IT bookshelf: Torvalds, teams and the Internet

Just For Fun: The Story of an Accidental Revolutionary, by Linus Torvalds and David Diamond (HarperBusiness, 288 pages, $26). Torvalds' new autobiography is an interesting "you are there" view of how a geeky Finnish teen became enamored with computers and eventually created his own operating system, Linux, which is now widely used. The book offers revealing insights about Torvalds and his revolutionary operating system, his sometimes odd relationships with friends and family, his hermitlike work ethic during college and his thoughts about open-source software development. The writing style is entertaining, painting a vivid picture of a colorful, egotistical and fascinating icon in the world of computing.

-- Todd R. Weiss

Project Retrospectives: A Handbook for Team Reviews, by Norman L. Kerth (Dorset House Publishing, 288 pages, $39.45). Sure, IT projects can be time-consuming ordeals that take a long time to reach their objectives. But sometimes the worse a project is, the more you can learn by looking back at it. Kerth, who has led project post-mortems (or, as he prefers to call them, retrospectives) for more than 20 years, covers everything from establishing goals to completing a report that can help disseminate the lessons learned from a project to the rest of the organization. Some of the issues Kerth discusses for retrospective "facilitators" include knowing the project's goals and the organization's culture, and holding the session at a site that can induce participants to discuss what happened and how the lessons learned can help the organization move forward.

-- Rick Saia

Buyout: The Insider's Guide to Buying Your Own Company, by Rick Rickersten, with Robert E. Gunther (Amacom Books, 347 pages, $32.95). The authors give pointers on how to recognize a good opportunity to buy your own company and hazards to avoid in deal- making, such as being so in love with the idea of making the deal that you ignore your due diligence. They also talk about how to survive once you've made the deal, and even list financial models to analyze the agreement and lenders to help pay for it. They give you everything but the guts to make the leap and the easy, cheap capital that was available when the book was being written but largely disappeared along with the dot-com economy.

-- Kevin Fogarty

E-Work Architect: How HR Leads the Way Using the Internet, edited by Al Doran (International Association for Human Resource Information Management, 252 pages, $39). This book only proves that the old saw about failure being an orphan and success having a thousand fathers is still true. Yes, intranets were one of the first corporate uses of the Web, and yes, human resource units were among the first advocates of using them as employee self-service networks. So as a department, human resources has a better claim to having broken ground on the Internet than, say, accounting. But claiming to have been more pioneering than dot-coms or the corporate minions that strove to keep up with them is ridiculous. That said, this compilation of essays does give useful, detailed case studies of how to use intranets as tools for internal management, though the changes they recommend are designed to increase efficiency, not revolutionize an organization.

-- Kevin Fogarty

IT Manager's Handbook: Getting Your New Job Done, by Bill Holtsnider and Brian D. Jaffe (Morgan Kaufmann Publishers, 318 pages, $39.95). The authors are both IT professionals with extensive writing credentials. (Jaffe, a veteran IT manager, has been a Computerworld contributor.) The book addresses the issues that new IT managers face today -- from staffing and managing a team to infrastructure fundamentals and disaster recovery. It was written especially for newly promoted IT managers.

-- Rick Saia

Technicolor: Race, Technology and Everyday Life, edited by Alondra Nelson and Thuy Linh N. Tu, with Alicia Headlam Hines (New York University Press, 198 pages, $18.50 paperback). This wide-ranging anthology from a multicultural group of U.S. and foreign-born artists, academics, activists, documentarians and journalists offers a series of highly personal views on the world of technology and IT. The editors' point is that not everyone who uses technology looks like Dilbert, and not all useful technology is IT. Pointing out differences in the ways ethnic groups use, perceive and contribute to the development of IT-enabled commerce and culture is a worthwhile contribution. But the book ranges too far afield, including everything from incisive discussions about ethnicity, race and gender to the coming-of-age stories of technos and punks, which dilutes its impact.

-- Kevin Fogarty

Copyright © 2001 IDG Communications, Inc.

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