April 25, 2001, 7:22 PM —
My apologies to John Griffin, but after reading Linus Torvalds's autobiography Just for Fun: The Story of an Accidental Revolutionary, I feel that a better title for the book might be Dweeb Like Me. Not that being a dweeb, a geek, or a nerd is a prerequisite to enjoying it, but if you are dweeb, this book is for you. Coauthored by David Diamond, the 262-page story of the best loved geek in the world -- and the operating system he created -- will be available from HarperCollins publishers in May.
The book reads like it was written by two authors. It begins with an "edgy" feel, sort of like Wired magazine. The preface, for example, is simply a transcription of a conversation about the book that took place between Torvalds and Diamond while on a drive from San Francisco to Los Angeles. The conversation is punctuated with interjections by Torvalds's wife Tove and their children, Patricia and Daniela. An example:
David: What do you want to get across in this book?
Linus: Well, I want to explain the meaning of life.
Tove: Linus, did you remember to fill the gas tank?
Just as in the pages of Wired, the presentation used in the preface gets in the way of the story. But hey, I'm an old dweeb and prefer a clean, well-lighted approach to storytelling rather than the edgy "noise for noise' sake" style. The preface's saving grace is that it does indeed reveal Torvalds's meaning of life: to have fun.
And speaking of differences in style, Torvalds does some excellent writing as he describes the inner nature of Unix as opposed to the heart of "ugly" systems, like Windows. Unix, Torvalds posits, is built upon six basic system calls, and from those calls any manner of complexity may be achieved. The point is that once you understand the six functions, you understand Unix. As he puts it, "One of the beauties of Unix is realizing that you don't need to have complex interfaces to build up something complex."