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Issue of August 2004 

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Cracking the Hacker

Although not a linguistic feat The Cathedral and the Bazaar is a profound analysis of the evolution and psychology of a hacker, and the need for open source. Eric S. Raymond is a key developer of Linux himself, and his book is like chronicles of a hacker divided in essays. It has been written over a large long ago as 1990, so naturally you may feel some discrepancies have crept in, but as a hackers journal the book still holds highest integrity.

Raymond's argument is that open source is superior to proprietary software because open source is developed by a community of programmers rather than a small team. This not only means a comprehensive solution, it also means comprehensive debugging. The author further suggests that hackers can specialize, so that one person spots the bug, and another fixes it.

According to the book one of the keys of good programming is a smart structure but simple code. For good software development, Raymond identifies five steps: 1) define goals, 2) monitor the process carefully, 3) keep the team motivated, 4) organize, 5) marshal resources needed to sustain the project.

Raymond suggests no matter how advanced software is, if it can't do what it promised at the outset, it is commercially redundant.

In the final analysis the author ascertains that the virtue of open source is not in its exclusivity, but rather in the kind of service it provides.

Although when he took on open source, Raymond's aim was anti-commercialism, it turns out that in his book he has touched upon management psychology, as well as the issues of hackerdom.

Title: The Cathedral and the Bazaar
Author: Eric S. Raymond
Publisher: O'Reilly
Pages: 241
Price: Rs 150/-

— Deepali Gupta

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