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Free For All: How Linux And The Free Software Movement Undercut The High-tech Titans
by Peter Wayner
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Can you get rich selling free software? It's a question that's got Wall Street excited, computer makers curious, and Bill Gates nervous. Peter Wayner's Free for All explores the history of open-source programming, its emerging threat to Microsoft, and its struggle to retain its ideals in the face of big money.
Like Eric Raymond's The Cathedral and the Bazaar, Free for All outlines the arguments for leaving software source code open and free for anyone to tinker with. But Wayner's account delves deeper into the politics of the movement, reading like a high-tech soap opera. Brash and colorful characters populate the pages: Richard Stallman, the quasi-communist coder who has done as much to inspire open source as he has to alienate big business; Linus Torvalds, the self-effacing grad student whose talent for organizing the work of others resulted in the bombproof operating system Linux; and libertarian techno-philosopher Eric Raymond, whose passion for free source code is matched only by his passion for the freedom to own guns. Each has a different vision of what it means to collaborate on software development, and their clashes over the "rules" of a largely unregulated process have created fault lines that run deep.
But what may ultimately prove more challenging than these differences, says Wayner, is the open-source movement's own success. As big names like IBM and Dell court the largely volunteer community, and companies like Red Hat produce stock-option millionaires, uncomfortable questions arise. "Getting people to join together for the group is easy to do when no one is getting rich," says Wayner. "What happens when more money starts pouring into some folks' pockets? Will people defect? Will they stop contributing?" Wayner leaves the question open, and only time will provide the answer. In the meantime, Free for All offers as thorough and engaging an account of the open-source movement--and the pitfalls in its path--as readers are likely to find anywhere. --Demian McLean
A revolution is sweeping the software world -- one that threatens to pull even the mighty Microsoft Corporation from its throne. Bill Gates and his company's rule over the software industry through their tight control of Microsoft Windows is facing their biggest challenge ever -- a new competitor that can't be bought, coopted, or manipulated with any of the traditional tools of corporate power. Its name:
Free for All is the story of a group of dedicated software hackers from around the world who, in their spare time, created an "open" operating system that rivals and in many ways surpasses Microsoft's.
Peter Wayner, a writer whose coverage of technology appears frequently in the New York Times and Salon magazine, tells a fascinating tale of how a simple idea creating and giving away an "open" operating system that people can change and customize -- sparked a grass-roots movement among programmers and revolutionized the software business.Free for All goes behind the scenes, telling us about the creators and users of Linux. Along the way you will meet the leaders of this revolution, including Richard Stallman, who founded the free software movement , Linus Torvalds, the coding genius and Stallman disciple, who became the master and coordinator of the evolving system (and named it after himself), and many others who aided and nurtured the growing free software movement. You'll learn how and why they gave their code away for free, threatening the Redmond, Washington, giant's hegemony and spawning a whole new industry of Linux-related companies and software.
You will also learn where the Linux movement is going and how it is likely to affect the high-tech industry and, ultimately, the computers you use at home and on the job. As fresh and exciting as today's headlines and tomorrow's IPOs, the story of Linux is just beginning. Here is Act I.
(HarperBusiness) A story of a group of software hackers from around the world who created an open operating system that rivals Microsoft's. Goes behind the scenes telling us about the creators and users of Linux. Discusses where the Linux movement is going and how it is likely to affect the the high-tech industry. DLC: Linux.
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