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Just for Fun: The Story of an Accidental Revolutionary Paperback – June 4, 2002
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Most 31-year olds can't boast of being the instigator of a revolution. But then again, the world's leading promoter of open source software and creator of the operating system Linux does humbly call himself an accidental revolutionary--accidental being the operative word here. Just for Fun is the quirky story of how Linus Torvalds went from being a penniless, introverted code writer in Helsinki in the early 1990s to being the unwitting (and rather less than penniless) leader of a radical shift in computer programming by the end of the decade.
OK, perhaps "story" in the traditional sense of the term is stretching it a bit. This whole book is more like a series of e-mails, an exercise in textual communication for someone more used to code language than conversation: choppy sentences packed into short paragraphs, and sometimes just one-liners. The pace is fast, but the quippy tone can get somewhat tiring, though it definitely suits the portrayal of a computer-dominated life. And like an e-mail conversation, the tense often changes, the topics jump back and forth, and the narrators occasionally change, mostly alternating between the Linux man himself and Red Herring executive editor David Diamond, who convinced the difficult-to-pin-down Torvalds to write his story (or at least allow Diamond to poke, prod, and pull it out of him, all the while giving his own impressions and interpretations). But Torvald's tale contains enough informative and entertaining tidbits--on growing up in dark, strangely silent but communication-gadget-obsessed Finland (which boasts more cell phones per capita than anywhere else), on what makes passionate code writers tick, on making the transition from unknown computer geek to world-famous computer geek, on the convergence of technology and ideology, on his work for Transmeta and involvement (or lack thereof) with all the players worth mentioning in Silicon Valley - to keep more than just computer programmers engrossed in his story. For the latter, of course, Just for Fun will be required reading.
If you pick up this book as a geek's guide to the meaning of life (which, believe it or not, Torvalds does ramble on about at the beginning and the end), then you're in for a bit of a shallow take on the whole thing. But if you're interested in the idea of technological development as a global team sport, and how a nerdy Finnish transplant to California got the whole game going in the first place, check out Linus's story... just for fun, of course. --S. Ketchum --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
The autobiography of a career computer programmer, even an unorthodox one, may sound less than enthralling, but this breezy account of the life of Linux inventor Torvalds not only lives up to its insouciant title, it provides an incisive look into the still-raging debate over open source code. In his own words (interspersed with co-writer Diamond's tongue-in-cheek accounts of his interviews with the absentminded Torvalds), the programmer relates how it all started in 1981 with his grandfather back in Finland, who let him play around on a Vic 20 computer. At 11 years old, Torvalds was hooked on computersespecially on figuring out how they ran and on improving their operating systems. For years, Torvalds did little but program, upgrading his hardware every couple of years, attending school in a desultory fashion and generally letting the outside world float by unnoticed, until he eventually wrote his own operating system, Linux. In a radical move, he began sharing the code with fellow OS enthusiasts over the burgeoning Internet in the early 1990s, allowing others to contribute to and improve it, while he oversaw the process. Even though Torvalds is now a bigger star in the computer world than Bill Gates, and companies like IBM are running Linux on their servers, he has retained his innocence: the book is full of statements like "Open source makes sense" and "Greed is never good" that seem sincere. Leavened with an appealing, self-deprecating sense of humor and a generous perspective that few hardcore coders have, this is a refreshing read for geeks and the techno-obsessed.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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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.
But as for the story itself, I really enjoyed it :-)
The content itself was somewhat interesting, offering insight into Linus' views and past.
However, only 20% of the book (at most) was written by him; the rest was written by his co-author. This becomes clear when, despite being written from his perspective, there are obvious typos such as referring to the ls command as "1's". It is also obvious that the book was never proof read, given obvious spelling mistakes, mismatched brackets and the like.
In short, the quality was what I would expect from a blog post, not a published book.
A good reading for all programmers who like Linux. As Bertrand Russel says - There is much pleasure to be gained from useless knowledge - so even if this book is not talking about any technical details of the OS but the knowing of how it came to be what it is is interesting and pleasure giving in itself. Highly recommended.