Just for Fun is an autobiography of Linus torvalds, the creator of Linux, a successful operating system. The reason for the popularity of the OS has more to do with the way in which it was created, OPEN SOURCE.A new term was coined, thanks to Linux and subsequently influenced the IT software industry like never before. This book is written in a remarkably witty manner at the same time explaining the business philosophy behind open source.
Linus torvalds was born in Finland where at a very young age gets introduced to computers when his grandfather, a professor in statistics,asks young linus to type in a lot of BASIC programs which he reads out loudly. Thus linus favorite activity at a very young age was writing BASIC programs, though he didn’t have a clue about their meaning.
Through out his school years, he is looked upon as a nerd(this was when being a nerd was not cool).He was the guy who was good at math,physics but not with girls or sports. He vainly attempts to be a part of finnish army but fails. VIC 20, the first device which Linus gets exposed to , fascinates him a lot. He starts experimenting with VIC 20 and them moves on to buy Sinclair QL.After playing around with it for sometime,he gets sick of it as the OS is a read only OS and there is no memory protection. In the process he starts reading a book titled – OS-Design and Implementation by Andrew S Tanenbaum.This book changes his life for ever. He starts playing around with Minix, the OS developed by Andrew S Tanenbaum.Linus starts off with a terminal emulation program ,looking at some of the ways in which UNIX system calls were designed and coded.
A little diversion here : UNIX ,by the way is a robust O/S but there was no single standard O/S . Unix is a set of system calls and functionality is built upon using the system calls. Since there was no standard, there was no single UNIX version which became widely popular. Unix was first used to write games because in games the performance matters a lot. A single sec delay is permissible in word processing application but not in a game
Ok,,back to Linus story . Linus wanted to improve Minix and wanted to understand to build a POSIX standard so that it would be used widely. It look him months to write "OPEN" system calls. He also incorporated Bourne shell in to Linus so that it would tell him the list of pending system calls that were to be implemented. The life of Linus during this phase was characterized by code,sleep, eat, code, sleep, eat..He had absolutely no contact with the outside world. A little trivia here is that Linus actually wanted his OS tobe called Freakx but the guy at the university who was in charge of the server space felt that the root directory under which the code was residing linux was better than a vague name like freakx.
In Sept1991, Linus posted his version of Linux and then collected feedback from a few tech enthusiasts.
In spite of so much development, Linus was using Minix for a lot of functions. But one day, by mistake he overwrote his Minix partition and then he had to take a crucial decision. Reinstall Minix OR Incorporate all the functionality in to Linux. He decided with the latter and then he started coding all the functionality with the help of hacker community in to Linux. Meanwhile in his personal life , he meets Tove, a six time karate champion in finland and his student , marries her. BTW , it was she who asks out Linus for a date..whatelse can you expect out of a geek J
Slowly the linux momentum picks up ,IBM, Informix,Oracle and other bigwigs start supporting Linux. As per GPL license,there is every right to sell the Linux software to people. and thus vendors start selling Linux. Red Hat being one of them. Red Hat’s IPO becomes a roaring success and Linus who is given options by the company becomes a multi millionaire , even though all he cares about is Linux technology , his kids and his wife.
The book ends with Linus take on life where he says that there are 3 basic motivations for people. Survival , then Socializing, culminating in entertainment. Technology till date has always proceeded in the same way as the above motivations as people influence tech development and not the other way round. He foresees that ideally by the next decade, nobody would even want to hear about OS.All they want is a device to browse internet, play games, write papers, e-date, etc..
The best part of the book is a chapter on programming where he says what motivates him to program day in day out. He says programmer is akin to God in the confines of the computer. He knows computer will do whatever he wants it to do, But the beauty is figuring out how to tell it to perform tasks. A programmer thus derives immense satisfaction by coming up with creative ways to make computers perform tasks and thus provide a means to fulfill the motivations of socializing and entertainment to the people at large.
Just for Fun – its really worth reading, just for fun . If not anything, it will tell you that if one starts working on something he loves and something he has fun doing it, everything else will follow….fame,success,money,etc..
Are you doing whatever you are doing ,for fun ? Are you getting enough fun doing those things ?