REVIEW - Open sources - voices from the open source revolution


Open sources

voices from the open source revolution


Chris DiBona, Sam Ockman



O'Reilly (1999)




Chris Hills


December 1999



The texts give a fascinating insight as to why Unix failed and how and why Linux is rising to replace it (and MS Windows).

This book is very unusual for an O'Reilly book. It is not one of their usual authoritative technical books. It is authoritative but is almost social and philosophical. It is also the first O'Reilly book I have seen without an animal on the cover. The book contains fourteen chapters from fourteen very well known names in the Unix, Linux, web, OSF and GNU world including all the heroes.

The book is a collection of papers on where Unix came from and how GNU came about then how Linux came in to the equation. The texts progress on to how it all developed in to companies' actually making money and growing with 'free' software. The texts are written by authoritative people who are (or were) the guiding influence in their field and it is as much their thoughts andphilosophy as their technical trials and tribulations.

I had several books to review ahead of this one but once I picked it up to have a quick look I read it cover to cover! Although some of the texts cover 'the early days' most of the papers appear to have been written in the last 6 months and cover incidents and changes well into 1998. One exception is the reprint of the email debate from 1992 between Tanenbaum and Torvaldson on the relative merits in Minix and Linux (one being micro-kernel and the other monolithic).

The texts give a fascinating (insiders) insight as to why Unix failed and how and why Linux is rising to replace it (and MS Windows). However, I recall the time when bubble memory was going to rule the world so I shall wait and see what happens.

I now understand how and why open sources work despite the fact that it is counter intuitive in the modern world. Just as bumblebees still fly. The texts also give an insight into what drives the people shaping the industry. You may be asking, why does a book on open sources cost money? Well at£16.50 it is not expensive (for a computer book) and this book has one other unusual feature. I bought my own copy. Highly recommended.

Book cover image courtesy of Open Library.

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