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EXECUTIVE PROFILE: Open Source Development Labs' Linus Torvalds

Linus Torvalds has finally made it official. For the first time in the 12 years since he spawned a phenomenon by opening his fledgling operating system to the masses, Torvalds holds a formal position,that is to say, a full-time job, within the Linux community.

Unlike his previous gig with chip maker Transmeta, from which he's now on leave, Torvalds' appointment in June as the Open Source Development Labs' first Fellow allows him to work exclusively on that for which he is best known: leading the development of the open-source OS.

It's a significant step that further cements Torvalds' place as the Linux leader. "He has the ability to get people to make changes and to pick an answer out of an argument and make people accept the choice," says Alan Cox, a top Linux developer at Red Hat. "There is an enormous amount of trust in Linus, and almost always his long-term vision is right."

Torvalds' role as keeper of the Linux kernel has brought him hordes of loyal fans, though the 33-year-old downplays the Linux movement's dependence on him and claims that, despite the spotlight, he still isn't recognized on the street. "If I got hit by a meteorite, some people would run around in circles for a while and then things would congeal around somebody else," he says.

Perhaps. But it's unlikely that a successor could sustain the same following as the quiet, pragmatic cult hero.

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