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Really Free Software

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Ubuntu

Mark Shuttleworth is rich enough to cause some havoc in the feel-good Linux community. In January 2000, at the peak of the dot-com bubble, Shuttleworth sold his South African security software firm, Thawte, to VeriSign for $700 million in stock. Shuttleworth cashed out almost immediately, walking away with the entire purchase price, just as VeriSign's stock began its rapid descent. “Life has been kind to me,” he says.

But the 32-year-old has no children and doesn’t feel much need to hang on to his money. He spent $20 million in 2002 to orbit the Earth for a week in a Russian Soyuz. “I don’t intend to create a dynasty,” he says.

Instead, Shuttleworth wants to give back, by offering universal access to a free operating system to run PCs and servers. The world already has several “free” versions of the open-source Linux operating system, but Shuttleworth’s version, called Ubuntu, undercuts them all on price--and works better, according to many respected sources.

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