This project marks the culmination of a multiyear, multicity endeavor that commenced in earnest during graduate school, found its first stable expression in a dissertation, and has, over a decade later, fully realized itself with this book. During this long period, over the various stages of this project, many people have left their mark in so many countless ways. Their support, interventions, comments, and presence have not only improved the quality of this work but also simply made it possible. This book could not have been written without all of you, and for that I am deeply grateful.
In 1996, at the time of my first exposure to Linux, I was unable to glean its significance. I could not comprehend why a friend was so enthused to have received a CD in the mail equipped with Slackware, a Linux distribution. To be frank, my friend’s excitement about software was not only incomprehensible; it also was puzzling. Thankfully about a year later, this person clued me in as to what makes this world extraordinary, doing so initially via my interest at the time: intellectual property law. If it were not for Patrick Crosby, who literally sat me down one day in 1997 to describe the existence of a novel licensing agreement, the GNU General Public License (GPL), I would have likely never embarked on the study of free software and eventually hackers. I am thrilled he decided that something dear to him would be of interest to me. And it was. I was floored to discover working alternatives to existing intellectual property instruments. After months of spending hour after hour online, week after week, reading about the flurry of exciting developments reported on Linux Weekly News, Kuro5hin, and Slashdot, it became clear to me that much more than the law was compelling about this world, and that I should turn this distractingly fascinating hobby into my dissertation topic or run the risk of never finishing graduate school. Now I not only know why Patrick was happy to have received the Slackware CD back in 1996—and I found he was not alone, because many people have told me about the joy of discovering Slackware—but also hope I can convey this passion for technology to others in the pages of this book.
Many moons ago in graduate school at the University of Chicago when I proposed switching projects, my advisers supported my heretical decision, although some warned me that I would have trouble landing a job in an