Loaded with computer jargon and acronyms, this is a story told with gusto by a knowledgeable devotee—but for computer...



There’s no free lunch, but there is abundant free source-code software out there in the ether. Perhaps you have no idea what “source code” is. You will get just the sketchiest of notions here, hidden in a thoroughgoing description of the movement to spread the thing around.

Wayner, a prodigious computernik, shows us a civilization of hackers, by hackers, and for hackers, and his account is of particular interest to that breed of programmers who can write their own superior variant operating systems and say to hell with Windows. It all started in Finland not so long ago when Linus Torvalds, the principal guru of free software, wrote his original operating system on his dinky PC. Then he gave it, gratis, to anyone who wanted it. That fit of altruism earned him more devoted followers than L. Ron Hubbard. His program, Linux, became the system that (together with another from Berkeley) is the wellspring for a universal cadre of hackers who elaborate and enhance the software (which, happily, is amenable to such manipulation). Their hard work and considerable debugging are freely available to all, so nobody needs to buy shrink-wrapped programs. Some enterprising lads, nevertheless, have packaged manuals, CDs, and backups for sale at nominal cost. (Their software may be reproduced freely.) Was the movement, as one leader famously asked, a bazaar of ideas—or more like a cathedral under the benign guidance of one architect? As the hacker garage bands of the Internet formed various allegiances, it became a real free-for-all. Eventually AT&T and Microsoft noticed and, with the whiff of money in the air, lawyers were hired (in a move that was particularly offensive to the attorney-phobic author). The Source Wars are heating up, but it will be a tough fight. Wayner’s money is on the hacker freedom-fighters against the plutocratic suits.

Loaded with computer jargon and acronyms, this is a story told with gusto by a knowledgeable devotee—but for computer illiterates outside cubicle farms, accessibility will be limited.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-06-662050-3

Page Count: 288

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2000

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...



Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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Possibly inspired by the letters Cleary has received as a children's author, this begins with second-grader Leigh Botts' misspelled fan letter to Mr. Henshaw, whose fictitious book itself derives from the old take-off title Forty Ways W. Amuse a Dog. Soon Leigh is in sixth grade and bombarding his still-favorite author with a list of questions to be answered and returned by "next Friday," the day his author report is due. Leigh is disgruntled when Mr. Henshaw's answer comes late, and accompanied by a set of questions for Leigh to answer. He threatens not to, but as "Mom keeps nagging me about your dumb old questions" he finally gets the job done—and through his answers Mr. Henshaw and readers learn that Leigh considers himself "the mediumest boy in school," that his parents have split up, and that he dreams of his truck-driver dad driving him to school "hauling a forty-foot reefer, which would make his outfit add up to eighteen wheels altogether. . . . I guess I wouldn't seem so medium then." Soon Mr. Henshaw recommends keeping a diary (at least partly to get Leigh off his own back) and so the real letters to Mr. Henshaw taper off, with "pretend," unmailed letters (the diary) taking over. . . until Leigh can write "I don't have to pretend to write to Mr. Henshaw anymore. I have learned to say what I think on a piece of paper." Meanwhile Mr. Henshaw offers writing tips, and Leigh, struggling with a story for a school contest, concludes "I think you're right. Maybe I am not ready to write a story." Instead he writes a "true story" about a truck haul with his father in Leigh's real past, and this wins praise from "a real live author" Leigh meets through the school program. Mr. Henshaw has also advised that "a character in a story should solve a problem or change in some way," a standard juvenile-fiction dictum which Cleary herself applies modestly by having Leigh solve his disappearing lunch problem with a burglar-alarmed lunch box—and, more seriously, come to recognize and accept that his father can't be counted on. All of this, in Leigh's simple words, is capably and unobtrusively structured as well as valid and realistic. From the writing tips to the divorced-kid blues, however, it tends to substitute prevailing wisdom for the little jolts of recognition that made the Ramona books so rewarding.

Pub Date: Aug. 22, 1983

ISBN: 143511096X

Page Count: 133

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 16, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1983

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