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Just for Fun: The Story of an Accidental Revolutionary Paperback – June 4, 2002
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About the Author
Linus Torvalds was born in Finland. He graduated from the University of Helsinki and lives with his wife, the six-time karate champion of Finland, and his children. Linus currently works as a programmer on several projects for Transmeta.
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Do his opinions on the meaning of life, celebrity, or even semi-technical issues like the underpinnings of Mac OS X matter that much to the average reader? Probably not. They probably only matter to his most die hard fans, which seems ostensibly whom this book is aimed at. Yet, at the same time, they make for interesting reading since his famously brutal honesty is on full display throughout the book. I would in fact expand the audience a little bit further to include most technical people involved with the software world - frankly a significant portion of the book could be boring/incomprehensible to those with no background in software.
Just for Fun also includes an interesting dual narrative, featuring the ghost writer (David Diamond) taking on full first person voice for some chapters (clearly indicated in italics). At first these interludes may seem jarring, but overtime they reveal more about Linus's character and story than we would get from the "Linus chapters" alone. Neither the chapters by Linus nor the chapters by Diamond are particularly well written, but they're also not unnecessarily long, flowery, or philosophical. Linus writes in Just for Fun as he does on the kernel mailing list - direct and to the point.
In short, Just for Fun tells the inspiring story of how a single passionate software developer can change the world and have fun doing it. It's your classic underdog story. It's good reading for software developers everywhere, especially those with some sense of computer history and an interest in operating systems.
Aside from an anecdotal biography the book contains some gems. One is Linus's philosophy of the progression of technology. The introduction of a new invention at first aids survival, then supports social order and efficiency, then as the invention becomes common place, the item is obtained for it entertainment value. Linux the operating system, was written, "Just for Fun" and so provides the title.
The other strong point of this book is that it contains one of the better explanations of the "free software" concept, licensing, and copyrights and licensing intellectual property v.s. creativity. This reader would have liked the book more if it were a little more technical. I also found the author's conversational style to the reader irritating as if talking to a child.
The moments in the book I most enjoyed were reading about Linus' family life, his introduction to computers, and the culture he grew up in. I found all of this very interesting and inspiring.
I didn't enjoy the somewhat "serious" chapters toward the end - and in terms of a "good" bit of writing the book falls short. I suspect Diamond had his work cut out for him trying to coax the material our of Torvalds to produce an entire book.
None the less, I'm happy I picked it up and it was quick and fun read. It is not a technical book, so if you are looking for an in depth technical analysis of Torvalds and the early development of Linux this is not it.
If you are looking for a glimpse of the Linus Torvalds you could sit down and have a beer with, this book is for you.
But as for the story itself, I really enjoyed it :-)