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Free As In Freedom: Richard Stallman's Crusade For Free Software
by Sam Williams
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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.
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?'
Interweaves biographical snapshots of GNU project founder Richard Stallman with the political, social and economic history of the free software movement. Looks at how the latest twists and turns in the software marketplace have done little to throw Stallman off his pedestal.
From the Author
I am the author of this book, and I welcome all feedback. You can reach me at my email address: firstname.lastname@example.org. 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_  and _Cathedral and the Bazaar_  -- I think it might lead to interesting results.
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