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Free as in Freedom [Paperback]: Richard Stallman's Crusade for Free Software Hardcover – 11 Mar 2002
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"....A worthwhile read for its chronicle of an important part of the free software movement as well as into Stallman as a person...." -- Jende Huang, Washington Computer User, Jun 2002
"....it's a good summary of one of the software world's most eminent men. ..." -- Dave Symonds, Computer Science Undergraduate Society, May 2002
A good and important work. I recommend it. -- Joe Barr, Linux World, August 26, 2002
A mesmerizing biography of one of the most influential people in computer science. -- Ben Rothke, Unixreview.com, March 2002
A nuanced, detailed picture of Stallman that includes much that will be new even to close followers of the free-software movement. -- Andrew Leonard, Salon.com, April 2, 2002
His philosophy and work has surely secured him a legacy as a man who has altered the way we look at software. -- Jende Huang, Washington Computer USer, Jun 2002
If you are interested in the open source movement, likely you'll want to read this book. It's interesting, challenging, and easy to follow. -- George Woolley, Oakland Perl Mongers, Feb 2003
The biogrpahy is a must read if you are to understand hte origin of Linux and free Software. -- linux.org
The book is a great read for geeks, enlightening us on our heritage. -- Penguinista.org
This is a book that moves with economy through the life of the world's most famous hacker. -- Marc Rotenberg, EPIC, April 2002
This text interweaves biographical snapshots of GNU project founder Richard Stallman with the political, social and economic history of the free software movement. Starting with how it all began - a desire for software code from Xerox to make the printing more efficient - to the continuing quest for free software that still exists today. The goal of the book is to document how Stallman's own personal evolution has done much to shape notions of what free software is and should be. Like Alan Greenspan in the financial sector, Stallman has assumed the role of tribal elder in a community that bills itself as anarchic and immune to central authority. This book looks at how the latest twists and turns in the software marketplace have done little to throw Stallman off his pedestal. Discover how Richard's childhood and teenage experiences as well as his years at Harvard and MIT made him the man he is today. The book's narrative style includes many quotes from Richard and his mother about his life, education, and work providing a look at RMS and Free Software Foundation (FSF).Throughout the book are insights from FSF supporters, detractors, the early MIT hackers, and those who knew him in high school and college. If anything, the current software marketplace has made Stallman's logic-based rhetoric and immovable personality more persuasive. In a rapidly changing world people need a fixed reference point, and Stallman has become that reference point for many in the software world. See all Product description
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Williams begins with the famous jamming printer and Stallman's encounter with a non-disclosure agreement that prevented him writing reporting software for it. He then jumps forwards to a speech given by Stallman in 2001, responding to attacks by Microsoft on the GNU GPL. Having used these episodes to introduce Stallman and explain the basic idea of free software, the rest of the work continues in a similar vein, mixing historical chapters with ones describing Williams' own meetings with Stallman.
Chapter three describes Stallman's childhood as a prodigy; chapter four his experiences at Harvard and MIT; chapter six the MIT AI Lab and the Emacs "commune"; chapter seven the death of the MIT hacker community and the first announcement of the GNU Project; chapter nine the GNU GPL; chapter ten the appearance of Linux and debates over GNU/Linux; and chapter eleven the coining of the term "open source" and the arguments over that. These contain quotes by everyone from Stallman's mother to the leading lights of free software, as well as plenty by Stallman himself. The narrative never strays too far from its subject, but becomes inextricably interwoven with the broader history and politics of free software and sometimes digresses to cover key figures and events with which Stallman wasn't directly involved.
Williams' first-hand accounts help give Stallman a human face: chapter five recounts a meeting in 1999 LinuxWorld, chapter eight a meeting in Hawaii, and chapter twelve a frustrating car trip with Stallman at the wheel. These give a feel for Stallman's personality and presence, his forthrightness and emotional intensity, his steadfastness and his abrasiveness, and his ability to unsettle. Chapter thirteen attempts to predict Stallman's status "in 100 years", quoting opinions from from Eben Moglen, John Gilmore, Eric Raymond, and Lawrence Lessig; it also suggests that Stallman's personality may be inseparable from his achievements.
Although I had already been involved with free software advocacy for some time, my first encounter with Richard Stallman came when he turned up to a rehearsal of my gamelan group; afterwards I tried without much success to explain to my fellow musicians why the strange bearded man they'd just met was so important. I don't think Free as in Freedom would help much with that: it jumps around too much and assumes too much general knowledge of the computer industry to be a good introduction for complete outsiders. Those already interested in the history and politics of free software and hacker culture, however, should relish it...
now transforming the computing world, you should get this book. If you are more interested in the man's ideas, there are other books out there, most notably "Free Software, Free Society: Selected Essays of Richard M. Stallman".
The book is also available free online under the GNU Free Documentation License (GFDL), so you can download it at no cost if you so wish.
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