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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating insight into the person behind Linux
Linus turned out to be that strange combination of what you expected and what you didn't. He is certainly a geek who spent a large amount of time hidden away working at his computer. However I found his views on Open Source refreshing and his general outlook on the industry and life, to be unexpected. Following his travels from Finland to California revealed alot about...
Published on 6 July 2001 by Mike Carew

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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Nice but insubstantial
This book is partly a biography and partly the autobiography of Linus Torvalds. But it is not really detailed enough to qualify as a very good biography. (I suppose writing the life of a 32-year-old is a bit premature anyway.)
It is also partly the story of Torvalds' brainchild, the Linux operating system. Again, though, it is not really detailed enough, neither in...
Published on 14 April 2003 by Magne Bergland


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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Nice but insubstantial, 14 April 2003
By 
This book is partly a biography and partly the autobiography of Linus Torvalds. But it is not really detailed enough to qualify as a very good biography. (I suppose writing the life of a 32-year-old is a bit premature anyway.)
It is also partly the story of Torvalds' brainchild, the Linux operating system. Again, though, it is not really detailed enough, neither in the technical description of Linux' birth and growth nor in the discussion of the system's role in today's computer industry, to seem complete.
So you don't really get the full picture of the man, nor the full picture of Linux. What do you get? Well... Something about Linus' childshood and familiy, the image of a lonely hacker behind drawn curtains in a tiny Helsinki bedroom, something of Linus' thoughts about Linux; the whys, whens and (sometimes too few of these) hows, and quite lot about Linus' allegedly very prominent nose.
I didn't care very much for the first parts of this book. The switches between Linus' own account and David Diamond's narration are not very smooth. Also there is far too much of the story of the story. (I'm not really interested in what car David and Linus drove down what California highways.)
The strenght of the book is that although the autobiographical parts may leave something to be desired, they draw a sort of picture of a clever and strong-minded person, and a very nice guy thet you feel you know a little better after this read.
BTW, the book has no pictures whatsoever, not even a portrait of Linus' with his much-described nose on the cover.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating insight into the person behind Linux, 6 July 2001
Linus turned out to be that strange combination of what you expected and what you didn't. He is certainly a geek who spent a large amount of time hidden away working at his computer. However I found his views on Open Source refreshing and his general outlook on the industry and life, to be unexpected. Following his travels from Finland to California revealed alot about why he has succeeded and how it has changed him.
Linus in certainly unlike the rest of the key figures in the computer industry and I hope that we get many more like him.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Hacking Away in the Frozen Tundra and Silicon Valley, 8 May 2004
By 
Donald Mitchell "Jesus Loves You!" (Thanks for Providing My Reviews over 127,000 Helpful Votes Globally) - See all my reviews
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Summary: This book would be a totally unremarkable memoir about a man who just loves to write software code . . . except that the man is "the accidental revolutionary" whose work led to the Linux operating system (considered by many to be the best for Web servers and personal computers) and the open source movement. Those who are interested in the potential for Linux and open source will find that Mr. Torvalds corrects many misimpressions about his life, work, and motivations that have been reported in earlier books by others. The book is entertaining in its candor and humility, but falters with its ending mini-essays on subjects like intellectual property. I graded the book down one star for its more serious efforts, which didn't work so well as the base material.
Review: Mr. Tolvalds says that he wanted to create "a fun book . . . and have fun making it . . . ." He mostly succeeded. You will enjoy learning about his views through verbatim accounts describing he and his wife taking care of their children at the same time. "I was an ugly child." He also reports that he had "atrocious taste in clothes." In sum, "I was a nerd."
From the time he got his first computer, that's the companion with which he spent most of his life. In the winters in Finland, that's one of the best ways to have fun. "If you're good enough, you can be God. On a small scale." Programming is "an exercise in creativity" and "it's the greatest feeling in the world." It was also a lot more interesting that his schoolwork.
Linux started out with his desire to write a disk driver. He posted a message about it to get feedback and the open source movement was underway. But there was no intention to create Linux at that time. It just sort of evolved into a revolution.
His personal philosophies are simple and powerful. "Greed is never good." "Well, I want to explain the meaning of life" which he summarizes as being "survival . . . social order . . . entertainment." Each activity moves through those stages. As a result, "civilization is a cult."
Those who program will love his descriptions of the machines he owned, the problems he ran into programming them, and how the problems were solved.
Although the book is a little bit technical, only those who are technophobes will find it too heavy in this area. He tells you where to skip to if you don't want to read the more technical sections.
His explanations of Linux and open source are powerful and simple. "People trust me." But "people can choose to ignore me because they can just do the stuff themselves."
He admonishes everyone. "People take me too seriously."
After you read this interesting memoir, think about how you could establish more trust with more people. What would you like to accomplish for others, if you could?
Be prepared to be an accidental revolutionary. The world needs more of them!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Alomost a good book, 15 Sept. 2001
By A Customer
It's nice to hear a more personal account of Linux and Linus from the man himself, however it was badly written. There are lots of places where things have been repeated in the book (sometimes literally the same thing has been written in more than one chapter).
If they had spent more time editing the book to get it right, I would have given it four stars maybe.
If you're going to buy two open source books this year buy this one, if you are only going to buy one, make in Glyn Moody's 'Rebel Code'.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Funny and real.., 20 Oct. 2003
By 
S. Yogendra "Shefaly" (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Just for Fun: The Story of an Accidental Revolutionary (Paperback)
If the plethora (and I use the word knowing its negative nuance) of autobiographies of 20-year old popstars and their angst over clothes/ cars/ clubs has made you wonder about the absurdity of the need to write an autobiography in your 20s, this one may change your mind. For this is the story of a man who did not set out but managed to challenge the monopolistic power of the Goliath called Microsoft, through an OS called Linux. This humble and intelligent, and always terribly funny, account of Linus Torvalds's life as an accidental innovator. It traces in great detail how Linux came about and builds a picture of the man who still works for a living, because he chose to stand by his beliefs. For innovators and entrepreneurs, it is a great study of how EFD (eye for detail) and keen project management (even if Linus didnt see it that way) are essential to making a success of any concept.
Highly recommended. If you have a child/ teenage prodigy around you, it will make a great gift too!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I read it all in 10 hours - it's a cracker, 24 Nov. 2011
By 
Robin Pain (Cambridge United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
He (Torvalds) was pushed into it by a journalist called David Diamond, but it is evidently mainly Torvalds' ( "I know I am being a jerk when I say 'journalists are scum etc' it's just my lack of social graces ) or ( "Boy, your sentences are long!" (to David Diamond) and he starts hacking away at them on Diamonds Mackintosh -"Hey, Macs are crap!" - (Diamond continues with ...and Linus tries to setup a higher screen resolution, but gives up after five minutes).

I read just about all of it at a single sitting (or rather a single laying) yesterday in one ten hour stint and it's a cracker - the only things I started to skip-over were the Torvalds-family-descriptions by Diamond, otherwise the Torvalds bits are compelling e.g.

He started as a teenager with a Sinclair QL (because it had the (32 bit) Motorola 68080) this he described from the hardware aspect and wrote low-level stuff for it in assembler, for years then he did a massive bit of saving and bought, on three-year-credit, the biggest 386 (4MBytes of RAM) (33Mhz CPU) PC he could find when he was 20 (or maybe 21) and then installed Minix (a minimal, crippled, stripped-down Unix-like teaching-aid designed by a Dr. Tanenbaum in, I think Denmark) and decided that it was too limiting so then he wrote a console for it that contained two processes, and out-to-modem and an in-to-screen so that he could communicate with college machines (he has just started as a student with Helsinki university) - all compiled from Minix.

Next he wrote a driver to access the filing system so that he could access the harddrive.

Then, at some point, he realised that he was starting to develop... an operating system... and decided to go for it and requested the POSIX standard ("please, anybody, send me anything about POSIX?!" - via newsgroups - via the Minix news group) and this singular request caused a certain Mr ??? of some ??? university to email Linus back and offer him some space on their server so that Linus could eventually post the "operating system" there that he was obviously working on - together with login and password (Good init!)

Next Linus accidentally did one of his transmissions to /dev/hda instead of the modem at /dev/tty1 and wrote all over the partition containing Minix (that he was using to compile his stuff with) and so... he though... the hell with it, let's try and compile in Linux too! (this is all in C of course).

All this time he is sleeping, rolling out of bed to his machine that is two feet away, and rolling back into bed. Sometimes he eats, sometimes not. There is no light because he has blacked out the windows (I guess Finish summers are too long) so he does not know day from night.

He gets well-bored doing the system calls, one after the other, from the POSIX descriptions and so instead, he just installs BASH and fires it up and then, for every missing call that pops up, he goes and writes it (Good eh! Do it organically - that is exactly how I do all my code too) and finally BINGO! Bash starts working!

It has taken maybe four or five months, he calls it version 0.01 and (maybe, I seem to remember) a month or two later, at maybe 0.02, he puts in up on the server for others to see and writes that famous email...

<some time later>

He thinks, now we just need to add networking, that can't be too difficult, lets jump to version 0.95

<two years later>

They (there are lots of folks working on Linux now) get the bastard networking working at version 0.95 <lots of extra versioning here> and call it 1.00 - (NB MS Windows is still at 3.1 and has no networking at all)

(I am playing with iptables and it says that originally iptables was just mean't to be a stop-gap, but became the actual thing - I can now see why)

****************************************************************
Later on, in America, Steve Jobs calls him over for "talks". This is described in a couple of paragraphs - perhaps half a page and is very interesting - Jobs *assumes* that everyone will immediately want to work with Apple and also that he has done no research at all on Torvalds (otherwise he would have known that Torvalds will *never* work with Mach (the OS adopted by Apple) because Torvalds thinks that micro kernels are crap (the original flame-ware between Tanebaum (the Minix man - Minix is micro kernel) and Torvalds - Linux is monolithic kernel) - so Jobs is just-not-with-it in that respect - he has no clue about people at all.

Someone in London offers Torvalds $10,000,000 to allow them to post Torvalds' name on their board (of directors). Torvalds turns them down and is amused by their shock at this and goes on to speak for them: "what part of $10,000,000 don't you understand?"

In that original flamewar, it is a little touching - I see it as the older man, ever so slightly losing it, being put down by the young upstart (well written in Torvalds' second language of English - when I was twenty two or three, I had trouble writing a letter to my bank manager) - Torvalds later on tried in vain to get the Dr Tanenbaum to autograph his copy of the Dr's book on operating systems - this is the book that changed Torvalds life).

Things start looking up, he is given stock options by several Linux companies and they turn him overnight into a millionaire circa 1998/9.

Torvalds gets irritated by folks who presume that he is some hermit monk "I like money, I like to spend it! Look, I just bought a BMW Z3"

He accidentally snubs Bill Joy (walking out on Sun's presentation when he finds that he has been duped into attending "open source" that is actually "closed source" (jini)).

He never uses jargon - I can understand everything he writes! E.g. the micro-kernel: he explains it perfectly (the Linux kernel I get perfectly because he using every damn nook and cranny of the 386 for maximum performance, hence the "monolithic" side, but that is because this is hardware - I see Linus as a hardware man (and Dr Tanenbaum as a software man - and RMS too) (he also explains BASH - Bourne again shell - this I knew already. He also explains GNU:- GNU is Not Unix - a geek's recursive in-joke - this I did not know).

E.g. the micro-kernel is just a minimal piece possible... all the other kernel pieces are minimal too... and... therefore ya got the horrendous communication problem between them all (despite each piece being "simplest") - ya trade simple pieces for complex communication...

...also Torvalds mentions that a certain Australian, Bruce<somebody> added some patches to Minix to un-cripple it (the licence did not allow complete-compile, hence only patches allowed, ya gotta compile yourself) and said that there were some race-problems in the inter-communication in Minix.

He make the case for Open-Source in devastating fashion - but who would expect anything less! He makes cases against and *for* IP patents (because they shoot themselves in the foot - innovation is driven to circumvent the patent).

***************************************************************************************
As I said, its a terrific read, and informative too.

It takes off at page 54 and it does not land again until the last chapter "Fame and Fortune" (Diamond had entitled it "Has Fame Spoilt Me?" but Linus grabbed his Mac and retyped it himself - Linus speaks and Diamond records it, and then types it up later - I am assuming).

When I first started on Linux, I needed pages 54~56 because my first experience of Linux (in 2004) was is "Where's my screen? What the hell is XFree86? Do I need that? Where does it come from?

What I needed, was a which-planet-am-I-on of pages 54~56 because after reading hundreds of webpages, Eric Raymond and about half of the massive Advanced Programming in the Unix Environment (in about two months), I *still* had no idea where the front door was!

****************************************************************
Diamond asks him to predict the future and Torvalds says that this is only for nutters therefore he (Torvalds) qualifies and goes on to say that in the next fifteen years operating systems "won't exist" any more because the drive is for Entertainment (his own definition of the final Meaning of Life) and therefore the user will just have an entertainment system and be completely unaware of the underlying operating system - not bad for ten years ago - but to him this is just plain-obvious because, as he says, "just look at the success of the new Play Station Two this year!" He also goes on to say that if Sony just stay with it, they should be the Leader - Sony! You idiots! All ya had to do was invent the iPad!!!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Legend Life on Paper, 22 Oct. 2003
A great book it is indeed, I haven't read any autobiographies before -- so I cannot really comment on how well it does at being one.
The only disappointment with this book was that there wasn't more mentioned on the specifics of his personal life, rather than the birth of Linux and its revolution, though still great read, personally skipping over the interview-ey parts added by the co-author David Diamond (not sure if that was a good idea or not, but most of what I had skimmed over of his work -- I had already read elsewhere), both losing a star.
Another flaw in this book was that (as said before), it wasn't written well, it seemed as if it were rushed by Linus and ended too abruptly.
Apart from the above mentioned a great read for anyone that’s slightly interested in the man himself or of a brief history of Linux itself up to the date of the book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Insightful!, 9 Jun. 2004
By 
Rolf Dobelli "getAbstract" (Switzerland) - See all my reviews
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In Just for Fun, Linus Torvalds, the Finnish creator of the Linux operating system, mixes his personal story, told in both narrative and e-mail dispatches, with the saga of his development of the Linux operating system. Torvalds' personal account makes the book fascinating. He began as a self-proclaimed nerd (and even a jerk) who labored to create an operating system in his garage and eventually became the head of the world's largest open source project. By requiring buyers and licensees to keep the Linux source code open, Torvalds assures the continued technological evolution of his system. The episodic nature of the book makes it choppy, the technical descriptions are hard for the uninitiated to track and co-writer David Diamond's digressions are revealing about Torvalds' personal life, but a little disruptive. Even so, we recommend this entertaining, interesting book that may even lead you to consider using Linux on your computer, whether or not you are another self-proclaimed computer nerd.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Insightful!, 15 Oct. 2003
By 
Rolf Dobelli "getAbstract" (Switzerland) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
In Just for Fun, Linus Torvalds, the Finnish creator of the Linux operating system, mixes his personal story, told in both narrative and e-mail dispatches, with the saga of his development of the Linux operating system. Torvalds’ personal account makes the book fascinating. He began as a self-proclaimed nerd (and even a jerk) who labored to create an operating system in his garage and eventually became the head of the world’s largest open source project. By requiring buyers and licensees to keep the Linux source code open, Torvalds assures the continued technological evolution of his system. The episodic nature of the book makes it choppy, the technical descriptions are hard for the uninitiated to track and co-writer David Diamond’s digressions are revealing about Torvalds’ personal life, but a little disruptive. Even so, we recommend this entertaining, interesting book that may even lead you to consider using Linux on your computer, whether or not you are another self-proclaimed computer nerd.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Nice read, somewhat inspiring!, 17 Jun. 2009
I read this book because I wanted to learn more about the history of the Linux kernel and Linus Torvalds. This is an excellent book, very easy to read and amusing. It's not just history, the book has also a little bit of philosophy. I greatly enjoyed it.
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