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Free as in Freedom: Richard Stallman's Crusade for Free Software Paperback – December 30, 2009


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Free as in Freedom: Richard Stallman's Crusade for Free Software + Just for Fun: The Story of an Accidental Revolutionary + The Cathedral & the Bazaar: Musings on Linux and Open Source by an Accidental Revolutionary
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 264 pages
  • Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (December 30, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1441437886
  • ISBN-13: 978-1441437884
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.5 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,194,522 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

In 1984, Richard Stallman launched the GNU Project for the purpose of developing a complete UNIX-like operating system that would allow for free software use. What he developed was the GNU operating system. (GNU is a recursive acronym for "GNU's Not UNIX,'' and it is pronounced guh-NEW. Linux is a variant of the GNU operating system.) This biography traces the evolution of Stallman's eccentric genius from gifted child to teen outcast to passionate crusader for free software. To Stallman, free software is morally vital, and for the past two decades he has devoted his life to eradicating proprietary source codes from the world. Savvy programmers revere Stallman; Bill Gates reviles him. Much of the fascination with Stallman lies in his messianic zeal, which Williams, a freelance writer specializing in high-tech culture, has attempted to capture here, drawing on a number of interviews with the unconventional Stallman, his associates, fans, and critics. The result is an esoteric and uneven work whose audience will likely be limited to the army of programmers drawn to Stallman's worthy cause. Buy accordingly. Joe Accardi, Harper Coll. Lib., Palatine, IL
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From the Author

I am the author of this book, and I welcome all feedback. You can reach me at my email address: sam@inow.com. O'Reilly is also offering a corrections page. If you see a portion [or portions] of the book that needs to be corrected or improved in any way, let me know.

The people at O'Reilly have also been gracious enough to publish this book under the GNU Free Documentation License. This means that readers have the freedom not only to copy and lend physical copies of the book but to copy and lend electronic copies as well. They also have the freedom to modify the book and make derivative versions with or without my permission.

Although O'Reilly has yet to publish and electronic version of the book, I have taken advantage of the liberties provided in the GFDL to create my own HTML-version of the book. This version is free [as in free beer] to read and free [as in freedom] to copy, modify and republish. My intention is to begin making my own modifications to the book, incorporating feedback received from initial readers along with my own changes, later this spring.

The site's title should give a hint ast to my intentions. Like Mozilla, I see FAIFzilla as the evolving "source code" for later versions of _Free as in Freedom_. Just as AOL/Netscape periodically dips into Mozilla to generate upgrades of its web browser, I'm hoping that O'Reilly, or any other motivated publisher, will dip into FAIFzilla to come out with second version of _Free as in Freedom_ sometime late next year. It's an experimental idea, but judging by the success of past O'Reilly projects -- namely, _Open Sources_ [1999] and _Cathedral and the Bazaar_ [2000] -- I think it might lead to interesting results. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


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Customer Reviews

If you are against proprietary software, please purchase this book!
Isaac
Williams does try to walk a tightrope here between dispassionate reporting about a controversial figure and giving him too much praise.
Christopher Culver
If you are interested in Free Software history, then this would probably be a good book for you to read.
Bas Vodde

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 21 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 27, 2002
Format: Hardcover
The reviewer who admittedly has not read the book also has no idea what context the author and Stallman use the word "free" in. This is "free" as in "freedom", as the title says. Not "free" as in "free beer", as they say.
Stallman's views are basically for free information. The base price of free software can be one dollar or 1000 dollars. The source code for it must be available, though, and it must be made distributable for those who want it. The idea is that interested programmers can add, improve, and change around the program for the benefit of everyone.
If we extend this purpose to include his book, as the reviewer implied, then it would still be completely valid. Source code (the English syntax) is available, so people can modify the book, and they can distribute it so that others can do the same. The base price can easily be [money]. The pricing is irrelevent if the other two conditions are met.
I suppose that the reviewer would know these things if he was qualified to review the book (that is, if he had read it, which he admittedly has not).
On the topic of the book itself, I enjoyed it immensely. It was definitely not too short, and most certainly not too long. It was just right for the type of story it was telling. The book focuses mostly on Stallman's life and his decisions and discoveries that he made that led him to start the Free Software Foundation.
Throughout the book, it becomes clear that Stallman is a very gifted man (he learned Calculus when he was seven), but it wasn't until his college years that he really found his niche. When he did, his gifts became apparent, and his true potentials came out.
I would encourage anyone who is interested in free or open-source software to read this book for the background on the man who started it all. His rationale is very thought-provoking, and makes you wonder about some of the other things in life that should be questioned, but now are simply taken for granted.
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful By James Collins on January 10, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Short story: this book deserves 2.5 stars at best. For the longer version, read on.
First the good news. Williams takes some pains to understand and accurately portray RMS, which, from all indications, is no easy task. FAIF, in taking this measured look, does supply some perspective to this at times under-appreciated contributor to the "new" computer revolution.
I also appreciated the eclectic trajectories of the author. First, Williams publishes FAIF under the Gnu Free Document License (GFDL), thereby making it a "free book". Although a completely natural step considering the subject matter, publishing the book as such is an important extension of the general principle that certain ideas should be freely accessible and modifiable. Second, he borrows from a range of excellent sources, even going so far as to reference "The Autobiography of Malcolm X" in the Epilogue!
Furthermore, the abridged history of the roots of hackerdom is particularly well done, if somewhat thickly worded. Attention was also clearly paid to chapter length, making that aspect of the book "readable" and pleasant.
Now for the not-so-good news. The writing style is far from fluid: I didn't feel as though I was lead through the events in the book so much as I was thrown into them. To make matters worse, some events were irrelevant (I still can't figure out why the treatment of RMS's mother's politics were given so much attention), others over-quoted (I can read Levy's "Hackers" myself), while still others were just plain inaccurate.
The last of these transgressions is certainly the most serious, and merits some detail. As one example, on page 143 Williams describes the Linux kernel as "a bored-out, super-charged version of Minix.
Read more ›
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 29, 2002
Format: Hardcover
It's hard to be neutral about Richard Stallman. Some people love him--others hate him. But he's been the key player in the free software movement. This nicely written book helps us to understand what makes him tick, and why he is what he is. It goes back to his youth and even includes interviews with his mother. The book is by no means a defense of Stallman. Instead, it probes beneath the surface and chronicles the events that have made him such a prominent and sometimes enigmatic figure among free software and open source developers.
While Stallman cooperated with the author, he has no financial connections with the book (to address the concerns of one reviewer here).
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Visionary Hacker on November 18, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I found Free as in Freedom in the library, Deweyed on the

the same shelf as computer programming methodologies.

Reading it has given me some strength to be more uncompromising

in applying ethical convictions to life.

One of the more interesting aspects of the story is the attitude that when you are in the right, you can wait and the rest of

the world will come around to your point of view.

As a software developer who has several times seen his work

ignored by befuddled friends and family only to a few months

later see similar ideas expressed in full page glossy adverts,

I found this validating.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A. Valentine on March 15, 2003
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I really didn't have high expectations for this book, I figured it would be nothing more than a historical account of the accomplishments of RMS, I was dead wrong. "Free as in Freedom" looks at RMS from a personal and technical level. From his beginnings as an awkward boy in NYC, all the way to rise of the free software movement. I figured this book would be written from extremely pro-gnu standpoint, but I was pleasantly surprised to find an objective account of Richard's issues with the open source movement.
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