- By Julie Bresnick -
Open Source people
Don't think just because Tor
Lillqvist developed the Windows port
GIMP that he prefers Windows. On the
contrary, he's of that staunch and self-stated breed simply known as
In fact, as senior systems specialist for the Research and
Development Department of the Espoo branch of Tellabs,
administers Unix systems. And if administering Unix systems for a
telecommunications company doesn't confirm his legitimacy as a Unix
then consider that he learned the program in its beginning, in Version
from Bell Labs when "the users dmr and ken [were] still in the password
Consequentially, it is Linux he prefers. But when he found that his
Minolta Dimage Scan Dual slide scanner was not supported by the public
domain API, SANE, he had to
it on Windows and thus, in order to use the Open Source image
software, GIMP, he had to use that on Windows, too.
Not surprisingly, GIMP had not been ported to Windows. Having come
computing age in a time "long before the term 'Open Source' was
when sending "patches and enhancements to authors of stuff distributed
USENET" was par for the course in programming, when computing was more
science than business, he proceeded in the most practical manner he
how. He started the project himself.
He anticipates a common programmer's response at the page he posts
port on, "I did look into reverse engineering the protocol to be able
the scanner under Linux, but that seemed very hard." Or harder, at
than porting it to Windows which he approached thinking, "what the
let's try it, it might be an interesting intellectual challenge.
"Maybe I'm a bit perverted," he goes on to concede merrily, "but I
actually have enjoyed the porting, even if I do much prefer Unix to
Maybe he's not perverted (in fact maybe he's going bravely into the
of the beast) but, being the true-blue programmer that he is he has
previously been known to exercise his masochistic side, popping
pills (he doesn't like coffee) in order to continue programming into
through the night.
Now that he's older -- he's 41 -- he exhibits his affection for the craft in other
than 24-hour devotion.
"My earlier job was programming oriented, but I kinda got bored of
with deadlines, and the 'the customer is always right' and 'as long as
looks good to the user/customer, who cares what the source looks like'
"I also didn't like C++ and formal OO methods etc. Or, I didn't like
when I knew the actual code written to the specs was still ugly. Thus I
deliberatedly decided to switch to a purely sysadmining job, and do
programming in my spare time in the Open Source context, where you can
choose whom you work with, and the quality of the source code is much
IMHO. (Quality as in elegance, style and hack value.)"
He also chooses a less consumptive path so that he can spend more
with his 10-year-old son, Niklas, playing
table hockey, flying
kites, taking him to play soccer or floorball. (I know Niklas is not
that picture but who can resist a little gratuitous baby in the basin
You probably know a lot of this if you've ever been to his Web site
he posts personal pages along with those concerning the port. Lillqvist is instead succinct in a
which the masses have come to view as a place to let their mind run
forum for the ceaseless profusion of their personal thoughts, where it
not uncommon for individuals to literally broadcast their every
His "opinions" are covered on a separate page and offered in a grid
display. He assigns each subject into one of three columns titled
"no," and "maybe." The "maybes" are open to debate. Star Trek? No.
Public transportation? Yes. Beer not vodka. He likes Madonna, Scelsi,
emacs, isn't into vi, disses Elvis and is still considering his
Richard Stallman. He's also not sure of his stance on drugs, but
that after working, spending time with his family and developing the
port, he uses any leftover time to catch up on sleep, it doesn't sound
he's going to be doing the kind of experimentation a verdict might
Under the "personal info" title he gets the reader up-to-date on the
of Tor Lillqvist in an efficient 653 words. After reading it, one knows
where and when he was born (Vaasa, 1959), the highlights of his
career, that he was a loner until he went away to college and
Goth which gained him passage into the world of women, which included
wife Taina who died of cancer five years after their son Niklas was
On a connected page he pays tribute to Taina. Tor tells us how
incurred a major tailbone injury while cross-country skiing, enjoyed a
reprieve from the back pain after pregnancy only to slip on the ice
playing with Niklas a few years later. In 1994 she was diagnosed,
related perhaps not, with a rare type of cancer called adrenocortical.
a "rare tumor afflicting only one to two persons per one million
It usually occurs in adults, and the median age at diagnosis is 44
Taina was 33 when she died.
More than put a face on the deceptively comforting statistic
the occurrence of adrenocortical cancer, it is as if Tor's effort on
is an act in self-definition, a way of putting it all into perspective.
only emotional response he allows for at the site is that the relief
pain death provided for Taina offers him only limited solace and that
difficult, at the time of the writing at least, to simply be at home
they shared the most memories. The rest is definitive, matter-of-fact.
Tor was confronted with death once before. In Finland men are
do military service. Tor opted to apply for alternative service.
"I was working as a programmer for the City of Oulu Health Department,
some patient billing software in an obscure programming language called
We (the guys doing their alternative service at the Health Department) lived
to the city hospital, during weekends we sometimes were asked to help
transporting the body of a diseased patient to the morgue. We got some
'pocket money' for this.)"
Privy to such markedly mature experiences, fluent in three languages
(Swedish, Finnish, English), able to read headlines in at least three
(German, French, Dutch), open, comfortable and clear in his beliefs and
Tor is evidently worldly in every way.
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