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The Daemon, the Gnu, and the Penguin Paperback – September 1, 2008
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As other reviewers have noted, the book is not about the architectural technicalities or design philosophies of Unix/Linux. As it states on the cover, “A History of Free and Open Source” and “How Free and Open Software is Changing the World”. Yes, the book does fulfill those statements. But, in order to do so, Salus has written about several converging subjects. The evolution of computer hardware, the evolution of computer software, Users Groups, the ARPANET, the Internet, Usenet, Unix and its distributions, Mach (kernel), Linux and its distributions, corporate intrigue, human ingenuity, and the fact that time and chance happen to all men. If you are interested in the subject of Free Software/Open Source, this is a great place to start. If you are passionate about computer programming or involved in the Software Industry in any capacity (and regardless of your feelings about Free Software/Open Source), this book provides that extremely valuable commodity, “perspective”. It’s an excellent, mostly eyewitness account, of the tech industry from the 1930’s to present day. (Well, OK, to 2008 anyway.)
Salus is meticulous about dates throughout, which I actually enjoyed because I often recalled where I was and what I was doing at that time. When there were four nodes on the ARPANET, I was nine years old. When Ritchie & Thompson penned the first “UNIX Programmer’s Manual” (a handful of installations existent), I was eleven years old. Linus uploaded Linux 0.01 on 17 Sep, 1991, 17 Sep being my wife’s birthday (so now I have two reasons to celebrate the day!).
I also appreciate how Salus makes reference to numerous related books along the way. Many of them are on my Amazon list!
Thank you Peter H. Salus! Thank you for sharing your personal experiences as a pilgrim blazing the trail to the world as we know it today. And thank you to the folks who granted you interviews.
If you could write a continuation from 2008 to present day, that would be great as well!
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.
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!