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

4.0 out of 5 stars 24 customer reviews

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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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Product Details

  • Paperback: 264 pages
  • Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (December 30, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1441437886
  • ISBN-13: 978-1441437884
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,604,258 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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Format: Hardcover
...Such is the challenge that all biographer's face, and Williams does a good job of sorting out the intricacies of Stallman's inspirations and motivations.
In fact, it is Stallman's head that has been both his greatest advantage and detriment. His pure intellect is what enabled him to code for days at a time and develop the concept of free software. It enabled him to execute those ideas in classic pieces of software such as the Emacs editor, EDMA modular development environment, GCC compiler, and much more... But although Stallman's intellectual prowess was clearly genius material, his inability to effectively deal with people and his need to macro-manage alienated many of those around him. Williams cites an incident wherein a dinner guest innocuously uttered the phrase "God forbid," to which Stallman replied, "I hate to break it to you, but there is no God." Such utterances are indicative of Stallman's inner demons, many of which are related to the fact that he likely suffers from Asberger syndrome. (Asberger syndrome is one of the disorders on the autistic spectrum. For a fascinating look at how Asberger syndrome affects an inordinately high number of people in the technology industry, see "The Geek Syndrome"..
Whereas Stallman is an acutely individualistic person who, in his early days, simply wanted to be left alone to code, Linus Torvalds is a much more personable and pleasant person. That trait alone is not what made Linux so ubiquitous, but it is a key reason why the operating system is known as Linux, and not GNU/Linux -- much to Stallman's chagrin. Williams describes numerous instances wherein Stallman chastised him for inadvertently using the term Linux and not GNU/Linux.
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Format: Hardcover
While other reviews here are highly critical, this book has received wide distribution and readership, and therefore has become required reading.
Being a relatively short book (little over 200 pages), it is an easy read, and allows a decent glimpse into RMS' history and life.
RMS has played a phenomenally important key role in the creation and preservation of free software, namely through the creation of the Free Software Foundation, the GNU Public License and also through the wealth of important projects the FSF has produced.
He is the true messiah of free software, and while his ideals in general may not be unique, he pioneered the freedom movement in digital form which has expanded beyond software alone and into content as well (see also the Electronic Frontier Foundation -- eff.org).
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Format: Hardcover
This is a good book on Richard Stallman, the man behind GNU. Prior to reading this book, I had never even seen what he looks like, yet his work and dedication have had a great impact on my professional and academic career (I've been using GNU tools and compilers since my undergrad days in the early 1990s). It's good to finally place a face and personality with GNU.
The book itself provides a good story on Stallman, but the writing is poor. There are a modest number of typos throughout the book (come on now, couldn't the author have at least run ispell on the document?) as well as a few astounding grammatical errors. Furthermore, the author doesn't do a very good job placing dates with most of his facts. The introduction to the printer incident -- evidently a defining moment in Stallman's life -- is not even given a year. This is important, for the events that methodically unfolded in Stallman's life motivated him greatly. With this in mind, the author fails to convey much time-continuity with his writing; in particular, he shifts back and forth between the present and the past without regard for even stating what year he's discussing. Finally, a short, concise timeline of events as an appendix or something would have been nice.
All in all, this is a very good book about Stallman and his motivations for free software. If you've ever used GNU tools, compilers, or GNU/Linux, then you owe it to yourself to read this book and understand how these pieces of software got into your hands.
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