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Linux Ideas

By Sunil Kumar(Originally a book review)

From the invention of the abacus to an interconnected, networked world, we have witnessed a sea change in the way man goes about computing. Evolution can be roughly traced from mainframe computing to today’s world, which is replete with high-tech gizmos.

In this context, when the Che Guevara of the technology world speaks, people listen. Just for Fun is the story of Linus Torvalds, the inventor of Linux and the god of geekdom. In a quirky, conversational style, Torvalds narrates the transition from a solitary childhood to programming guru to worldwide messiah of the open source movement. The Linus Torvalds name provides succor and inspiration to a world dominated by a behemoth from Redmond, Washington.

Beginning in a style reminiscent of Douglas Adams, for whom Torvalds confesses admiration, Just For Fun starts with a conversation between Linus and Tove Torvalds and their young daughters Patricia and Daniela as they travel 351 miles to Los Angeles, where they are about to visit the zoo and an IKEA outlet.

The book details various aspects of Torvalds’s life and his penchant for Finland, where he was born. The Torvalds family had a whole host of journalists; from his father Nils, his great-grandfather Ernst von Wendt and his sister Sara. According to him, school was very drab and boring. His first year at university was very productive and computers was the only subject he really liked.

Just for Fun goes on about the story behind the Linux OS beginning with the different computers that he had over the years. Linus has mixed feelings from the fourth estate, considering that many of his relatives were journalists. Relating anecdotes about Richard Stallman, hippie and tech guru, Linus maintains the psychological mastermind behind the Free Software Foundation was Stallman.

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He mentions his time at the Transmeta Corporation and the consequent reactions in the open source fraternity. Discussing advantages like genetic modification with Bill Joy of Wired, he prefers technological change.

He also talks about the intellectual property debate and his views on the issue. According to him, it is a dual-edged sword and since there are two sides to every idea, he ends up arguing both ways. According to him, creativity should be sacred and the creator and the created have a bond that cannot be seperated(Same feelings as me, here). Also, he talks about commoditization of the issue.

He also says that to survive and flourish in a competitive market what is needed to an end to controlling people and a change in the overall mindset(Try telling that to a few people).

When he talks about the evolution of open source, he implies that the media is responsible for evangelizing it throughout the world. According to him, the paparazzi has a tendency to create false scenarios. He also clarifies that he does not live the life of a solitary frugal monk, which some people may believe. To conclude, the radical revolutionary altered the world of technology for one reason: fun.


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Richard Stallman Founder of GNU Project and Free Software Foundation, father and current maintainer of the One True Emacs. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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