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on 15 August 2009
This book is an enjoyable read especially if you know a bit about the history of operating systems and their features. Neal Stephenson gives his own metaphors of what each OS represents and criticizes software from the writer's point of view. A nice read if you don't get too picky about the OS wars and a few technical details. It gets more enjoyable if you also read Garrett Birkel's response to Neal Stephenson in 2004 at the former's website!
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on 23 May 2000
at first glance one might think that this book is about the history of computers. Its not. This is socialogical study into why Microsoft are where they are, why users chose it, its competitors throughout the years and what could come next.
Its not about converting people to linux, or beOS, its about people. How and why they behave.
I like this book, the author is clear, uses interesting analogies and doesn't expect the reader to be technically minded.
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on 16 April 2015
Great read. Came across this book when I was studying computer science in college. Can't imagine why anyone would pay for this since it is available as an open source document online. Just search for the title.
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on 6 March 2008
I concurr with the previous reviewer (Not vintage Stephenson - a one-sided essay, 5 May 2003)

As a developer and reder of most things technical, my "time-off" comprises of the history of computing. As such you come across the multiple flavours of Operating System, their [documented] idiosynchrosies .. all predominantly command line (CLI) or earlier (wired/card).

As such I really am not amused by his writtings. As suggested this reads more like the rambllings of a man bitter with his experience of an Apple Mac 'totalling' his file(s) and his relucatance to entertain Micro$oft.
He then intertwines metaphors, relegion, techno-babble, corporate/business accumen and social/human activity.
All applied in a very 'odd' manner (or style).

I finished reading this book, somewhat reluctantly (I paid for it.. I'm gonna read it!) but I wouldn;t recommend this.
Its a book that doesn't address (adequately) either; social interaction, corporate cultures, computer user interaction (+HCI/GUI) nor is it a complete resume about O/S's.
It's one mans gripe about O/S's and what his ideal would be ... similarly to Steve Jobs ideal O/S is/was ... or Bill gates ideal O/S is.

As the saying goes "one mans meat, is another mans poison" but I wouldn't have written a book about it :-(
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on 3 June 2001
More of us need to think about this stuff, very light read though. Writes about the meta-metaphore of computing in the same vein as other mediated experiences steam rolling societies towards safe grey popular culture. Asserts that the language metaphore of written/typed word (the Command Line) is superior to the meta-metaphore of visual representation (the GUI). Beware of the One Universal Interface, make your own choices oh Eloi and Morlochs!
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on 7 April 2000
Neal Stephenson tells (sometimes rants) his view of the Mac vs Windows vs Linux vs BeOS debate with his typical erudite and witty up-to-the-minute style. And he has insights and experiences to make it more than just a flame war on paper. The GUI becomes more than screen candy: its a symbol of our culture's mediated reality: a metaphore for the way we experience our lives in the age of hi-tec entertainment. In the last chapter (I'm giving nothing away here, you'll have to read it yourself) he turns the magic mirror around so we see ourselves and the choices we have...
I went into my local bookshop to buy either Snow Crash or The Diamond Age because I felt like re-reading them. They were't there but this was so I bought it without even looking at the blurb on the back. Yeah, you can download the whole thing from cryptonomicon.com but this is one paperback to read in the bath/bus/bed.
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This book is a must-read for anyone who works with computers and wants to know why things are the way they are. The author analyzes every major OS, the people behind it and the people who use it without getting technical.
I found it very funny and frightenly accurate.
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on 3 May 2001
What a fantastic book! interesting look at 3 different business models for Software development a must read for the business minded geek I picked it up at 9 AM and had it finished by 1:pm .. really .. buy this book .. no don't wait .. buy it now .. then read Snow Crash :)
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