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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Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-508629-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1995

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An extraordinary true tale of torment, retribution, and loyalty that's irresistibly readable in spite of its intrusively melodramatic prose. Starting out with calculated, movie-ready anecdotes about his boyhood gang, Carcaterra's memoir takes a hairpin turn into horror and then changes tack once more to relate grippingly what must be one of the most outrageous confidence schemes ever perpetrated. Growing up in New York's Hell's Kitchen in the 1960s, former New York Daily News reporter Carcaterra (A Safe Place, 1993) had three close friends with whom he played stickball, bedeviled nuns, and ran errands for the neighborhood Mob boss. All this is recalled through a dripping mist of nostalgia; the streetcorner banter is as stilted and coy as a late Bowery Boys film. But a third of the way in, the story suddenly takes off: In 1967 the four friends seriously injured a man when they more or less unintentionally rolled a hot-dog cart down the steps of a subway entrance. The boys, aged 11 to 14, were packed off to an upstate New York reformatory so brutal it makes Sing Sing sound like Sunnybrook Farm. The guards continually raped and beat them, at one point tossing all of them into solitary confinement, where rats gnawed at their wounds and the menu consisted of oatmeal soaked in urine. Two of Carcaterra's friends were dehumanized by their year upstate, eventually becoming prominent gangsters. In 1980, they happened upon the former guard who had been their principal torturer and shot him dead. The book's stunning denouement concerns the successful plot devised by the author and his third friend, now a Manhattan assistant DA, to free the two killers and to exact revenge against the remaining ex-guards who had scarred their lives so irrevocably. Carcaterra has run a moral and emotional gauntlet, and the resulting book, despite its flaws, is disturbing and hard to forget. (Film rights to Propaganda; author tour)

Pub Date: July 10, 1995

ISBN: 0-345-39606-5

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1995

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