Everyone knows and loves Linus Torvalds, the creator of Linux. Mark Shuttleworth, the creator of Ubuntu Linux, is pretty famous. Richard Stallman, the founder of the Free Software Foundation and creator of the GPL, is equal parts famous and infamous. But surely there is more to Linux and Free/Open Source software than these three. And indeed there are thousands upon thousands of people toiling away fueling the mighty FOSS engine; here is a small sampling of these important contributors who make the FOSS world go ’round.
Lady Ada, Adafruit Industries
Lady Ada is Limor Fried, electronics engineer and founder of Adafruit Industries. My fellow crusty old-timers remember way way back when Radio Shack was actually about do-it-yourself electronics hacking instead of the passive brain-decay of cell phones and big-screen TVs.
Adafruit Industries is a welcome replacement for us weirdos who like to take things apart and figure out how they work. Adafruit Industries sells Arduino boards, kits, and related parts and tools. Even more valuable is the wealth of well-illustrated tutorials. You can start from scratch, with no electronics knowledge, and get a solid fundamental education in a few days’ of reading and hands-on hacking.
Akkana Peck, Rennaissance Nerd
Akkana is one of my favorite people. She used to race cars and motorcyles, flies little radio-controlled airplanes, is into astronomy, mountain biking, kayaking, photography, and all kinds of fun stuff.
Akkana is a versatile and talented coder who has worked at cool-sounding places like Silicon Graphics and Netscape, and currently works for a startup doing embedded Linux and Android work. Akkana wrote the excellent Beginning GIMP book and a bunch of first-rate Linux howtos for Linux Planet. She also writes all kinds of amazing technical articles on her Shallow Sky blog. What earned Akkana a place on this list is her generosity in sharing knowledge and helping other Linux users. Learning, doing, and sharing – isn’t that what it’s all about?
John Linville, Linux Wireless
The Linux Wireless project is a model that more FOSS projects should emulate. Back around 2006 or so kernel developer John Linville and his team took on the task of overhauling the Linux wireless stack. It was a mess of multiple wireless subsystems (Wavelan, Orinoco, and MadWifi). Drivers were all over the map in what functions they handled, sometimes conflicting with the kernel.
In just a couple of years, without fanfare, it was all significantly streamlined and improved, with a common driver base (mac80211) and assistance for vendors and end users. There are still some odds and ends to be worked out, but it’s at the stage where most wireless network interfaces have plug-and-play native Linux support.
Jean Tourillhes, Wireless Tools for Linux
Jean Tourillhes was the core maintainer and primary documenter of the old Linux WLAN drivers and userspace tools. If it were not for Mr. Tourillhes wi-fi on Linux would have been brutish and nasty. (WLAN and wireless-tools have been replaced by the new Linux Wireless project.)
Ken Starks, the Helios Initiative
Ken Starks does the kind of hard, hands-on advocacy that delivers the best results: rehabbing computers with Linux and giving them to children who can’t afford to buy their own computers. Since the Helios Project moved into spiffy new quarters in Taylor, Texas they’ve expanded to building a computer lab and teaching classes