Remember middle school English class, when you got a list of books to read over the summer before class? In some classes there was a list of "optional" books which you were encouraged to read if you were particularly bored over the summer or over term. This list is somewhat like the latter, except even more informal and hopefully more interesting.
Additions are quite welcome.
- The Kerberos play: explains why Kerberos works the way it does
- The Rise of Worse is Better: a brief description of the single coding philosophy that most influenced the design of UNIX and many related systems. The entire article, rather than just the section, is available in PostScript
- Tim Berners-Lee's Design Issues section, and his piece on why Cool URIs Don't Change
- How To Ask Questions The Smart Way -- A document on asking questions in hacker communities in ways that will help you get answers. Many of its points apply to places like Zephyr, too.
- A definition of yak shaving, which you'll often find SIPB members unwisely engaging in.
- GNU Philosophy, hardline but worth reading.
- On that note, the GPLv3 and GPLv2. Dense legal style, but also worth reading once, to understand what free software is about
- The Cathedral and the Bazaar, by Eric Raymond: an overview of closed-source ("cathedral") vs. open-source ("bazaar") design and participation philosophies
- Why Nerds are Unpopular, by Paul Graham
- How Athena Works, by Greg Hudson, longtime Athena engineer and SIPB member. Note that sections 5 through 11 don't really apply any more.
- The e-mail threading algorithm, by Jamie Zawinski (jwz), old Netscape hacker. Interesting not only for the algorithm per se, but for his description of the process leading to its development, and his lost argument with Netscape 4's engineers against replacing the algorithm with something overengineered
- HOWTO Encourage Women in Linux, by Valerie Aurora, a Linux kernel hacker.
- The Unix Time-Sharing System, by Dennis Ritchie and Ken Thompson. From 1974, but still almost entirely accurate. Sections 3, 5, and 6 are particularly good
Don't forget about Safari -- O'Reilly books online, free for MIT people.
- Joel on Software, written by the author of a small software development firm
- The Old New Thing, by a Microsoft engineer. The premise of the blog is stupid hacks needed for backwards compatibility, but it also covers general Windows API design.
- Jamie Zawinski's writings / rants. jwz developed Netscape 1-3, and played a role in Netscape being open sourced and becoming Mozilla.
- Paul Graham's Essays on software, startups, and writing. Paul Graham is noted for founding Viaweb (later Yahoo! Store) and Y Combinator.