About the Book

Questions and Themes

This is a book that not only narrates what happened, but also explains why it happened — in other words, why free and open source software has evolved over the past several decades in the specific ways that it has.

For Fun and Profit adopts an historical perspective to shed light on the following questions and debates:

  • When were the first free and open source software programs created?
  • What is the history of the “hacker ethic,” where did it originate and what role have “hackers” played in the development of free and open source software?
  • What is the history of the Unix operating system? What role did Unix play in shaping the technical aspects as well as the philosophical dimensions of free and open source software projects?
  • What is the history of the GNU operating system and the Free Software Foundation? To what extent has GNU succeeded in its original goals, and why did it fall short of achieving some of them (like creating a working kernel)?
  • What are the differences between the GNU project and the Linux kernel project?
  • Why did the Linux kernel — which was birthed by a Finnish student whom no one had ever heard of — become so wildly successful? Why didn’t more prominent, better-funded FOSS projects — namely, GNU and BSD — enjoy more success than Linux?
  • What role have economic considerations played in the development of free and open source software code? How have FOSS programmers justified giving away for free software that could potentially be worth a lot of money?
  • How did FOSS projects interact with closed-source software platforms and companies, like Microsoft?
  • What role have women and minority programmers played in FOSS history? Why are women and minorities even more under-represented in FOSS communities than they are in the tech industry as a whole?
  • What does FOSS have to do with the free culture movement, projects like Wikipedia and Creative Commons and other initiatives that promote “openness” and the free sharing of information beyond the technology sector?
  • To what extent do newer FOSS projects, such as Ubuntu Linux, OpenStack and Android, reflect the goals that were established when programmers first made a conscious effort to write free software?
  • Have the goals of the first generation of free software programmers been achieved? Which internal and external challenges do FOSS communities face today?

You’ll find perspective on these themes and more in For Fun and Profit.

Table of Contents

Foreword by Jonathan Zittrain


CHAPTER 1. The Path to Revolution: Unix and the Origins of Hacker Culture

CHAPTER 2. Inventing the FOSS Revolution: Hacker Crisis, GNU, and the Free Software Foundation

CHAPTER 3. A Kernel of Hope: The Story of Linux

CHAPTER 4. The Moderate FOSS Revolution

CHAPTER 5. The FOSS Revolutionary Wars: Free Software, Open Source, and Microsoft

CHAPTER 6. Ending the FOSS Revolution?