AT6094731607 )?
Just me (Sir to you) Send private email
Tuesday, September 14, 2004
 
 
Yeah, JustMe.
I just wonder where all the "you can't make money with Open Source" and "Open Source makes programmers starve" comments are right now...
Martin A. Bøgelund
Tuesday, September 14, 2004
 
 
One exception to the rule does not break the rule. That's why there's a word 'exception'.
Exceptional
Tuesday, September 14, 2004
 
 
As I understood it from Linus Torvalds' book, "Just for Fun", he made all his money from Red Hat stock options.  The options weren't in exchange for employment or services; it was a kind of thank-you gift that Red Hat gave to various open source programmers.  Red Hat management allotted these gifts based on their own personal judgement.

Linus also said that he got options from VA Linux but it crated too fast after the IPO for him to make much money off it.

He doesn't mention Transmeta much.  Hard to say but I'd guess "not much money".
Daniel Howard Send private email
Tuesday, September 14, 2004
 
 
It's "Open source makes a few programmers rich while all the rest who helped them starve", Martin.
.
Wednesday, September 15, 2004
 
 
> What exactly did Claudia Schiffer do for Citroen?

Dunno, but I know what she does for me.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004
 
 
She appears in a TV commercial and print campaign, implied that she was naked in the car.
Simon Lucy Send private email
Wednesday, September 15, 2004
 
 
" It's "Open source makes a few programmers rich while all the rest who helped them starve", Martin."

LOL, are they already abandoning their original statements?

In a few years it's "Open source ensures some programmers a good income while all the rest who helped them are hungry from time to time".

And then after some more time passes, it's "Open source provides programmers with an OK income".

At least they don't feel ashamed about watering their statements down...
Martin A. Bøgelund
Wednesday, September 15, 2004
 
 
Transmeta made low-power x86 chips, which are the kind of thing you use in lots of embedded systems.  Linux owns the embedded systems market.  In theory, it makes perfect sense to spend money porting the leading operating system for one of your target niches.  In practice, I don't know if Transmeta actually sold many chips to anybody.

It's hard to say what Linus did at Transmeta--they were notoriously secretive--but he did apparently work on the processors at some points in the development process, or at least on the "code morphing" microcode.

Now, Linus has a sweet position at OSDL: he does whatever he wants; they give him money just on general principles.
J. Random Hacker Send private email
Monday, September 20, 2004
 
 
"Linux owns the embedded systems market."

Is this true? Seems like at least some knowledgable persons http://www.semack.net/ have doubts.
Just me (Sir to you) Send private email
Monday, September 20, 2004
 
 
[quote]
Martin A. Bøgelund said:
" It's "Open source makes a few programmers rich while all the rest who helped them starve", Martin."

LOL, are they already abandoning their original statements?[/quote]
Oh please.  Learn the difference between mean and median.  A handful of outliers don't change the truth of the above statement.
Earl Hathaway Send private email
Monday, September 20, 2004
 
 
"Learn the difference between mean and median."

You've got the statistical data on this one?
Cool!
Publish it, and I'll adjust my statements according to my findings.
But if you don't have it, then tug those stats statements away, please!

Since you are so good at statistics, how about a little math? A little logic for mathematicians, for example? How about the concept of a *counter example*?

Some die hard propriety software evangelists have claimed in the past that you can't make money with Open Source. Guess what, Mr. Torvalds is a *counter example* to that one, as are some Open Source businesses.

All I'm stating is that you don't see the "can't make money with Open Source" statement anymore (because it would be plain dumb to suggest in the face of *counter examples*), and I'm guessing how far this shift away from the original, and false, statement will have to go in the face of an increasing number of *counter examples*.
Martin A. Bøgelund
Tuesday, September 21, 2004
 
 
"Is this true? Seems like at least some knowledgable persons http://www.semack.net/ have doubts."

Some guys weblog?

Try Google, found this one to get you started:
 http://www.embedded.com//showArticle.jhtml?articleID=28700226
"MANHASSET, N.Y. - Revenues from embedded Linux operating systems, add-on components and related services is growing at the expense of proprietary systems from Microsoft Corp. and Wind River, a market research firm said Thursday (Aug. 12)."

Notice I'm not try to back the "Linux owns embedded" statement, just bringing in some diversity that hardly is found in some weblog.
Martin A. Bøgelund
Tuesday, September 21, 2004
 
 
[quote]Martin said:
But if you don't have it, then tug those stats statements away, please!

Since you are so good at statistics, how about a little math? A little logic for mathematicians, for example? How about the concept of a *counter example*?
[/quote]
Were the claim that it is simply impossible to make money with open source, then yes, your 'logic' might have some sway.  That is obviously untrue: red hat, va, and other IPO enriched individuals provide the obvious counterexamples.

Your problem is that english is difficult to parse into mathematics.  Reasonable people, when they see the statement "You can't make money writing open source" understand it to mean "it is extremely unlikely you will make money writing open source."  This is a clear analogy to the statements "You can't make money playing the lottery" or "You can't get rich betting at the casino".  Both are true despite obvious counterexamples.  As it is true right now for individuals involved with open source, with the exception of those enriched via stock options (especially the few smart enough to sell them ASAP before the stock market corrected their absurd value, which includes Linus & his Red Hat shares).

[quote]All I'm stating is that you don't see the "can't make money with Open Source" statement anymore (because it would be plain dumb to suggest in the face of *counter examples*), and I'm guessing how far this shift away from the original, and false, statement will have to go in the face of an increasing number of *counter examples*. [/quote]
So what?  Your point is irrelevant, but wouldn't have been so bad had you stopped there.  You started with the existence of counterexamples (which no one disputes).  You then concluded that the existence of counterexamples implies that more people will earn a living or get rich in the future via open source software.  Which is certainly not logically supported, in the same way that existence of a handful of lottery winners doesn't imply that we are going to see a deluge of them in the future.  In fact, you haven't even demonstrated that we are seeing an increasing number of counterexamples.

earl
Earl Hathaway Send private email
Tuesday, September 21, 2004
 
 
Earl,

I don't recognize some of the statements/conclusions you give me credit for.

I have witnessed the movement from "You can't make money on OS" to "A few can make a lot of money on OS".
I have witnessed RH going from red to black numbers on the bottom line.
I have witnessed IBM's OS strategy resurrecting their declared dead mainframe hardware, and how an investment of $1 billion giving a good return.
MySQL, Apache, rendering of computer animated movies and scenes (SWII: Attack of the clones, Shrek, Titanic)...
Everything orbiting around Open Source.
I don't have to demonstrate the increasing amount of counterexamples (well obviously I do) - they are everywhere if you care to observe.

I think that what the typical programmer doesn't realize, is that cutting costs is also a way of making money. Utilizing Open Source has helped cutting costs/increasing productivity.

The typical programmer thinks "If I'm not paid for Open Source program X, then I will starve."
A little knowledge of basic economics will help you realize that "If I can cut costs/increase productivity by $100.000 by using Open Source, I can charge the company $50.000 for my consulting services etc, and the company and I will both laugh all the way to the bank."

Programmers don't run the world.
People cutting costs and increasing productivity are.

That's why I predict (as opposed to "conclude") that programmers failing to see the value of cutting costs/increasing productivity will have to adjust the "can't make money on Open Source" statement in a stepwise manner, because the real world shows otherwise.
In this discussion thread we have seen step one from "can't..." to "a few can...".
Martin A. Bøgelund
Wednesday, September 22, 2004
 
 

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