Short works

Books : reviews

Linus Torvalds, David Diamond.
Just for Fun: the story of an accidental revolutionary.
Texere. 2001

rating : 2.5 : great stuff
review : 26 February 2005

I hadn't actually been intending to read this. I picked it up and just scanned the first few paragraphs to see what it was like. The next thing I know, I'm half way through it!

This is Linus Torvalds' autobiography, as told to David Diamond in a series of taped interviews. The chatty interview style comes through in the resulting text, revealing the accidental revolutionary who unleashed Linux on the world. We get a brief sketch of his childhood in Finland, some technical detail of how Linux was born in his bedroom, and more detail of his subsequent life in the US, helping support his creation on its way to world domination.

What clear is that Torvalds was in the right place -- a rather laid back Finnish educational system -- at the right time. What is also clear is that it required much more than that: it needed his original determination and dedication building the core OS -- even if doing it just for fun -- and it needed the enthusiastic support of the Linux community to bring it to fruition.

Torvalds gives us some entertaining, and deeply held, views, on the Open Source philosophy, and how technology becomes valuable -- and these might not necessarily be the views you expect. But most of all, he paints a picture of someone who is doing his own thing, and enjoying his life. It's a great optimistic story to help counteract a somewhat pessimistic and cynical world.