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Mark Shuttleworth: A rags to space tale

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Mark Shuttleworth made news in 2002 when he fulfilled a lifelong ambition and became the first South African into space, paying US$20 million to be a civilian cosmonaut on an eight-day flight aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft. In 2004, he founded Ubuntu Linux to bring the operating system to people around the world. He is also the founder of HBD Venture Capital and the non-profit Shuttleworth Foundation.

You have pumped more than $10 million of your own money into the continuing development of Ubuntu Linux, and you have been on a personal campaign to bring a free, easy-to-use and reliable Linux to the masses around the world. Why?

In college, I was struggling to get my own personal computer hooked up to the university network. Then someone gave me a stack of Slackware Linux discs and found myself just enthralled by the breadth and depth of the tools that were available from Linux, even in those very early days. It's like going from living in the desert to walking into an all-you-can-eat buffet. I went on to turn that interest in the Internet into a small business called Thawte [in 1995], which sold digital certificates that I created, initially at least, with cryptographic software that was available under an open source license.

How did you think of getting into such a business back in 1995, just as the Internet was becoming a household word?

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