Softpanorama

May the source be with you, but remember the KISS principle ;-)
Contents Bulletin Scripting in shell and Perl Network troubleshooting History Humor

Open Source as a Social Phenomenon

News Overload Hitech Startups Propaganda More or less realistic Old classic
Slackerism Information Overload Communication with Corporate Psychopaths Toxic managers: The Problem of Corporate Psychopaths Winner-Take-All Politics Workplace Bulling
Collaborative Development Microsoft Unix History Academic Community Related reading Etc

I wrote a couple of papers about open source where I tries to oppose "open source mythology" or Raymondism as I called it. I think that open source cannot be understood without understanding Microsoft role as an important (negative) mobilizing force behind open source.  It's funny that this way Microsoft with its Midas touch produced yet another bunch of millionaires including Linus Torvalds ;-)

I strongly recommend to read NetSlaves and High Stakes, No Prisoners : A Winner's Tale of Greed and Glory in the Internet Wars before reading any open source propaganda books like The Cathedral and Bazaar. See also my OSS page.

Dr. Nikolai Bezroukov


NEWS CONTENTS

Old News ;-)

The Prince

Machiavelli opens The Prince describing the two principal types of governments: monarchies and republics. His focus in The Prince is on monarchies. The most controversial aspects of Machiavelli's analysis emerge in the middle chapters of his work. In Chapter 15 he proposes to describe the truth about surviving as a monarch, rather than recommending lofty moral ideals. He describes those virtues which, on face value, we think a prince should possess. He concludes that some "virtues" will lead to a prince's destruction, whereas some "vices" allow him to survive. Indeed, the virtues which we commonly praise in people might lead to his downfall. In chapter 16 he notes that we commonly think that it is best for a prince to have a reputation of being generous. However, if his generosity is done in secret, no one will know about it and he will be thought to be greedy. If it is done openly, then he risks going broke to maintain his reputation. He will then extort more money from his subjects and thus be hated. For Machiavelli, it is best for a prince to have a reputation for being stingy. Machiavelli anticipates examples one might give of generous monarchs who have been successful. He concludes that generosity should only be shown to soldiers with goods taken from a pillaged enemy city. In Chapter 17 he argues that it is better for a prince to be severe when punishing people rather than merciful. Severity through death sentences affects only a few, but it deters crimes which affects many. Further, he argues, it is better to be feared than to be loved. However, the prince should avoid being hated, which he can easily accomplish by not confiscating the property of his subjects: "people more quickly forget the death of their father than the loss of their inheritance." In Chapter 18, perhaps the most controversial section of The Prince, Machiavelli argues that the prince should know how to be deceitful when it suits his purpose. When the prince needs to be deceitful, though, he must not appear that way. Indeed he must always exhibit five virtues in particular: mercy, honesty, humaneness, uprightness, and religiousness. In Chapter 19 Machiavelli argues that the prince must avoid doing things which will cause him to be hated. This is accomplished by not confiscating property, and not appearing greedy or wishy-washy. In fact, the best way to avoid being overthrown is to avoid being hated.

Groupthink Psychological Studies of Policy Decisions and Fiascoes by Irving L. Janis

Janis, I. L. & Mann, L. (1977). Decision making: A psychological analysis of conflict, choice, and commitment. New York: Free Press.

Dynamics of Software Development

Books Rebel Code Linux and the Open Source Revolution by Glyn Moody

Pobody's Nerfect, March 14, 2003
Reviewer: Patrick Nance from Austin, TX United States

For those of you who have short attention spans, this book contains easily the most complete, detailed, researched, and clearly expounded history of Linux, the Free Software Foundation, the open source movement, the hacker ethic, and most everything else that has been going on with computer geeks since the 1950s. If you're at all interested by what's happening in the "free as in speech" technology sector, this book is a dramatic must-read. Go and pick it up now.

If you're still with me, however, this book is absolutely plagued by the disease known as "technical writing". It's long been known that those who deal with computers and electronics on a day-to-day (hour-to-hour?) basis are not often the most linguistically inclined individuals. This "urban legend" is manifested predominantly in the work, taking its form through constant usage errors, many spelling errors, excruciatingly awkward prose (at times), and, although this is more of a non-issue considering the subject matter, just a little too much bias in one direction.

Just to show that I'm not making this up, Glyn Moody frequently refers to "X Window", rather than "X Windows" (even though that's technically incorrect), "XFree86", "X11", or the "X Windowing System". Other similar, subtle annoyances occur throughout the book, but make no mistake: they don't obscure Moody's points indecipherably, they just annoy. One of the sentences that forced me to question Moody's bias was from Chapter 11: "If the history of Microsoft shows anything, it is a dogged determination to improve its often inadequate first attempts at writing software, and Internet Explorer is no exception." This sentence, inserted just after describing Microsoft's assertions to the U.S. Department of Justice as "shameless", leaves the reader no choice but to second-guess Moody's intentions.

The Business of Books How the International Conglomerates Took Over Publishing and Changed the Way We Read by Andre Schiffrin

A Must for Those Who Care about New Ideas and Reading!, September 19, 2000
Reviewer: Donald W. Mitchell (see more about me) from a coauthor of The Irresistible Growth Enterprise from Boston

Mr. Schiffrin has used the benefit of 40 years of publishing experience to develop a powerful argument that society is being denied access to important new ideas through books. This is occurring because of changes in ownership (and management philosophies) in the publishing industry, and similar effects in book retailing.

Along the way in telling this story, you will read many interesting stories about publishing now-famous authors like Gunnar Myrdal (later winner of the Novel Prize) and Studs Terkel.

The former economic concept of a publisher was to earn an adequate income overall, and to operate as frugally as possible. Editors were paid like academics, and physical plant was modest. Profits above what was absolutely needed could be plowed back into books that presented important ideas, but might not earn their keep, and books that would require time to develop an audience.

Books that challenged the conventional wisdom were often best sellers in this environment. That kind of public opinion shift seldom happens today through books.

Mr. Schiffrin uses his own publishing experiences as a microcosm of these issues. Pantheon, which his father founded, was sold to Random House in 1961, and mr. Schiffrin joined to work in marketing. After Random House was bought by RCA, financial discipline was brought in to require that each book seek to earn a profit from its own activities in the near term. That began a process of trimming and redirecting lists.

Later, Random House was sold again, this time to S.I. Newhouse. Plans were soon afoot to greatly reduce Pantheon, and the staff eventually resigned en masse to protest just as the ax started to fall. Mr. Schiffrin left, also, and began a search for funding to start a new publishing house, The New Press. He was able to launch this independent publisher with the help of several foundation grants and W.W. Norton being willing to distribute the books. Random House, meanwhile, did not grow its profits very much and was sold to Bertelsmann in 1998.

During these intervening years, Newhouse actually lost lots of money seeking to improve profits in book publishing. Enormous losses occurred in unearned advances in seeking blockbusters. Overhead costs soared as salaries, marketing, and expense accounts were expanded enormously.

By seeking ever higher near-term profits, publishers have established a market test for new books that makes it more attractive to publish an offshoot of a new Hollywood movie than a book challenging the political orthodoxy. Books like the former have swelled while the latter have dwindled. Many publishers and imprints now publish in very few categories, with limited types of books in those remaining categories.

The industry has also become very concentrated. Ten publishers accounted for 75 percent of U.S. book sales in 1999. The publishing operations themselves are now small parts of large media conglomerates. Some of these publishing conglomerates seem to use book publishing as a way to curry favor for other parts of their businesses. Rupert Murdoch appeared to have done so in publishing a certain work while not publishing others, in a way that would be most appealing to Chinese politicians while trying to get permission to take Sky Broadcasting into mainland China.

Even university presses are under tighter budgets. This means that about 1 percent of the book publishing resources are available through independent, university, and religious-organization-connected presses to open the doors to unpopular ideas. He argues that this is a challenge to our very concept of a free society. I agree wholeheartedly.

The main countervailing force is the Internet. No one knows how this will play out, but it could change the economics of book publishing to allow independent publishers and self-publishing to flourish. If electronic publishing becomes more mainstream, fewer authors may feel that they need the traditional publishers. Stephen King's now-famous experiment of publishing his novella electronically is described. Time will tell how this will all turn out.

In the meantime, I have a suggestion for all readers. We should each take some sizeable percentage of our reading and dedicate it to reading works in subjects we would normally not consider, authors we do not know already and who are not well-known generally, and from publishers who are not in the top ten. This would encourage a greater diversity of ideas more than anything that publishers can do. I promise to be sure to do this with my reviews from now on to help you follow up on this idea and have successful reading experiences at the same time.

Overcome more stalled thinking through your reading!

Donald Mitchell (donmitch@irresistibleforces.com)

Trust on Trial How the Microsoft Case is Reframing the Rules of Competition by Richard B. McKenzie

**** good but misguided...

The Microsoft antitrust case is, and will remain, an event of historic proportions. It is a case that has very publicly pitted the legal power of the United States government, the free world's undisputed leader, against the legal power of the Microsoft Corporation. Trust on Trial presents dramatic and compelling reasons to recast our view of modern monopolies and rewrite the rules of business with regard to the new economy companies that hang in the balance. This groundbreaking book argues cleanly and convincingly that antitrust law-the variety being tested in the current landmark case-is useless in today's landscape where technology is changing the accepted standards of business

David J. Hill on May 9, 2000
A Careful Analysis

Anyone who has followed the Microsoft trial has to be impressed with the skill and flair of the Government's legal team (and less than overwhelmed with the performance of Microsoft's defense lawyers). But putting such professionalism aside, many thoughtful people have misgivings about the Antitrust Division's attack on Microsoft and the trial court's sweeping and conclusory findings.

Richard B. McKenzie's Trust on Trial: How the Microsoft Case Is Framing the Rules of Competition is an informative book on the Microsoft case. Professor McKenzie makes noteworthy points about monopoly behavior and the fluidity and competitiveness of the computer industry.

He offers an interesting analysis of the reasons why Microsoft gave away its Internet Explorer browser for free, as well as anecdotal insights into the companies and key players involved. He also reminds us that the heart of an antitrust case like this one is that consumers have suffered antitrust injury, of which he sees little or no evidence.

That said, Trust on Trial is not an easy book to read for anyone not steeped in economics or antitrust. Readers must endure a number of scholarly discourses on management theory and political science, at least some of which could have used an editor's careful hand. In addition, some points are treated more lightly than some readers might prefer.

For example, while McKenzie casts doubt on the validity of the so-called "applications barrier to entry," he could have strengthened his point by several concrete illustrations. As another, the competing views at trial of Microsoft's dealings with its developers regarding Java are hardly mentioned.

On balance, you have to want to read Trust on Trial to get something from it. If you do read it, you will get useful insights into the lawsuit and the role of antitrust in today's technologies. And you will be better poised to analyze the next Microsoft battlefield-no, not the remedies phase or the appeals process, as important as they will be-but all those private antitrust class action lawsuits brought by plaintiff's lawyers just waiting to move billions of dollars from Bill Gates' pockets to their own.

Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace By Lawrence Lessig

*** As the cost of violating our intellectual property and privacy decreases, the effectiveness of laws decreases
Paperback (June 2000)
Basic Books; ISBN: 0465039138 ; Dimensions (in inches): 0.83 x 7.99 x 5.33

Important Insights Life in Cyberspace, July 28, 2000
Reviewer: mehrlich (see more about me) from Somers, NY USA
Rather than add to the volumes that have already been written regarding this important work, I'd note that despite the fact that Lessig thoughtfully covers vexing foundational constitutional issues regarding privacy, sovereignity and property rights etc.. in cyberspace, he does so in a manner that is straighforward, compelling and which inspires further thought and disucssion. In other words it was very readable.

I found myself often putting the book down to discuss a point made by the author with friends and colleagues, I'm thinking that's exactly what Lessig intended.

While I may have my differences on several issues, this book is fundamntal reading for those interested in the impact of our emerging cyber-society. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

BOOK REVIEW: Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace

Conventional wisdom says that the Net is unregulable, and by its very nature is immune from government control. Lessig's book argues that this belief is wrong, and that code, not law, controls what values we protect on the Net. Code creates "architectures of control" and can either create an "intellectual commons," free from restrictive regulation, or a dark place of near perfect control. It's up to us (programmers, lawyers, policymakers, and citizens) to decide which eventuality will transpire.

The driving factor behind a regulable Net? Commerce. Commerce makes possible near-perfect control (regulation) through its requirement of identification and certification. The book is about that change and how we can prevent it.

In "real space" laws regulate through legal code. In cyberspace, for the most part, software code regulates. As the cost of violating our intellectual property and privacy decreases, the effectiveness of laws decreases while code increases. Or as James Boyle said more darkly, "Is freedom inversely related to the efficiency of the available means of surveillance? If so, we have much to fear." Lessig's thesis? On the Net, code is law. Code is a kind of constitution in cyberspace. How we write code determines in large part what values we protect. If cyberspace as we know it is to survive, we need a constraint on government's power to regulate through code.

Open source software provides that constraint by checking arbitrary power (transparent rules, changeable code), and functions as a type of "separation of powers in the American constitutional tradition." The Internet itself is based on open protocols, responsible for its rapid growth and innovation as others can tweak and improve open software. The World Wide Web is a prime example of an open system, with HTML, JavaScript, etc. a "view source" away from improvement.

But in the latter part of the 90's, closed application space code is emerging (Windows 95 bundling, etc.), so the balance between open and closed code is changing. Closed code is regulable (nontransparent), open code is not (transparent). To the extent that code is open, government's power to regulate is diminished. Open source rules.

Lessig acts as a kind of meme cracker, using stories to illustrate his main points about regulability, privacy, IP, and freedom of speech. As lawyers are wont to do, the book raises more questions than answers, but it is thought-provoking. The footnotes alone are worth the price of admission. Highly recommended.

A streaming audio interview with Lawrence Lessig is available.

Stephen Duncombe is the author of Notes from Underground: Zines and the Politics of Alternative Culture and a professor at the Gallatin School of New York University where he teaches the history and politics of media and culture. Duncombe has been a political activist for more than a decade and is currently assembling an anthology of writings on cultural resistance.

[July 1, 2000] Open Source The Unauthorized White Papers by Donald K. Rosenberg

Our Price: $17.99
Paperback - 300 pages (July 2000)
IDG Books Worldwide; ISBN: 0764546600
Amazon.com Sales Rank: 89,616

See except from the book here: developerWorks Linux Features - Library - Papers

Book Description
Provides the 'inside scoop' on Open Source issues and concepts. Offers unbiased insights into the whys, hows, dos and don'ts of the Open Source development model and movement.

Open Source refers to software developed by uncoordinated but collaborating programmers, using freely distributed source code and the communications facilities of the Internet. A field guide approach to providing company managers explaining the nuances of the Open Source industry, how to get involved, how to make money, how to contribute back to the community. Examines the benefits as well as the pitfalls of Open Source software development model and use. Open Source licensing explained and dissected.

[Sep 1, 2000] Open Source Licensing : Building Business and Cooperation W/Open Source by Stig Hackvan

Paperback - 180 pages (September 2000)
O'Reilly & Associates; ISBN: 1565925602

[February 1999] Barbarians Inside the Gates And Other Controversial Essays by Thomas Sowell

Paperback (February 1999)
Hoover Inst Pr; ISBN: 081799582X ; Dimensions (in inches): 0.70 x 9.02 x 6.06
Amazon.com Sales Rank: 18,532
Avg. Customer Review:
Number of Reviews: 2

[May 1, 2000]Bobos in Paradise The New Upper Class and How They Got There by David Brooks

This is the theoretical mistake Herr Weber accuses Karl Marx of making with dialectical materialism; mistaking the observable fact of the progressive alienation of workers in 19th century manufacturing factories of being alienated for being the central motive force in history. What Marx didn't recognize, unfortunately, was that all participants in large modern industrial societies are by course of the organization of that society into social institutions ritually expropriated from the means of participation in it.
Thus, individuals can express their talents and capabilities only though participation and cooperation with large-scale social institutions (read bureaucracies here).

Hardcover - 284 pages (May 2000)
Simon & Schuster; ISBN: 0684853779 ; Dimensions (in inches): 0.99 x 8.76 x 5.80
Amazon.com Sales Rank: 118
Popular in: New Jersey (#15) Wayne, PA (#3) . See more
Avg. Customer Review:
Number of Reviews: 34

Bobos in Paradise is a brilliant, breezy, and often hilarious study of the "cultural consequences of the information age." Large and influential (especially in terms of their buying power), the Bobos have reformed society through culture rather than politics, and Brooks clearly outlines this passing of the high-class torch by analyzing nearly all aspects of life: consumption habits, business and lifestyle choices, entertainment, spirituality, politics, and education. Employing a method he calls "comic sociology," Brooks relies on keen observations, wit, and intelligence rather than statistics and hard theory to make his points. And by copping to his own Bobo status, he comes across as revealing rather than spiteful in his dead-on humor. Take his description of a typical grocery store catering to discriminating Bobos: "The visitor to Fresh Fields is confronted with a big sign that says 'Organic Items today: 130.' This is like a barometer of virtue. If you came in on a day when only 60 items were organic, you'd feel cheated. But when the number hits the three figures, you can walk through the aisles with moral confidence."

Like any self-respecting Bobo, Brooks wears his erudition lightly and comfortably (not unlike, say, an expedition-weight triple-layer Gore-Tex jacket suitable for a Mount Everest assault but more often seen in the gym). But just because he's funny doesn't mean this is not a serious book. On the contrary, it is one of the more insightful works of social commentary in recent memory. His ideas are sharp, his writing crisp, and he even offers pointed suggestions for putting the considerable Bobo political clout to work.

And, unlike the classes that spawned them -- the hippies and the yuppies -- Brooks insists the Bobos are here to stay: "Today the culture war is over, at least in the realm of the affluent. The centuries-old conflict has been reconciled." All the more reason to pay attention. --Shawn Carkonen

[May 23, 2000] Eboys The First Inside Account of Venture Capitalists at Work by Randall E. Stross

**+ This is pretty weak book about Benchmark Capital the venture capitalist firm that financed Red Hat (as well as eBay and several other firms). See Sun World review Life inside a Silicon Valley venture capital firm for details:

Hardcover - 325 pages (May 23, 2000)
Crown Pub; ISBN: 0812930959 ; Dimensions (in inches): 1.22 x 9.57 x 6.52
Amazon.com Sales Rank: 66
Avg. Customer Review: ****

Benchmark Capital is a highly successful albeit unusual venture firm. Most venture firms are hierarchies of partners, associates, and others in the pecking order, much like law firms and other professional service partnerships. Associates at venture firms, often MBAs fresh out of business school, are the gofers who pay their dues for a mere $150,000 a year while trying to make partner. Partners share in the loot the firm makes from a successful investment. Bigger firms have a hierarchy among partners as well: they can be junior, senior, or name, e.g., John Hummer at Hummer Winblad.

But Benchmark doesn't have a traditional structure. It's a firm of five equal partners (six by the time the book comes to an end and 10 at this writing), no associates, and some clerical staff. They make democratic decisions: when one partner brings in a proposal to fund a business, they vote on it together. Votes are from one to 10, and no one is allowed to vote five.

Benchmark's partners are physically similar -- they're all well over six feet tall and athletic -- but their backgrounds are diverse. Three of the five had been venture guys (they don't call themselves VCs) elsewhere before joining Benchmark.

Dave Beirne made his name as a headhunter who placed top executives at companies such as Netscape, Microsoft, and Excite@Home. Because a big part of a venture capitalist's job is helping entrepreneurs find talent to build out their management teams, Beirne's was a fitting background. Kevin Harvey had been an entrepreneur who created a database software company and sold it to Lotus.

The others -- Bob Kagle, Andy Rachleff, Bruce Dunlevie, and Bill Gurley -- came to Benchmark from other venture firms. EBoys tells stories about Benchmark, as it got involved with various companies. During the two years in which Stross observed the firm, Benchmark helped fund over 70 businesses. Stross chose to concentrate on the big names mentioned above and some lesser-known companies to which unusual things happened.

He combines actual dialog from Benchmark's partnership meetings with narratives about its portfolio companies and anecdotes about the firm's executives. The book is intelligently organized into chapters that read like installments in a long-running serial, in which Stross returns periodically to stories in progress (such as the rise of eBay) Other chapters stress a particular theme such as building successful management teams or going public.

...EBoys is also disappointingly short of the kind of analysis from Stross that made his The Microsoft Way an interesting read. In that book, Stross used his background as a historian to show precedents for monopolistic megawealth creation a la Bill Gates. EBoys includes very little such analysis, apart from a couple of pages of references to Alexis de Tocqueville and similar erudition.

Maybe someone else will write an in-depth account of the business, filling in some of the substance behind the sizzle. Or maybe the venture business is just that shallow -- as shallow as the analysis that leads regular investors to bid Web stock prices up as high as they were before the recent crash. If that's true, the implications are pretty terrible to contemplate.

Digital Darwinism : 7 Breakthrough Business Strategies for Surviving in the Cutthroat Web Economy

Evan I. Schwartz / Hardcover / Published 1999
Our Price: $15.00 ~ You Save: $10.00 (40%)

Webonomics : Nine Essential Principles for Growing Your Business on the World Wide Web

Evan I. Schwartz / Paperback / Published 1998
Our Price: $11.20 ~ You Save: $2.80 (20%)



Collaborative development

Joint Application Development

by Jane Wood, Denise Silver (Contributor)
Paperback - 402 pages 2nd edition (February 1995)
John Wiley & Sons; ISBN: 0471042994 ; Dimensions (in inches): 0.76 x 9.20 x 7.50
Amazon.com Sales Rank: 20,585
Avg. Customer Review:
Number of Reviews: 3

table of contents

 

Propaganda

Free as in Freedom: Richard Stallman's Crusade for Free Software Books

by Sam Williams   

Overrated Book, Underrated Genius, January 10, 2003

Reviewer: "juc3rd" (Sierra Madre, CA) - See all my reviews
Short story: this book deserves 2.5 stars at best. For the longer version, read on.

First the good news. Williams takes some pains to understand and accurately portray RMS, which, from all indications, is no easy task. FAIF, in taking this measured look, does supply some perspective to this at times under-appreciated contributor to the "new" computer revolution.

I also appreciated the eclectic trajectories of the author. First, Williams publishes FAIF under the Gnu Free Document License (GFDL), thereby making it a "free book". Although a completely natural step considering the subject matter, publishing the book as such is an important extension of the general principle that certain ideas should be freely accessible and modifiable. Second, he borrows from a range of excellent sources, even going so far as to reference "The Autobiography of Malcolm X" in the Epilogue!

Furthermore, the abridged history of the roots of hackerdom is particularly well done, if somewhat thickly worded. Attention was also clearly paid to chapter length, making that aspect of the book "readable" and pleasant.

Now for the not-so-good news. The writing style is far from fluid: I didn't feel as though I was lead through the events in the book so much as I was thrown into them. To make matters worse, some events were irrelevant (I still can't figure out why the treatment of RMS's mother's politics were given so much attention), others over-quoted (I can read Levy's "Hackers" myself), while still others were just plain inaccurate.

The last of these transgressions is certainly the most serious, and merits some detail. As one example, on page 143 Williams describes the Linux kernel as "a bored-out, super-charged version of Minix." He continues, "Rather than building their operating system from scratch, Torvalds and his rapidly expanding Linux development team had followed the old Picasso adage, 'good artists borrow, great artists steal'", alluding to his apparent belief that Linux is some sort of clever rehash of something that came before it.

These inaccuracies are not merely an excusable smudging of the facts. In "Just For Fun" (a source to which Williams points frequently enough), Torvalds dedicates *an entire chapter* (Chapter X) to debunking the mythical connections between Minix and Linux (no boring-out, no super-charging). Torvalds also evinces on pp. 77-8 in JFF (paperback edition), the processes involved in writing the operating system. "My terminal emulator grew legs", he says; later "I wrote a disk driver", and finally "I made my filesystem compatible with the Minix system". None of these actions so much as hints at borrowing, not to mention stealing, anything. In fact, at this point *all* of the work appears to be that of Torvalds, and *is* from scratch. (Of course, code reuse isn't a sin anyway, but rather should be-and frequently is-a blessing, as I'm sure RMS himself would readily admit. Regardless, the pejorative tone and inaccurate reporting is no less obnoxious for being subtle.)

Other examples of spin doctoring and untruths can also be found in uncomfortable abundance. Much of the combative posturing vis-à-vis the GNU/Linux and Open Source communities-particularly in relation to the personages of Torvalds and ESR, I found wholly unproductive. These egregious gestures on the part of Williams show a blatant bias to RMS, as either shunned hero or undeserved victim. Elements of both of these are likely true, but not likely to the degree expressed by Williams (or felt by RMS??). In any event, the lack of perspective by the author for his subject is journalistically weak.

And finally, Williams manages to hit a couple of lesser pet peeves of mine. Neither proofreading nor fact checking is my idea of pleasantly interacting with a book. Not only could FAIF have stood another reading before going to press, a spellchecker could have caught a number of obvious spelling errors. To those who would suggest that the GFDL is employed precisely to improve the book, I would suggest that the license should not be used as a shield to ward off criticism of sloppy work.

Anyway, if you want something concise, this will do. Fwiw, I'd advise checking out the site of the book online first, paying attention to the sources that sound interesting, and *reading those first*. Then go to gnu.org or slashdot.org and read items of interest about RMS there. If you still aren't satisfied, you can always go back to faifzilla and read FAIF online (it's more up to date anyway). If after that you STILL want the pen-and-ink version, you know where it's available.

Just for Fun The Story of an Accidental Revolutionary

by Linus Torvalds, David Diamond
Our Price: $20.80

Hardcover - 288 pages (May 8, 2001)
Harperbusiness; ISBN: 0066620724

Too glossy a picture. Eric Raymond probably exclaimed "Who stole my cheese?"  when he saw the title ;-)

 A very disappointing book, July 8, 2001
  Reviewer: jlam@iunknown.com from Toronto, Ontario Canada

I really wanted to hear Linus' story, in his own words. Unfortunately, this book showed very little organization aside from chronological; there was no underlying *story* there. Just a bunch of disjointed facts presented in chronological order. The personal anecdotes, while interesting, shed very little insight about Linux. I was hoping to get some real insight into Linus the person and how he is reflected in Linux the operating system. To this end, the book failed to deliver.

However, I was interested enough in his story to slog through the awful writing in this book. Large sections of text (pages on end) are presented in italics, which make it extremely difficult to read. I don't blame Linus for this abomination of a book: that blame clearly lies with David Diamond since that was *his job*.

For folks who really want to read a good book about Linus the person and Linux the operating system, make sure that you read Rebel Code by Glyn Moody. That is a well-written book and thoroughly researched book that places Linux within the context of the open-source movement.

 

***+ The Cathedral and the Bazaar: Musings on Linux and Open Source by an Accidental Revolutionary (O'Reilly Linux) The books contains several papers each of them is available electronically.

Eric S. Raymond / Hardcover / Published 1999
Our Price: $11.97 ~ You Save: $7.98 (40%)
Average Customer Review: *****

Sloppy typesetting. After first paper is very boring. A lot of self-serving hype about Linux and open source movement. The book is a good primer for the latecomers who want to join the hype and the circus. Uneven quality of papers included. Actually the book is pretty expensive if you thing that it contains only one really important paper. But the first paper has historic value even if the content is, as one Amazon reviewer put it, "pseudo-science horse manure."

 

See my review of the principal part of the book in The Second Look on the Cathedral and Bazaar(Open Source Software Development as a Special Type of Academic Research. Part 2). Generally other books on software engineering would be a better reading. Reading Brooks book before than is a must.

 

 Pretentious and Shallow, February 12, 2001
Reviewer: Adrian Cybriwsky from New Haven, CT USA
Raymond's standard talk begins with references to himself as an ordinary but experienced IT guy of sorts who, without any sort of formal training in sociology, psychology, marketing, business, or the like, has become the chronicler of the "gnu generation" (not his quote, just a common one) and predictor of open source things to be. Then, he drones on for an hour or two about sociology, psychology, marketing, business, and the like. I've seen him give this talk in front of academics. Thankfully, he has little shame, or he'd have dropped dead long ago from the subtle looks and snickers that inevitably result from his bombast.

My point here is not to bash the earnest-but-misguided ESR. It's rather to warn you, the lay reader--this guy may have attained some sort of status in the open source community which needs such figures, but it doesn't mean that what he has to say is any good or even true. In his works (including "Cathedral"), Eric makes a very one-sided analysis of software engineering methodologies. It's a complete ra-ra piece which fails to seriously address the very many shortcomings of open-source development, including, most critically, the inability to scale timewise as well as commercial software (while not under the GNU licence, two years ago Raymond was predicting the success of the open-source Mozilla browser initiative, which is at this point a complete fiasco). Instead, he talks about obscure supporting sociological constructs such as that of "gift cultures" that would only convince the already converted. The whole "cracker/hacker" distinction is (and I say this as a 14 year IT professional, and linux user / kernel hacker and administrator since 1995) jargony and ultimately unimportant compared to the larger issues:

What people should be getting out of this book (or a book like this) is a balanced, informed view of open source vs commercial software, undertaken with sound research on various cost/effectiveness metrics and some case studies. What we have here is a bible for a community that desperately needs one, because, as Eric's whole thrust implies, it is largely ego driven. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

 

 Boring & Self-serving, May 25, 2000
Reviewer: georgina economou (see more about me) from Lords Valley, PA
I don't understand the hype about this book. One is it boring; I mean there is no way this book deserves 200 pages. Two Raymond calls Linux a success but nevers gives a unit of measurement: compared to what? Why? One gets tired of his showing off his little program as a prototype of why Open is great; I use it it is useful but not really a comparison to LINUX. I'd recommend DiBona's OpenSources, interviews with the real players if you want to understand the Open Source movement and why it's important.


 Bazaar...is "bizaar" : worth skimming, but not by much, April 14, 2000
Reviewer: Paul R. Nash (see more about me) from Seattle, WA

Other reviewers have pointed out that this is more analysis and less manifesto, but that doesn't make it great.

At best, this book is a useful introduction to open source community dynamics. At worst, it's a bunch of well-typeset pseudo-science horse manure.

Raymond does a decent job of putting together logically cohesive arguments in favor of his point, but he's so obviously and inextricably biased, that it's hard to accept these arguments with any of the scientfic merit that he seems to believe they deserve. I mean, come on, an anthropological and psychological analysis of why projects don't fork often? Really, it's a bit out there.

The book is a frozen-in-print form of Raymond's evolving online essays on Open Source. I bet you could get them for free on the web, and at that price, they'd be worth reading for sure.

The theories presented here are somewhat intriguing, but should not be taken as the gospel, despite the religious invocation of the word "cathedral." Change Bazaar to bizaar and the title becomes more accurate.

 Nothing new..., March 15, 2000
Reviewer: A reader from L.A., California
Well, I agree pretty much with the only negative review I saw here...Linux and FreeBSD have been around for a while now, they're only recently getting popular and moving in the mainstream and everybody is jumping on the bandwagon. Microsoft bashing isn't new either, but somehow it's become the cool thing to do. Some of the essays are well written but as with the other reviewer I don't see why the author is as popular as he is in the community. The book is a good primer for the latecomers who want to join the hype and the circus.

 Open source is a joke..., March 7, 2000
Reviewer: A reader from Seattle, Washington
I don't see how or why this author is so big in the Open Source community. This collection of his opinions is uneducated and insufferable. Why should we take for gospel what he writes? The book's essays have no sense of cohesion (what's with the essay on how to be a hacker? If I were a programmer, I'd care, but I'm not so why is it in here?). His first few essays summarize the book: Hacker: Heroes of the Computer Revolution by Steven Levy. Was hugely disappointed that O'Reilly saw fit to publish this.

*** Under the Radar: How Red Hat Changed the Software Business and Took Microsoft By Surprise

Robert Young, Wendy Goldman Rohm / Hardcover / Published 1999
Our Price: $19.25 ~ You Save: $8.25 (30%)
Average Customer Review:

 Good story, bad writing

Reviewer: Rick Giovannelli from Charlotte, NC      January 3, 2000

A fascinating story that succeeds somehow despite the terrible writing. It as if the authors simply assembled at random the chapters and, in many cases, whole paragraphs within any given chapter. There is no discernable flow or organization to the tale -- chronological or otherwise -- and it is difficult to follow the events being described. As acknowledged in one of the introductions, it appears that the book was all too hastily thrown together in the face of a looming deadline. Still, the story is worth reading for software engineers, entrepreneurs and others involved in the VC industry.

 

Related reading

Selected Quotations for the Ideological Skeptic: A Compendium of Epigrams, Aphorisms, Observations & Commentary on Ideologues, True Believers, Fanatic
by Laird M. Wilcox (Paperback - September 1987)

Knowledge and Decisions

by Thomas Sowell

Our Price: $22.00

Paperback - 448 pages Reprint edition (October 1996)
Basic Books (Short Disc); ISBN: 0465037380 ; Dimensions (in inches): 1.21 x 9.21 x 6.10
Amazon.com Sales Rank: 62,321
Avg. Customer Review:
Number of Reviews: 12

 Simply a Masterpiece -- and Easy to Read, Too!, December 12, 1999
Reviewer: Gary North (see more about me) from Fayetteville, Arkansas
Sowell, an economist by training, assumes the economist's standard definition of a scarce resource: "At zero price, there is greater demand than supply." Nothing special here. Then he applies this axiomatic principle to knowledge and decisions based on knowledge. The fun begins. Page after page, he uses this intellectual insight to shoot sacred cows. I have never read any book that offers a greater number of fascinating insights, page for page, based on a seemingly noncontroversial axiom. Modern social policy and far too much of modern social theory are based on this premise: "Accurate knowledge is, or at least should be, a free good. When it is not, the civil government should coerce people to provide it." It is a false premise, and it produces costly errors -- another implication of his premise that accurate knowledge is not a free resource. Buy this book. Read it. Twice. Maybe more. (As an author, I will say this: Sowell makes brilliant writing look too easy and the rest of us look too lazy.)

The Innovator's Dilemma

Clayton M. Christensen / Hardcover / Published 1997
Our Price: $19.25 ~ You Save: $8.25 (30%)
Average Customer Review:
This is Harvard professor book and as such is pretty suspicious. So be skeptical. See  Linux.com review. The approach looks like technodarvinism to me and as such is not new. Here are several Amazon.com readers comments:

An insightful look at business history, economics & biology
Christensen looks at the business trajectories of the disk drive and steel industries from a biological perspective and discovers a kind of universal punctuated equilibrium he calls "disruptive technological change." He convincingly demonstrates how great companies that do everything "right" will stumble if they don't recognize and address the forces of disruptive technological change. While his thesis (that the best business practices will lead to failure) is initially counter-intuitive, Christensen provides a simple frame for explaining how the forces of innovation fundamentally direct the course of industry success and failure.

A distortion of the real world to fit a simple theory
Christensen has re-observed that mature companies have difficultly dealing with the low end of their market. Because of my personal experience my comments are limited to his analysis of the disk drive industry. He force fits his observations to his theory; in my opinion his observations have little connection with the industry's real history. In one sense his theory fails the Occam razor test; a much simpler theory is raised in "Capital Market Myopia," a Harvard Business School paper which notes that in the 80's the Capital market funded too many companies - 80 or so companies all of whom expected 20% market share. Each plan by itself made sense and was fundable, but the totality was doomed to massive failure. I can't comment on his other examples, but if his rigor is consistent, then I suspect his history is equally flawed. In the end, what is so novel about the observation that large companies have difficultly dealing with the low end of their market - that's the automobile story in compacts; IBM's story in minicomputers, etc.? Save your money!
 

More or less realistic

*** Open Sources: Voices from the Open Source Revolution (O'Reilly Open Source)

Chris Dibona(Editor), et al / Paperback / Published 1999
Our Price: $14.97 ~ You Save: $9.98 (40%)
Average Customer Review:
Reviewer: Anthony Michael Tregre      November 3, 1999

To begin this book in style, you will want to skip straight ahead to Richard Stallman's chapter, then read the rest at your leisure (or else you won't know anything about the truth behind all of this). Most of the people who wrote this book (not to mention those who read it) are in serious need of a clue-by-four.

To begin, ``open source'' is just a buzzword created by ESR and others to seduce Big Business. The proper term is ``free software''. The Free Software Movement has been in effect for more than a decade. Also, Linus Torvalds is not the magical inventor of an OS that everyone makes him out to be. Linus wrote the first versions of a kernel (Linux) which was later placed into an operating system (GNU) in order to make it fully operational. GNU began loooong before Linux did (the GNU Project and the Free Software Foundation were begun by Richard Stallman, and thus was born the Free Software Movement), and AFAIK, very little of the code in Linux was written by Linus at this point, relatively speaking.

Thus, the extremely poor rating is due to the intense misinformation spread by the various authors and, indeed, the editors. Those that are already in the know about free software likely won't need this book, though it may prove interesting. For the intended audience, however, this book is a complete and total lose.


Unix history

** A Quarter Century of Unix

overpriced chronology. most material is avaible for free on Internet ($30 looks like overkill for a pretty thin little book)

Casting the Net - From Arpanet to Internet and Beyond (Unix and Open Systems Series)

Microsoft

**** Trust on Trial How the Microsoft Case is Reframing the Rules of Competition

by Richard B. McKenzie

Hardcover - 288 pages (April 4, 2000)
Perseus Pr; ISBN: 0738203319 ; Dimensions (in inches): 1.06 x 9.53 x 6.37
Amazon.com Sales Rank: 41,795
Avg. Customer Rating:
Number of Reviews: 10
table of contents

 powerful insights on every page, June 19, 2000
Reviewer: A reader from dallas
The technological revolution should be causing a fundamental reevaluation of the government's role in the economy. Whether that reevaluation takes place, or government policy stays rooted in 19th-century understanding will be determined for some time to come by the Justice Department's case against Microsoft. For a accessible and lively account of the issues involved and what is at stake, I can think of no better book than Trust on Trial by Richard McKenzie. Is Microsoft a monopolist? The Justice Department says yes based on considerations that were thought relevant when the Sherman Antitrust statute become law in 1890. McKenzie makes a compelling case that these considerations no longer provide useful guidance to antitrust policy. Microsoft may have a dominant market share, but it certainly is not acting like a monopolist. Monopolists are suppose to restrict output and raise price, but Microsoft has done exactly the opposite. McKenzie explains how the network and "lock-in" effects that the justice department argues Microsoft are using to exploit consumers have rendered traditional notions of monopoly obsolete. Instead of these effects allowing Microsoft to exploit consumers, they explain why competition in the software industry, and other technology industries is more intense than ever and why this competition, which is enormously beneficial to consumers, leads to firms that temporarily dominate their industry. And the only hope these firms have for prolonging this dominance is by not behaving like a monopolist. In addition to providing powerful economic insights, McKenzie also points to the real motivation driving the Microsoft case, and it has nothing to do with protecting the consumer. The justication for antitrust action is to protect the consumer by protecting competition. Unfortunately, in reality the motivation has more often than not that of protecting competitors who find they can do better by influencing politicians than by satisfying consumers. This certainly seems to be true in the Microsoft case, and McKenzie pulls no punches when laying out the evidence. It should be emphasized that this book is not a puff piece for Microsoft. McKenzie has no financial or emotional stake in Microsoft's successes of failures, and he points to the blemishes and warts on Microsoft's behavior. McKenzie's motivation seems to be nothing more than a desire that sound economic analysis be used to determine what is best for the consumer--something that should be the dominant motivation of the Justice Department, but which obviously isn't. A great book. Enjoyable and informative.

Old classic

***+    The New Hacker's Dictionary ~ Usually ships in 24 hours

Eric S. Raymond(Compiler) / Paperback / Published 1996
Our Price: $18.36 ~ You Save: $4.59 (20%)
Actually old e-text variants(Jargon File) are much better than the book. See Classic for more information

***+ Hackers; Heroes of the Computer Revolution ~ Usually ships in 2-3 days

Steven Levy / Paperback, second edition (first 1984) / Published 1994
Amazon Price: $12.95

Academic community

Will Teach for Food - Academic Labor in Crisis (Cultural Politics, Vol 12)

by Cary Nelson (Editor), Barbara Ehrenreich (Paperback - April 1997)

 Lux et veritas revisited, September 18, 1997
Reviewer: dan.heaton@yale.edu from New Haven CT

A certain elite university boasts (literally) an endowment of $5.7 billion (yes, billion with a B)--or did as of Tuesday, 16 September; you should add a million or two per day to get the approximate sum on the day you read this. On that same date the university announced that it will embark on a $1 billion (with a B) program to renovate the buildings on its campus. Yet just eighteen months ago, this same anonymous university--by far the biggest employer in one of the most economically depressed cities in the nation--engaged in a no-holds-barred campaign to break the two unions that represent its nonacademic labor force. And just before that, the university crushed the latest effort by the graduate students' union, which was seeking, before anything else, simply to get the university to admit the self-evident truth that teaching assistants are employees and that, as such, they have the right to bargain collectively.

This institution fosters an extreme but not atypical example of the condition described in this book's subtitle. The academic labor force in the United States, from the celebrated professor to the undervalued custodian, faces an unprecedented crisis, a crisis deftly delineated in the seventeen essays of this book, roughly half of which focus on the labor struggles at the above-unnamed (but named in the book) elite university. That struggle brought support from labor's allies nationwide, but in the end it did little to change the workers' status from what frighteningly parallels--as Stephen Watt puts it in the book's most poignant metaphor--that of miners trapped in a "company town," where the perverted law of supply and demand means that the company supplies the work, so the company can demand whatever conditions are to its liking.

The book does not pretend to bipartisanship, and at times polemic detracts from persuasiveness. But the best of the essays--like Watt's, Kathy Newman's, and particularly Michael Bérubé's--back up their rousing calls to collective action with coolly logical evidence and solidly ordered argument. This is an important book for anyone who is concerned with the state of labor and/or higher education; these days, who can afford not to be?

The Decline of the German Mandarins The German Academic Community, 1890-1933

Fritz Ringer

Paperback Published 1991

The University : A Regional Booster? Economic Impacts of Academic Knowledge Infrastructure

Raymond Florax / Hardcover / Published 1992
Our Price: $68.95 (Special Order)

Impact of Electronic Publishing on the Academic Community
by Ian Butterworth

The Academic Crisis of the Community College (Literacy, Culture and Learning Theory and Practice)

 good book, but needs more historical context., June 11, 1998
Reviewer: jbbole0@pop.uky.edu (see more about me) from Lexington Kentucky
Mcgrath and Spear do a decent job of summarizing what they feel are the problems of the community college. Although they argue their point in a concise manner and do an excellent jo at it, they sometimes seem to expect you to take them at their word. The problems they cite are very real. People who study community colleges will have little trouble seeing their points, it would still be refreshing to place the problems in community colleges in some sort of historical context. I would advise, however, that anyone who studies community colleges or works in one have this volume in their personal library. 

The Academic Profession The Professoriate in Crisis (Contemporary Higher Education, 1)

Inside academia - new challenges for the academic profession



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