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Open Sources: Voices from the Open Source Revolution Paperback – January 13, 1999
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Open Sources: Voices from the Open Source Revolution is a fascinating look at the raging debate that is its namesake. Filled with writings from the central players--from Linux creator Linus Torvalds to Perl creator Larry Wall--the book convinces the reader of the overwhelming merits of freeing up the many iterations of software's source code.
The open-source movement has become a cause célèbre in light of the widespread adoption of Linux, Perl, and Apache as well as its corporate support from Netscape, IBM, and Oracle--and strongly felt opposition from Microsoft. Open Sources doesn't address why these Microsoft foes are throwing their weight behind the movement. Instead, it focuses on the history and philosophy of open-source software (previously referred to as freeware) as an argument for shaping the future of programming. Open Sources is much larger than just a fight with any one company. Instead, it is a revolutionary call to release software development from the vested interests that label new directions in software development as threatening.
This is not to say that opening the source code is an entirely egalitarian and communistic endeavor. These are programmers and startup owners; they want to be able to continue to program for a living. To that end, Open Sources contains strong business profiles from entrepreneurs such as Apache's--and now, O'Reilly & Associates'--Brian Behlendorf, who discusses how to give away software in order to lure customers in for specialized versions. In many ways, this is a hands-on guide, displaying an insider's view of the development process and providing specifics on testing details and altering licensing agreements. However, interspersed with tech talk is a reader-friendly guide for those interested in the future of software development. --Jennifer Buckendorff
From Library Journal
The idea for open source software began years ago with Richard Stallman, who at the time was considered crazy for proposing that computer code be free to all to use as they see fit as long as they posted the changed code for the common good. Along the way he won a MacArthur ("Genius") award, Linus Torvalds created Linux, and Brian Behlendorf developed Apache, the most used free web server package. This collection of writings by the leaders of the open source movement offers readers a chance to think about the past and how it will change the future of software development.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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After a brief introduction, Eric Raymond has the opening (and closing) essay. In the opening essay he looks at the history of 'hackerdom.' His essay feels strongly influenced by Steven Levy's delightful Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution - 25th Anniversary Edition. His closing essay talks about the open sourcing of Netscape, which is interesting as it has both been a success (I'm typing this in a Firefox browser) and a failure (Netscape is gone). But at the time the essay was written, it wasn't known yet how this would play out, making the speculation interesting.
The second essay is from Kirk McKusick about the history of the BSD unix distribution and how the different free BSD distributions got started and how they were related. The third essay is (unfortunately) short and is about how the Internet Engineering Task Force works. I wish they had found a better essay here as the history of the IETF is much broader than here described. The next essay is Richard Stallman, the last MIT hacker, about Free Software Foundation and GNU and building the GNU OS (where is it?). The essay of Stallman is quite political and strongly opinionated, which we ought to expect from RMS.
Next is Michael Tiemann, who is the founder of Cygnus Solutions and one of the main contributors to the gnu/gcc project. His company was one of the early Open Source companies and proved to the industry that you can build a company around Open Source. His company later merged with Red Hat (which isn't in the book). Next is Paul Vixie which IMHO could be left out. He describes "software engineering" as following a waterfall process. Next is Linus Torvalds who just contributed a very short essay about porting linux to different platforms.
Next. Robert Young, the founder of Red Hat to explain the business idea behind Red Hat. Next. Larry Wall, with a rather weird essay about... lines and circles. Next. Brian Behlendorf, one of the lead developers on Apache about different strategies for Open Source companies. Next. Bruce Perens, founder of the Open Source Initiative and creator of the Open Source Definition... talking about that. Next. Tim O'Reilly mumbling about the future of Open Source. Next. Some Netscape people about the Mozilla project. And than Eric Raymonds closing essay.
As you can see from the above line-up, it is quite amazing. Some essays are good, some are ok, some are bad... and some are excellent and insightful. That said, I find the book important as it gives so much different threads of how Open Source developed and how they were related. As a bonus in the book, the appendix contains a digested version of the Tanenbaum/Torvalds flame war on microkernels (which is a must read for anyone interested in OS or Linux history).
I very much enjoyed this book and would recommend it for anyone who is interested in history of open source or software development in general. If not, then you can better skip this book as it just talks about... the past :) The book isn't perfect as some essays are ... bad. Thus, 4 stars.
I found Tim O'Reily's concept of infoware to be very interesting. Today I would call them web applications as opposed to desktop applications not only because they are served from a web-server but also because they use the vast resources available on the web.
Brian Behlendorf comments on open source's position in the spectrum of software. It is interesting to see how this has changed over the past nine years. Initially open source was mainly infrastructure/back-end. While these areas are still predominant (LAMP), a lot of user software, specially CMS, is making a strong showing. Since these user systems are written mostly in interpreted languages like php, the question of open source, per se, becomes moot.
What is sorely missing is an economic theory of open source software. None of the authors seems familiar with the law of increasing returns which, according to Brain Arthur, is the economic law governing proprietary software. A discussion of this subject would help in developing sound business models for open source.
Although I'm not too satisfied with this book I'm ordering the sequel Open Sources 2.0: The Continuing Evolution