on May 10, 2010
"The Daemon, The Gnu and the Penguin" is a short history of free and open (the author prefers free :P) software. Its written by 'the unix historian' Peter Salus, who has been around and has been an active part of this history. There are probably not much other people who would be more suitable to write this book than Peter Salus.
The book is quite thin (about 200 pages) and contains quite many chapters (30). The book is not following the history chronologically but neither is it totally random. It dives into one 'track' of the history, then comes back and shows how the different tracks have influenced each other. Each chapter is an essay which can be read independently. The book is feels exceptionally well researched and the author does not shy away from giving his opinion on the topic. Although, the last few chapters of the book were perhaps a little too anti-Microsoft (plus the predictions on Windows 7 can probably be exclaimed wrong).
The chapters are too many to all cover in this review. The book covers a history of unix from the perspective of one of the first Open Source applications and one of the first clashes with lawyers about openness of source code. It covers the different unix clones and especially BSD unix and how it led to vi editor and relates to Sun Microsystems. It side-tracks in Richard Stallman, the creation of Emacs, the founding of FSF and the creation of the Gnu Public License. The book covers how Linux relates to all this and how the different Linux distributions started, how they related and what their influence was on the world of Open Source. It even dives into the, perhaps, failures of Hurd, BSDi, and Plan 9... which not much people know about. The book ends with broadly mapping the current state of Open Source and making predictions about its future.
Reading The Daemon, The Gnu, and The Penguin was fun and enjoyable. It wasn't always easy because a lot of content was covered in a short amount of time, the writing style was terse. Yet, I'd recommend this book to anyone interested in the history of Open Source especially as its short, easy to read, and well researched. The rating would be between 4 and 5 stars, but decided to go for 4 because of the sometimes a little too terse writing style. Still, highly recommended!
on September 15, 2015
The book sheds ligth on the history of UNIX from the very begining.... A very good resource to learn how all those UNIX variants in the wild appeared in the first place....
If you are after chronological order of events, this may not be the right book for you.... Different events are listed in their own time-frames; in one chapter (or series of chapters), for example something about BSD, you get to year 2000 and the next chapter about something else, say something about GPL and RMS, starts from 1980's again... The logical order of the book is based on events, not time.
In general, I enjoyed reading the book, and would recommend it to anybody who likes to read about "history or evolution of UNIX / UNIX-based operating systems". It was really exciting to ready how UNIX was borm from the ashes of Multics, and was implemented -almost- within one month; hats off for K.Thompson and D.Ritchie!
I would like to see more on history of major BSD variants, such as FreeBSD / NetBSD / OpenBSD (at least as much as I read about the history of Linux from the book), but this critisism has not reduced the rating I gave for the book.
on November 25, 2013
The first two thirds of this book mostly contain a history of Unix clones (including versions and dates), individuals involved in the development, user groups, and mostly now-defunct companies that tried to commercialize Unix.
If you are interested in the technical aspects of Unix, I would recommend to look somewhere else. Even the philosophy of Unix (along the lines of: make each program do one thing well & expect the output of every program to become the input to another) is never mentioned in the book. Similarly, most classic Unix programs/tools are either never mentioned, or only as part of a long list (with no description).
The last third of the book is primarily about Linux, and this part was the most interesting to me.