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Rebel Code: Linux and the Open Source Revolution

3.94  ·  Rating details ·  507 ratings  ·  40 reviews
"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 ...more
Paperback, 344 pages
Published July 11th 2002 by Basic Books (first published December 31st 2000)
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Jan 20, 2010 added it
I can't give this a star rating. It began excellently, and ended in irrelevant trivia, and farce.

I read this book very much from a personal historical perspective, since I lived the history it recounts and know many of the people in it, either personally or by reputation. (I also happened to be frequently corresponding with one of the people most quoted in it, for unrelated reasons, as I read it.)

So, really I enjoyed the first 100 or so pages of the book, which covered years before I got very in
Jul 20, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: hospital, non-fiction
Reading this made me wish I'd learned to code. I found this book on a rubbish pile on the way to the station one day and thought it might be interesting to learn more about the way Linux developed. It covers a lot about the model Linux uses to grow and touches on the open software movement as well, and the challenges it offers to big business. However, by the end of the book, it feels like it has run out of steam - the last few chapters seem a little disconnected with the narrative of the book a ...more
Premal Vora
Sep 09, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Excellent description of the beginnings of the open-source revolution in software. Describes the beginning of Linux, where the BSDs came from, who Richard Stallman is and why he thinks the way he does. Gave me a bird-eye view of the open-source landscape while at the same time it zoomed into some of the interesting areas. Very lively and unbiased. I loved this book. I'm writing more apps in open-source languages and using FreeBSD and Linux whenever possible. ...more
Doran Barton
May 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I purchased Rebel Code: Linux And The Open Source Revolution because I was giving a presentation at a local technical conference on the history of open source software. I chose to present this topic because I realized many up-and-coming technical workers and enthusiasts either weren't alive when many milestone events occurred or weren't cognizant of them or their significance.

This book far exceeded my expectations. I was an early adopter of Linux and open source software in the early 1990s, so
Andrew Updegrove
Mar 02, 2014 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Those interested in the history of technology
Recommended to Andrew by: I discovered it on my own
When you live through history, it's easy to assume that someone else will take the time to record, analyze and present what happened so that there is a reliable account available for the future. That's sure to happen when you're speaking of affairs of state, but it becomes less so as you move out through the concentric rings of existence from the diplomatic bullseye.

The emergence of the open source business model and community ethos (related but not at all the same thing) has already had a profo
Amar Pai
Nov 29, 2010 rated it it was ok
Eh. It started off kinda interesting (who isn't inspired by the story of Linux?) but I got bored. Half the book is history of linux distros, and I don't really care about the arcane details of Mandrake vs Red Hat or whatever. The chapters on Mozilla and emacs are by-the-numbers, and I was disappointed by the book's superficial take on open source philosophy & issues. Also, since it came out in 2001, it feels frustratingly dated. e.g. the discussion of Apple's response to the "linux threat" is re ...more
Magda Głażewska
Dec 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Truly inspiring. I had no idea about programming before reading this (still haven't) but, interestingly, lots of unfamiliar terminology didn't make it difficult to understand. The story behing development of Linux and the open-source revolution is absolutely captivating and bound to make you want to learn how to code (or at least try and install Linux on your PC). ...more
Apr 30, 2011 marked it as to-read
Includes disc of origin of copyleft system with gnu general public license.
Muhammad Moneib
Nov 19, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: social, biography, tech
An Extensive History of Freedom Fighting in Cyberspace

The fight for freedom is one of the most discussed subjects in arts and literature. The glorification of the deeds of freedom fighters and the refinement of their personalities to fit in the heroic molds manufactured through public perception is not something strange to historians, as well as to artists and writers. Most of what we know about our historic heroes is sufficient to give them god-like traits and gain them a cult following, guaran
Mar 09, 2020 rated it liked it
Open-source software (OSS) is the most impactful, technological concept (not invention) ever conceived. With hundreds of people collaborating on a single, multi-faceted project, an astronomical amount of progress is able to be achieved. And yet, often this is done for free, without expectation of riches or fame to follow. The question that follows is obvious: Why? Why would people spend time outside of their paid job to code for little to no recognition nor money? Well, why do people volunteer i ...more
Aug 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
_Rebel Code_ satisfies on several levels. It is, most fundamentally, the history of a cultural movement, free software/open source. It is also an explication of the philosophy behind that movement, teasing out the differences between the free software movement and open source, where they differ and where they overlap, and letting the spokespeople speak for this movement with their own words. As history, it blends several techniques: oral history as well as history of technology, discussing specs ...more
Peter Smith
Sep 24, 2018 rated it it was ok
It feels a little unfair to review a book like this so long after it was written, given that I know what has happened in the years since. That said, it feels really dated today. The first half is a fun recap of how Linux and the open-source movement came into being, but as others have noted, the second half is much less interesting. It's more breathless enthusiasm for various companies that embraced, or were built on, open source, coupled with the author taking every opportunity to knock Microso ...more
Aug 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
An extensive look into the history of Linux from the creation of unix all the way to its early adaptations and its penetration into the public sphere in the late '90s and the events of Linux in 2001. The book isn't perfect, its prose tends to be repetitive and devolve into a documentarian style book, and definitely is a little skewed towards Linux, which is somewhat understansable considering the Linux excitement in the early '00s. ...more
Rob Warner
Feb 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book was written during the dotcom bubble, with an Afterword after the bubble burst. So it gets the history right, and misses on some predictions. Most notably, it didn't foresee a world in which desktops fade in relevance, replaced by smartphones. BUT, it correctly predicts that Linux would continue to grow -- both on the server side, and in the form of Android. For me, it was a walk down memory lane. Good stuff. ...more
Jan 12, 2019 rated it liked it
I feel like a lot of research must have gone into this book and it is quite interesting for the first half or first two thirds or so. After that, it got a little boring for me personally (covering a bunch of companies and their doings in the late 90s/early 2000s). Would be interested in reading an update to this that covers major events since then in a similar writing style.
Dec 01, 2018 rated it liked it
I loved the first half of this book, really well written and interesting. But the last half of this book was hard to get through, almost to the point of boring. But since the first half was so good, I recommend it either way.
Simone Scardapane
Very good history of the origin of open source software; the second half focuses too much on current (at the time) events (2000), and as such it feels quite outdated today. Still worth a good read for anyone interested in the history.
Sep 22, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an important read for open source software maintainers, since there is a lot of history (and therefore lessons to be learned). It doesn't have a terribly cohesive voice, but I think that's to be expected. ...more
Aug 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
Sometimes a bit hard to get through.
But totally worth it.
Apr 14, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed
A pretty good history of the open source software movement although focus is on the 90's. The book is outdated by now and has some stuff that is a bit funny with the aid of hindsight. Companies long dead are lauded and technologies that never quite got off are the next big thing. Neverthless, I learned quite a few new things even though I have been following OSS movement and Linux from their infancy (just as a sidenote, OSS was coined in the late 90's, before that it was called Free Software).

Jun 30, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Linus Torvalds has always been a bit of a polarizing character, for those in the open source community. Some, like myself, are fans and think that he is not only a brilliant software engineer and enigmatic leader, but also a great storyteller and creative mind. Others think he is a buffoon with too much control over the open source movement, much too opinionated and stubborn to be a leader, and to top it off, not a great coder either.

This book delves into his life from childhood to modern day (
Feb 24, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: computers
Great read about the beginnings of Linux and other open source projects. The first few chapters on Linux specifically were fascinating, and very encouraging to see how just a few people can start a project so large.

The middle and end of the book dragged on a bit long. Unfortunately, the book becomes difficult to follow after the first few chapters, as many new projects and individuals are introduced. The segues are brief and forced, and often connect topics with no relation at all leaving the re
S.M. Johnson
Apr 12, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
I'm torn on how to rate this book. On the one hand, it was a very comprehensive and well-written read about the origins of many popular open source projects such as Linux, Mozilla, GIMP, GNU, and so forth. On the other hand I feel that it was possibly too comprehensive - the book is very long, and unless you are already acquainted with Linux and open source I feel that there aren't many people out there who will be interested in all the nitty gritty details of, say, gtk or X Window System.

That s
Mark Osborne
May 06, 2012 rated it really liked it
It really needs an update given it was written in 2001, but this is really the definitive story of Linus Torvalds and the kernel that set the free software up for the dominance it currently enjoys. It's thorough: I learnt more about coding than I thought possible, and his Moody recounts, almost line by line, significant newsgroup posts from Torvalds and his key collaborators, but if you're at all interested in free software or linux, this is good read. ...more
Dec 29, 2012 rated it really liked it
Very nice. I had been putting it off for a while but its very instructive of the early years of the open source movement. I'd love to put my hands on an up-to-date version - this second edition was published in 2002 and it seemed like Linux would "take over" - though 10 years later Mac OSX has taken a party, but MS remains king in the OS world...
Jeffrey Hendricks
Apr 04, 2012 rated it liked it
Not too bad of a read, though it is mostly historical. The few personal stories it shares are few and far between. As others have noted, the latter half of the book isn't nearly as interesting as the first half. ...more
Apr 17, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
A must read for anyone who is curious about Hacker Culture. Although it is pretty biased (I.E. The Big Bag Microsoft vs The Great and Good Linux), it does a good job explaining the origins of the FOSS and OSS movements. Even though it's pretty dated now, any technology enthusiast should read it. ...more
Dec 06, 2008 rated it it was ok
Ok I didn't totally read it. I couldn't get into it. But I got the movie that was based on this and really liked that. ...more
Vinod Kurup
Mar 13, 2011 marked it as to-read
Recommended by @cgoldberg
Karthikeyan Ramaswamy
Reading about the history of open source is really good but i feel like the book is outdated. May be Rebel code 2.0 is needed?
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