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Then in 2002 he became the first African (and first Debian developer) in space.
2 years later, he found another grandiose project to pursue: bring the Microsoft monopoly to an end with a new alternative operating system named Ubuntu (see bug #1).
But before that, in 1996, he had already founded digital certificate company Thawte, while studying finance and IT at the University of Cape Town, just as the internet age was gaining momentum.
Thawte was one of the first companies working on securing internet transactions, and just three years later it was acquired by Verisign for 5 million, making the young Shuttleworth wealthy enough to pay for his trip to space, and much more.
"What I'm really interested in is how society changes because technology changes.
We see changes in society like democracy, and we think they're somehow intrinsic. What is possible defines what we expect, and what is possible changes because technology changes.
Shuttleworth added a comment to his own Google post thanking those who worked on Ubuntu's recently-abandoned Unity Project.
I meet Mark Shuttleworth in the café of a cinema in the center of London, which is fitting, because he's about as close to a movie star as the technology world gets.
Shuttleworth is perhaps best known as the "afronaut." In 2002, at 28, he became the first African in space—and the second-ever space tourist—after spending millions to fly to the International Space Station as a member of the crew of Soyuz mission TM-34.
When we meet he's straight off the plane from New York—he managed to fit in a bit of coding on the flight.
But, he's happy to jump straight into the conversation, and for someone who lists public speaking as one of his dislikes—likes include weightlessness, broadband, Iain M Banks, skinny-dipping, fancy dress, and "flashes of insight"—he's got a nice turn of phrase, at one point describing the work of software developers as "revolutionary magic." It's clear he sees technology as remaking the world, and while many technology execs try to play down that impact or even dodge their responsibility for those changes, Shuttleworth seems fascinated and energized by it.