The Rebel Code: The Inside Story of Linux and the Open Source Revolution

The Rebel Code: The Inside Story of Linux and the Open Source Revolution

The Rebel Code: The Inside Story of Linux and the Open Source Revolution

The Rebel Code: The Inside Story of Linux and the Open Source Revolution


"Open source" began as the mantra of a small group of idealistic hackers and has blossomed into the all-important slogan for progressive business and computing. This fast-moving narrative starts at ground zero, with the dramatic incubation of open-source software by Linux and its enigmatic creator, Linus Torvalds. With firsthand accounts, it describes how a motley group of programmers managed to shake up the computing universe and cause a radical shift in thinking for the post-Microsoft era. A powerful and engaging tale of innovation versus big business, Rebel Code chronicles the race to create and perfect open-source software, and provides the ideal perch from which to explore the changes that cyberculture has engendered in our society. Based on over fifty interviews with open-source protagonists such as Torvalds and open source guru Richard Stallman, Rebel Code captures the voice and the drama behind one of the most significant business trends in recent memory.


Outside, a lowering Seattle sky broods over the clumps of squat white buildings scattered around an extensive campus in constant expansion. Neat lawns, assiduously tended flowerbeds, and the tidy ornamental ponds create a mood of cloistered reflection and tranquillity.

Inside, a similar calm reigns in the cubicles where young men and women toil diligently. the silence is broken only by bursts of clattering keys; hardly a word is exchanged, as if a stern vow were in force. and yet despite a conducive environment and comforting faith, there is unease among the cubicles' inhabitants, a rising tide of something close to fear. They know that a terrible ghost is abroad in the cloisters of Microsoft.

The ghost has a name: open source. Its characteristics have been meticulously detailed by two of the company's expert ghost-watchers in a pair of lengthy memos. Though marked "Microsoft confidential," they surfaced outside the company and were published on the Web, suitably enough during Halloween 1998. Forced to concede that the memos did indeed originate from within the company, Microsoft dismissed them as the private speculations of a couple of engineers.

As he read the memos describing this crazy phenomenon, Bill Gates must have shuddered in recognition; it was as if a spirit from the past had tapped him on the shoulder. Gates had sought to exorcise the ghost of free software over twenty years before.

In 1976, Gates had published what he called—with what would prove deep irony—an Open Letter to Hobbyists, addressed to users of the first personal computer, the mits Altair. Gates and Paul Allen, the other founder of Microsoft, had written a version of the Basic (Beginner's AllPurpose Symbolic Instruction Code) language that would run on this . . .

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