Free as in Freedom: Richard Stallman's Crusade for Free Software

Overview

Free as in Freedom interweaves biographical snapshots of GNU project founder Richard Stallman with the political, social and economic history of the free software movement. It examines Stallman's unique personality and how that personality has been at turns a driving force and a drawback in terms of the movement's overall success.Free as in Freedom examines one man's 20-year attempt to codify and communicate the ethics of 1970s era "hacking" culture in such a way that later generations might easily share and ...

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Free as in Freedom [Paperback]: Richard Stallman's Crusade for Free Software

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Overview

Free as in Freedom interweaves biographical snapshots of GNU project founder Richard Stallman with the political, social and economic history of the free software movement. It examines Stallman's unique personality and how that personality has been at turns a driving force and a drawback in terms of the movement's overall success.Free as in Freedom examines one man's 20-year attempt to codify and communicate the ethics of 1970s era "hacking" culture in such a way that later generations might easily share and build upon the knowledge of their computing forebears. The book documents Stallman's personal evolution from teenage misfit to prescient adult hacker to political leader and examines how that evolution has shaped the free software movement. Like Alan Greenspan in the financial sector, Richard Stallman has assumed the role of tribal elder within the hacking community, a community that bills itself as anarchic and averse to central leadership or authority. How did this paradox come about? Free as in Freedom provides an answer. It also looks at how the latest twists and turns in the software marketplace have diminished Stallman's leadership role in some areas while augmenting it in others.Finally, Free as in Freedom examines both Stallman and the free software movement from historical viewpoint. Will future generations see Stallman as a genius or crackpot? The answer to that question depends partly on which side of the free software debate the reader currently stands and partly upon the reader's own outlook for the future. 100 years from now, when terms such as "computer," "operating system" and perhaps even "software" itself seem hopelessly quaint, will Richard Stallman's particular vision of freedom still resonate, or will it have taken its place alongside other utopian concepts on the 'ash-heap of history?'

"Free as in Freedom" interweaves biographical snapshots of GNU project founder Richard Stallman with the political, social and economic history of the free software movement. The book looks at how the latest twists and turns in the software marketplace have done little to throw Stallman off his pedestal. If anything, they have made his logic-based rhetoric and immovable personality more persuasive.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Relentlessly ethical, absolutely tireless, and utterly bull-headed, Richard Stallman singlehandedly launched the free software movement that has impacted virtually every programmer and user -- and planted terror in the hearts of the industry’s powers-that-be. This book is the biography Stallman deserves. Sam Williams has superbly illuminated Stallman’s outsize principles, strengths, and maddening personality, always recognizing him for the rarity he is: a thoroughly consistent human being.
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.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781449324643
  • Publisher: O'Reilly Media, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 2/9/2012
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 242
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Sam Williams is a freelance writer living in Brooklyn, New York, and the author of O'Reilly's Free as in Freedom: Richard Stallman's Crusade for Free Software. He has covered high-tech culture, specifically software development culture, for a number of Web sites. From 1998-2001, he wrote "Open Season," a weekly column on the open source software community for Upside Today. He also has conducted interviews for the Web site BeOpen.com. His first book, ARGUING A.I.: The Battle for Twenty-First Century Science, was published by Random House in January 2002. Free as in Freedom is his second book.

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Table of Contents

;
Preface;
Comments and Questions;
Acknowledgments;
Chapter 1: For Want of a Printer;
1.1 Endnote;
Chapter 2: 2001: A Hacker’s Odyssey;
2.1 Endnotes;
Chapter 3: A Portrait of the Hacker as a Young Man;
3.1 Endnotes;
Chapter 4: Impeach God;
4.1 Endnotes;
Chapter 5: Small Puddle of Freedom;
5.1 Endnotes;
Chapter 6: The Emacs Commune;
6.1 Endnotes;
Chapter 7: A Stark Moral Choice;
7.1 Endnotes;
Chapter 8: St. Ignucius;
8.1 Endnotes;
Chapter 9: The GNU General Public License;
9.1 Endnotes;
Chapter 10: GNU/Linux;
10.1 Endnotes;
Chapter 11: Open Source;
11.1 Endnotes;
Chapter 12: A Brief Journey Through Hacker Hell;
12.1 Endnote;
Chapter 13: Continuing the Fight;
13.1 Endnote;
Epilogue: Crushing Loneliness;
Endnotes;
Terminology;
Hack, Hackers, and Hacking;
GNU Free Documentation License (GFDL);
0. Preamble;
1. Applicability and Definitions;
2. Verbatim Copying;
3. Copying in Quantity;
4. Modifications;
5. Combining Documents;
6. Collections of Documents;
7. Aggregation with Independent Works;
8. Translation;
9. Termination;
10. Future Revisions of This License;
ADDENDUM: How to Use This License for Your Documents;
Colophon;

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 27, 2003

    Informative, but not convincing

    I should say that I read this book as a sceptic, not as a follower of the GNU movement. I was not sure why anyone would spend all that time writing software, sell it with its source code, and give all takers the right to modify it (or not) and then sell it themselves. This didn't make sense to me, and I was hoping reading this book would enlighten me, but I was disappointed. Not in the book itself, mind you, for it is reasonably well-written and presents the GNU project's philosophy and Richard Stallman's genius cleary and interestingly (at least to those in the software biz, thought I doubt this would be of interest to people outside of the industry). I just didn't come away convinced that the GNU project was the way to go. The author glosses over some very important points: it costs money to write software, letting other people resell your work (even if they've augmented it) rewards the wrong people, and that not all programmers are as altruistic as Stallman. Nonetheless, I did learn a lot about GNU/Linux and Stallman.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 27, 2002

    Great Read

    This book was a nice introduction to the life of Richard Stallman. If anyone is interested in the GNU or Free Software Foundation READ THIS BOOK! It brings to light the reason WHY Stallman HAD to create the FSF/GNU. I¿ve always liked what GNU was about, but after reading this book I think I have a better understanding of why something like this is necessary and needed. It was well written and a quick read, hats off to Sam Williams in starting this continuing project.

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