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Independent.co.uk: Book Review: Rebel Code: Linux and the open source revolution

Jan 21, 2001, 14:39 (0 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Charles Arthur)

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"...though the title Rebel Code hints at a face-off between the Darth Vader-like influence of Microsoft and the Obi Wan Kenobi-like wisdom of the "hackers", the focus is principally on the mechanics and history of the open-source movement. Despite interesting characters such as Torvalds, the open-source evangelist Eric Raymond, and Richard Stallman, who became a multi-millionaire by giving his software away, there is a curious lack of humanity. There's a lot about who wrote what and how frequently Torvalds issued new versions of Linux; but his "off-line" character is never rounded out. Does the development of this world-beating platform comes before his young family? Though we learn a lot about their opinions on software, the people remain ciphers."

"In the wake of such fascinating books about Silicon Valley life as Po Bronson's The Nudist on the Late Shift, the absence of that human element leaves a big hole. Moody could argue that he's telling the tale of how open source got here, not how these people did, but he repeatedly shows that they have each risen by a combination of luck and dedication. Torvalds is described by many as Linux's essential ingredient, whose unique character tied together disparate factions. But how, exactly?"

"Also missing is a sense of how Microsoft and other companies perceive this new rival. Fortunes are at risk; if open source truly is a revolution, one would expect to find the software aristocracy explaining how they will escape the tumbril. Yet besides some brief discussion -- including how IBM revitalised itself by adopting Linux throughout its huge product line -- that is absent."

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