Now that I’ve discussed several books about the history of both Apple and Microsoft, it’s time to take a look at the history of GNU/Linux. I like Linux, it’s my favorite non-desktop OS (although, the desktop experience is getting better). I’ve spent the past couple of years building and maintaining GNU/Linux servers and software that runs on GNU/Linux. Learn how to use it and you won’t regret it.
The Linux kernel was build by Linus Torvalds and he still maintains it to this day. Building a kernel is not something you finish in a day or two, in this book Linus himself explains the entire process. The book is quite broad and covers much more than just the Linux kernel, it talks about his passion for technology, how he met his wive (Tove), Linux and how he found his way to America. Linus has a great sense of humor, which makes this book a lot of fun.
In my mind this book is the definitive history of Linux, written by the man who build it. If you are an engineer, system administrator or developer: Read this book.
This book is not about GNU/Linux but Minix, an open source operating system build by Andrew Tanenbaum (a fellow countryman). Tanenbaum build Minix and is convinced that microkernels (Minix) are better than monolithic (Linux) kernels. This created a lot of tension between him and Linus, even though Linus was greatly influenced by this book. The tension is mostly gone now, but it makes for fun reading.
If you want to understand Linux you need to understand why it was necessary and what it’s based on. Do yourself a favor and find the first edition, it’s almost a historical document at this point. I learned so much from this book because it takes you back to the basics. Before you can understand modern operating systems you need to learn about the basics of filesystems, input/output and memory management. This book will teach you all that, including the why and how.
You might have noticed the GNU part before the Linux name, that’s because of Richard Stallmans GNU project and it’s contribution to the Linux project. GNU supplies a lot of tools, including the GCC compiler, that make up modern Linux distributions. These tools, combined with the Linux kernel, create a complete operating system. Within the GNU/Linux world there’s endless debate going on between practical open source users and the more militant free software users. It’s all quite complicated and to understand all this drama I suggest you read Richard’s book. It’s very biased and Richard is fairly extreme, but hey, the man deserves a lot of credit. It also provides you with a great historical perspective on how Linux came to be and what the mindset was of the people who started it all. Great book, even if you disagree with the man.