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Linus Torvalds’s “Just for Fun.”

When many people think of a computer nerd, they probably picture a pasty-faced, junk food-eating code lover who must be pulled away from his computer by force and makes friends only by joining new chatrooms. They are thinking, actually, of Linux creator Linus Torvalds, who fits this description so acutely that he gives Bill Gates a real run for the top techie spot. “Just for Fun,” a brief autobiography of the programmer, is rich with detail about the development of Linux and its very quirky architect.

Raised in Helsinki, Torvalds began fooling around with computers in his early childhood, when his grandfather balanced him on one knee and had the baby nerd peck out calculation programs. From there, it was just a matter of following his natural calling. Although his mother worried that he’d never meet a nice girl (don’t worry, he eventually did), Torvalds spent an inordinate amount of time inside his room, crafting systems and making friends via primitive e-mail and bulletin board methods.

After years of trying to create a stable operating system, he hammered out Linux, a system that is picking up such adoption speed that some think it could challenge even the mighty Microsoft eventually.

David Diamond, a freelance technology journalist, adds to Torvalds’ story with a kind of breathless admiration. Being something of a nerd himself, Diamond was an exquisite choice for detailing the programmer’s story in vignettes that nestle between passages of Torvalds’ straightforward prose. And unadorned it is; Torvalds begins with, “I was an ugly child,” and keeps that dry, jaunty tone throughout. Just as Linux was an unexpected gem in the tech world, so too is this book a little jewel, for nerds as well as their less technologically gifted friends.

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