updated: 2002-05-31


Cover Just for Fun by Linus Torvalds and David Diamond.
Copyright 2001 by Linus Torvalds and David Diamond.
Printed by Harper Collins Publishing.

Linus Torvalds is the creator of Linux, a free UNIX-like operating system that was designed to provide users an operating system comparable to the usually more expensive UNIX system. Currently Linus works for Transmeta on several projects. David Diamond is a writer that set out to create a fun history of Linux and a biography of Linus. David's credits include articles published in Business Week, New York Times, and Wired. He is also the executive editor of Red Herring Magazine. Together these two gentlemen set out to create a biography of Linus and therefore creating a history of the Linux revolution.


Judging by the title of the book Just for Fun it is expected that this book will not be too technical or require too much thinking by the reader. This book does just what it says by being a book that anyone interested in the business history of Linux and the history of an "Accidental Revolutionary". The general gist of the book was to have fun creating the book and expressing the history of Linux while expressing the life of Linus himself.


I picked up this book assuming to find just what I did find but there was much more. I was interested in reading Just for Fun because I wanted to find out more about Linus, the man, but on top of that I also found out the history of Linux. I was impressed with the amount of information that was given about the history of Linux down to the first speech, the first newsgroup posting, and the progression from a Sinclair QL to a 386 to newer machines. Intermixed with the history of Linux is Linus's childhood through graduation from The University of Helsinki.

Just for Fun discusses Linus's motivation in the beginning to make a terminal emulator, then later the expanding of the terminal emulator to an operating system. The terminal emulator was needed to replace the terminal emulator from Minix that was insufficient for Linus to use. The development of the linux kernel is shown progressing from that terminal emulator to the full blown operating system it is today. The development includes meetings, emails, and speeches that Linus remembers as important to the history of Linux and himself.

Linus discusses why he continues to use a standard kernel as opposed to a microkernel. This discussion basically says that microkernels are not as efficient or easy to use as a standard kernel. The driving force behind Linus not using a microkernel approach is because he believes the parts are bigger than the whole, essentially saying it is more difficult to understand/develop a kernel with a modular approach as opposed to the standard kernel. Microkernels spend lots of time communicating from one piece of the kernel to another where a standard kernel has shared pieces so the communication doesn't have to take place. This specific piece is where the developers of microkernel implementations differ from Linus.

During the book there is switching from Linus writing to David Diamond's comments with very little notice. There were quite a few times where I was reading David's current comments and thought I was reading something Linus had written. I decided that I needed to pay attention a litle better during reading to make sure I was reading pieces with the correct author in mind. This is one of my critisims of the book because it is very difficult to kep track who is writing at any point in the book.

My other crisitism would have to be the lack of information about Linus's more up to date life. There is lots of information about what drove Linux from the beginning but there doesn't seem to be current information about what is driving Linus to continue with Linux development. I would like to see a different version of this book in the future that presents information about Transmeta and the current driving reasons for Linus to continue Linux development.


Even though I have a few critisms of the book I would recommend anyone interested in the history of Linux or the history of Linus read this book. There are many other pieces/parts that I have not touched on that would be interesting to anyone interested in Linux. I actually completed the book in a few nights after my day job, I was unable to put it down once I started reading the book, to me this means the book was interesting and entertaining. There is an interesting way to keep the technical discussion from the biography and that is a comment on one page that says to skip to another page to ignore the technical parts of the book.

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