I've never figured out why books have introductions - surely, few people ever bother to read them. Often it's pointless stuff, which I tend to skip in favour of always getting to the point as soon as possible. So, when I started writing this book, I decided it wouldn't have an introduction. However, now that it's about to be published I do feel like saying something about how it came to be written. But please don't feel under any obligation to waste your time reading this introduction. My advice is that you leap ahead to the beginning of Part One now, which is what I'd do if I were you.
The idea for this book came to me in the early days of 2003, when I was working as a programming trainer at Tieturi, the Finnish IT training provider. We were organizing a seminar on Linux and Open Source, and I was to give a talk on the defining characteristics of the Open Source culture. Since the City of Turku in Finland had just announced that they would start using Linux, we thought people might be interested in such a seminar. However, due to a lack of applicants, the seminar was cancelled, but prior to hearing about that I'd already started preparing my talk by setting up a simple text file called Open Source philosophy.txt on my computer at work. In it I kept a bullet-pointed list of ideas or www-links, which eventually evolved into an outline for this book.
Although the seminar itself was dead and buried, the computer file remained and eventually started to live a life of its own. Over time, I added more and more bullet points. I was fascinated by and interested in the culture and working methods of the Open Source community - they were so unlike those of the traditional programming world and, indeed, of any traditional work culture.
It's not that a lot hasn't already been written about Open Source, but rather that the books I had read mostly represented one or other of two camps. If a book is written by somebody inside the Open Source community, the content tends to be difficult for the average person, that is anyone who isn't already fascinated by the detailed history of Linux or the particulars of a given programming language. If, on the other hand, a book has been written by an outsider for the benefit of other outsiders, it usually loses some of the honesty and directness, some of the magic of the Open Source attitude - in short, something of the very quality that had always fascinated me about that community. That's why I wanted to write a book that gives a broader view of Open Source than being yet another explanation of how Linux works in a computer; to write one that's more about how Open Source works outside a computer, drawing on real examples and stories from the history of the Linux and Open Source revolution. My book now has more than sixty stories, or case studies, and I think I've done reasonably well in covering the players who have taken part in the revolution during the first 13 years of Linux. I trust readers will find the examples I have chosen as fascinating as I do.
Writing a book alongside a full-time job is a big undertaking and something I wouldn't want to do again anytime soon. Some 18 months have passed since I finished the first part, and I keep repeating the Linux principle to myself: It's ready when it's ready. I have to confess that spouting fine sentiments is a lot easier than living them, and impatience has sometimes almost overtaken me.
The drawn-out writing process has also been a challenge because of the topicality of the subject. In recent years Linux, OpenOffice, Firefox and the other Open Source programs have been making their final breakthroughs and development is incredibly fast. By the time I'd reached the last page, I turned around to discover that Red Hat Linux, which had been Red Hat's main product, was no more; that the second-largest Linux company SuSE had been bought up by Novell; that Mandrake was no longer in liquidation and was making a healthy profit. And as I write this introduction, I find that the recently published Mozilla Firefox is an incredibly sharp browser, which outperforms Internet Explorer in all categories. Only yesterday, Mozilla was criticized in this book for being "a bit slow'.
Another of my reasons for wanting to write this book was a desire to encourage Open Source thinking outside the IT world, and Part Four is all about that. And now I find that Wired magazine has just published a CD on which all the music can be copied freely under the Creative Commons licence. This is not the first such album of music, but this time some relatively well-known names have joined in, such as the Beastie Boys and David Byrne, who had special permission from their record companies to take part. So even in the music field the open revolution is making progress.
Many friends encouraged and helped me during the process of writing this book. Pertti Vehkavuori, in particular, is a champion of encouragement and help, and everybody should have at least one "Pertti' as a friend. When he'd read the first part, he phoned and spoke to me for an hour about mean-spiritedness in his own work as a physiotherapist and trainer. Having read the second part he then phoned, keen to know when the third part would be finished. Talking to a physiotherapist, who I assume had never knowingly used Linux himself, reassured me that the book was becoming what I'd intended it to be.
This book would not exist without my dear wife Sanna. Many thoughts, including the first part which sets the tone for the book, are based on conversations with her. Also, she made it very clear that she would like to be the wife of an author, which is what made this engineer take seriously the notion of writing a book. Certainly, Open Life would never have come to fruition without the innumerable Sundays on which she took over my share of the dishes, laundry and other domestic tasks and left me free to focus on my writing. Oh how I love you, Sanna.
In Matinkylä, Espoo, on the eve of Finland's Independence Day 2004