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Slashdot: Under The Radar [Book Review]

Dec 01, 1999, 15:20 (0 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Malcolm Tredinnick)

"This book is subtitled How Red Hat changed the software business - and took Microsoft by surprise. However, that is a slightly misleading statement about the contents. More accurately, this book is a series of stories about both Red Hat and the Open Source/free software movement in general (and Linux in particular) woven together very naturally to make an interesting tale."

"The book starts out at the point when Red Hat were trying to secure some venture capital in the early months of 1998. This naturally leads to a recounting of meetings with Benchmark Capital (a Silicon Valley venture capital firm), Intel and Netscape. Chapters 2, 3 and 4 cover this story quite naturally, giving an introduction to the concept of free (as in speech not beer) software along the way. This is not the story of how everything went swimmingly and was done over a cup of coffee. There are accounts of how the VC firms tried to push Intel out of the deal and then how Netscape stepped in and was willing to compromise. Chapter 4, in particular, covers (in a few brief pages) how first IBM, then Dell and Compaq courted companies offering services such as Red Hat (OK .. the actual chronology may have been different, but that's the order they're presented in the book)."

"Chapters 5 and 6 are basically all about Netscape. Beginning with accounts of executive level meetings at the companies where the decision to release the source code was first discussed, we are led through the whole saga up to the present day. This includes a very coherent discussion about licensing issues and the proprietary software that was already in the Netscape code. What we have here is a layman's account of why it is taking so long for Mozilla to walk out the door."

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