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Linus Torvalds doesn't hate the Googlephone

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Linus Torvalds hates cell phones. But that doesn't include the Googlephone.

The Linux founder "broke down" last week and bought a Google Nexus One, and despite his enduring cell phone hatred, he calls it "a winner."

In a weekend blog post, Linus tells the world that cell phones are "irritating" and that they "disturb you as you work or read or whatever." When T-Mobile released the inaugural Android phone, the G1, in the fall of 2008, he bought one, but he "hardly ever" used it.

"A cellphone to me is just an opportunity to be irritated wherever you are. Which is not a good thing," writes the man who oversees the Linux kernel project.

"At the same time, I love the concept of having a phone that runs Linux, and I've had a number of them over the years (in addition to the G1, I had one of the early China-only Motorola Linux phones) etc. But my hatred of phones ends up resulting in me not really ever using them."

With his G1, Linus says, he did little more than play Galaga and Solitaire on long plane flights. "I had almost no reason to carry it with me except when traveling," he says.

But then he broke down and bought a Nexus One, the Google-branded Android phone that Mountain View is selling direct to users via a new online store. And he doesn't hate it. "I have to admit," he says. "The Nexus One is a winner."

On Wednesday, Mountain View pushed out "pinch-and_zoom" multitouch for the phone's primary Google apps: the browser, Google Maps, and its photo editor, Google Gallery. And apparently, this is what sparked his breakdown.

"I wasn't enthusiastic about buying a phone on the internet sight unseen," Linus says. "But the day it was reported that it finally had the pinch-to-zoom thing enabled, I decided to take the plunge. I've wanted to have a GPS unit for my car anyway, and I thought that google navigation might finally make a phone useful."

And - shock! horror! - it does make the phone useful. "'What a difference! I no longer feel like I'm dragging a phone with me 'just in case' I would need to get in touch with somebody - now I'm having a useful (and admittedly pretty good-looking) gadget instead."

But he's still not particularly interested in making calls on the thing. "The fact that you can use it as a phone too is kind of secondary," he says.

Linus' embrace of the Nexus One comes just days after Novell Fellow and Linux developer Greg Kroah-Hartman announced that he had deleted Google's Android driver code from the Linux kernel, saying the mobile OS was incompatible with the project's main tree.

So, the Nexus One does run Linux. But as Google open-source guru Chris DiBona says, it's a Linux fork. Which is just how DiBona likes it. "The reality is that the mainline doesn't want the code, so a fork is a normal response to this," DiBona says.

"This whole thing stinks of people not liking Forking. Forking is important and not a bad thing at all. From my perspective, forking is why the Linux kernel is as good as it is."

Though it has now released a development kit for building native applications on the Linux-based Android platform, most Android applications run on Dalvik, Google's Java-like virtual machine. ®

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