Torvalds was born in Helsinki, the capital of Finland, as the son of Anna and Nils, and the grandson of poet Ole Torvalds. Both of his parents were campus radicals at the University of Helsinki in the 1960s, his father a Communist who in the mid-1970s spent a year studying in Moscow. This caused embarrassment to Linus at the time since other children would tease him about his father's politics.
His family belongs to the Swedish-speaking minority (roughly 6% of Finland's population). Torvalds was named after Linus Pauling. He attended the University of Helsinki from 1988 to 1996, graduating with a masters degree in computer science.
Torvalds lived for many years in San Jose, California with his wife Tove (six-time Finnish national Karate champion), whom he first met in fall 1993, his cat Randi (short for Mithrandir, the Elvish name for Gandalf, a wizard in The Lord of the Rings), and his three daughters Patricia Miranda (born December 5, 1996), Daniela Yolanda (born April 16, 1998) and Celeste Amanda (born November 20, 2000). In June 2004, Linus purchased a home in Beaverton, Oregon and enrolled his children in school in that area. 1 (
He worked for Transmeta Corporation from February 1997 until June 2003, and is now seconded to the Open Source Development Labs, a Beaverton, Oregon based software consortium. Linus and his family recently moved to Portland, Oregon in an effort to be closer to his employer.
His personal mascot is a penguin nicknamed Tux, widely adopted by the Linux community as the mascot of Linux.
Linus's law, a tenet inspired by Linus and coined by Eric S. Raymond in his paper The Cathedral and the Bazaar, is: "Given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow." A deep bug is one which is hard to find, and with many people looking for it, the hope (and so far most experience) is that no bug will be deep. Both men share an open source philosophy, which has been in part (and implicitly) based on this belief.
Unlike many open source "evangelists", Torvalds keeps a low profile and generally refuses to comment on competing software products, such as Microsoft's commercially dominant Windows operating system. He is neutral enough to even have been criticized by the GNU project, specifically for having worked on proprietary software with Transmeta and for his use and alleged advocacy of Bitkeeper. Nevertheless, Torvalds has occasionally reacted with strong statements to what has been widely perceived as anti-Linux (and anti open source) FUD from proprietary software vendors like Microsoft or SCO.
For example, in one e-mail reaction to statements by Microsoft Senior-VP Craig Mundie, who criticized open source software for being non innovative and destructive to intellectual property, Torvalds wrote: "I wonder if Mundie has ever heard of Sir Isaac Newton? He's not only famous for having set the foundations for classical mechanics (and the original theory of gravitation, which is what most people remember, along with the apple tree story), but he is also famous for how he acknowledged the achievement: If I have been able to see further, it was only because I stood on the shoulders of giants ... I'd rather listen to Newton than to Mundie. He may have been dead for almost three hundred years, but despite that he stinks up the room less."