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Thursday, 16. August 2007 - 22:20

“Just for fun” from Linus Torvalds

Dieser Beitrag ist auch in deutsch verfügbar (empfohlen).

It took some time, but now the first (read) biography is detectable in my bookcase. First I thought, that biographies can never reach the depth of novels. That might be true, but in this case “Just for fun – The story of an accidental revolutionary” proved me wrong.

Photo of the book


Linus memoirs are starting in his childhood and end somewhere around the millenium. Because of this time period this book can be titled as “A subjective history of computers” and you really learn some things about the past, you probably didn't know before, except when you lived as Geek in that time.
Beside Linus life the reader gets impressions of getting a personal computer in this early years, of programming of operating systems, of nostalgia of old hardware as well as the early internet in newsgroups and of finnisch saunas.

Especially the details one gets about the home of the kernel hacker are interesting. I liked the distinction between the paternal granddad and the maternal grandddad, for example: The finnish word for father is far, the father of the father is farfar. The same game is valid for the mothers. So the father of the mother is morfar and his wife is mormor. Reading educates, nuf said. (Smiley: smile)

Linus ist writing a lot about open source and the fight of the movement against the old-established business models. In this context I want to mention the part about the meeting with Steve Jobs and some comments about Willam Gates, whereas the statements about “the enemy” are usually fair.


There is just one little thing to criticise, the rest of the biography is good. It's not rousing, not “I can't stop to read”. But I think that's quite normal for books in this genre.

The triffle that I can criticise is about the technical aspects of the book. Linus writes, that he don't want to go to deep into the technology. He is doing it just in the first part of the book and even there he writes in a non geek compatible way, what I think is a pity, because in my opinion the target group of the book are mainly people who are interested in that technical stuff and in more details.

The book has the one or the other laugher and some surprises, too. So Linus always denies the image of the godly ascetic, who just needs his ones and zeros to live. Finally it just shows his humanity, because he is not the programming nerd, that is doing everything because of the programming. He wants to do some other things, and sometimes these things are expensive, so he was just taking the money that was offered to him, instead of saying It's open source, I don't take money for that.

The writing style is always in a very storytelling way. Some time their is some change, because of some interviewcious parts. Co-/Ghost-Writer David Diamond did a very good work on the whole book, especially on the interview parts.


This book is a good biography and can have in parts a very inspiring effect on the reader who lays the book aside and wants to programm right now. Furthermore that, the enthusiams of Linus for subjects like open source or especially programming are very apparent. And of course the human behind the biography has to be interesting and congenial and that's really the case.

The 264 pages (the german version) offer a lot of entertainment, fun and the one or the other theory you'll think about, I promise. Final rating: 3.5 of 5 points.

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