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Free as in Freedom (2.0): Richard Stallman and the Free Software Revolution

3.83  ·  Rating details ·  1,119 ratings  ·  75 reviews
Editorial Reviews from the Midwest Book Review, "a hard-hitting analysis that goes beyond discussion of software and information sharing and probes the very foundations of democratic thought" In 2002, Sam Williams wrote Free as in Freedom, a biography of Richard M. Stallman. In its epilogue, Williams expressed hope that choosing to distribute his book under the GNU Free Do ...more
Paperback, 229 pages
Published December 27th 2010 by Free Software Foundation, Inc (first published 2002)
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Seth Kenlon
Aug 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read the version 2.0 of this book, which was revised by Richard Stallman himself.

The book is amazing. I'm not a fan of biographies or auto-biographies, but most of this concentrates less on Stallman's emotions and thought processes as it does on the notable events throughout the development of GNU, the FSF, and, eventually, the projects that were so greatly influenced by the very presence of GNU.

EVERYTHING technical was interesting. Actually, it was riveting. Reading about the hacker culture w
Jul 05, 2012 rated it really liked it
Overall, this was an enjoyable read. I picked up my signed copy at the FSF bookstore a couple of months ago, really just because I wanted to make a donation, but I wanted to get some loot from it too. :)

Richard Stallman is a visionary. Like many visionaries, few others catch or understand what he sees in the first handful of decades. In this way, I disagree with one major aspect of Williams' analysis: that the gap that separates the utilitarian "open source movement" and the truly "hacker" value
Feb 23, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I’ve just finished reading Free as in Freedom a biography of Richard Stallman the founder of the free software movement. The title takes it’s name from the oft repeated statement used to highlight that software freedom is not about the price rather what you can do with it.

The book itself is relatively short and is easy to read. It combines historical sections describing Stallman’s intellectual journey with alternating chapters describing experiences Sam Williams had while interviewing this famou
Sep 07, 2014 rated it really liked it
This is a great book it serves as both a biography of Richard Stallman and also does a good job of explaining many of the values of the Free Software Movement. I was impressed that the book was licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. I liked how the book provided so much background information on RMS as it helped me to understand what influenced him to do what he did. It also did a good job of clarifying a few things such as the difference between "free software" and "open source" (fr ...more
Dylan Meeus
Aug 18, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really want to give this book 5 stars but the way the references were handled was annoying and often broke the flow of reading. At least on the kindle edition.

It's a book worth reading if you are into gnu/linux or open source and free software in general. Being a GNU/Linux user for over a decade (and contributor to FOSS) I knew quite a bit of the backdrop, but I still found it entertaining and it's always good to refresh my memory.

I wasn't around when the FSF started and missed the start of
Bryan Brown
Nov 12, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: gen-nonfic
I downloaded this book from the FSF website along with "Free Software, Free Society." They really follow through with their message by making these resources freely available. Although Williams' portrayal of Stallman as a bit of a tragic hero is probably more accurate than Stallman would like to admit, I think that he (Williams) went a bit out of his way to paint Stallman in a harsh light at times. If you are planning on reading this book, make sure to get the 2nd edition (available here for fre ...more
Jon Merkley
Aug 06, 2011 rated it really liked it
This one was mostly just informative. Not in a bad way, though. It showed a side of Richard Stallman that I've never seen before and I think that was a good thing. If all you have to go by is what he put up on his site, and what you may have read on, then this book will show you a bit more of the kind of person he is. If you don't know who Richard Stallman is, what the Free Software Foundation is, what the GPL is, or what GNU/Linux is, and you don't really care then don't bother wi ...more
Clay Moeller
Mar 05, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It was well-written and clear, given the technical and often cumbersome subject matter. It paints both an intriguing and educational picture of RMS and his crusade. Properly illustrated the differences between FLOSS and OSS, and exposed me to the names of a lot of key players in the early and recent movement. It also cleared up some overall misconceptions about Linux that I had after reading Torvald’s ‘Just For Fun’. I promise to refer to it as GNU/Linux hencefort ...more
Dani Arribas-bel
Jun 22, 2011 rated it liked it
Fairly interesting read that goes beyond the software world to reflect more on social values and the current trends on how our society treats knowledge and access to it.

Also the portrait of a quite unique person that draws as much attraction and respect as laughter and repulse. I was already quite an admirer of Stallman, after this book I can only reaffirm myself. If rms didn't exist, we'd have to invent it.
Jun 05, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book makes for a good read, one which will be especially appealing to industry veterans. I enjoyed the stories about Stallman's early years as a teenager, at Harvard and the MIT AI Lab. I learned a lot of where things came from that I didn't know: Where did GNU come from? Why is "free software" different than "open source"? What's the history of Unix text editors (Emacs and vi)? Much of it resonates with my own experience in the industry over the years and much of it rings true. ...more
Ian Bradford
Jan 26, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was entertaining to read, and does a good job providing a realistic view of what Richard Stallman is like. The material is well sourced, and a reader with no knowledge of Stallman, GNU, GPL, Open Source, etc. would have no problem following this book. The book itself is legally available for free.
Jul 11, 2014 rated it really liked it
I found this book much more interesting than I had originally expected. The book will likely only fascinate anyone involved with, GNU/Linux, but it's an insightful look into the brilliant mind and awkward quirks of the original father of the open source movement. ...more
Graham Lee
Nov 07, 2014 rated it really liked it
Any biography is the subjective interpretation of the author. As this book also includes the subjective annotations and editions of its subject, it makes that point very clear. There's plenty of interesting content here but it's clear that the result is a palimpsest of biases. ...more
May 11, 2011 rated it it was ok
Good book to get know the history and origins of free as in freedom software and Stallman's character. However, smth of the author's pathos annoyed me. ...more
Dec 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
It is quite revealing to read the biography to understand the development of free software movement in the eyes of RMS. Before reading this book, I though the free software movement is a collective movement driven by a community who share hacker ethics deeply. It turned out that it was started single-handed by RMS. The MIT hacker community was destroyed, and RMS wanted to build his home back. It is so similar with the case of the Homebrew Computer Club, which was also started single-handed by fe ...more
Aarav Balsu
Nov 19, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Really well-researched and narrated book. Covers the tumultuous primordial years of the free software movement and one of its chief drivers: Richard Stallman. This book is simultaneously a portrait of him and a crash course in 70s - 90s popular computing history. The GNU/Linux split is covered here, along with some of Stallman's speeches.

Williams does a good job sketching out his (and others') observations of Stallman's somewhat abrasive personality, his commitment to the ideals of software fre
Nov 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Engaging book and exposes vital information related to FS and FOSS, particularly their becoming and how things were during the 70s and 80s when coding and hacking was not intended to be a market and end up as IaaS. When it comes to Richard Stallman’s biography, not that good persona but perfectly fit into the computer science world, his achievement remarkably affected the software and licensing, GNU helped poor and grown countries to build their automated and IT infrastructure like brazil, cuba, ...more
Apr 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a wonderfully lucid account of hacking culture. It tells the story of Richard Stallman, better known as RMS, one of the pioneers of the Free Software movement. This book is highly recommended to anyone who has used GNU/Linux, LibreOffice or Mozilla products.
Kalash Remaster
Like it or not, it's Stallman's own argument on the necessity of free (as in freedom) software. Also includes a brief story on GNU project and Linux kernel. Useful for introducing yourself in the world of free software and GNU/Linux. The biographical parts are boring as fuck IMO.

install gentoo
Chris Chang
Jun 07, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Enjoyable history of Stallman and the Free Software movement. Clarifies many distinctions that appear subtle to someone outside of its history and development, such as Linux vs. GNU.
Aug 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: gnu-linux
Amazing insight into the world of free software and understanding its importance.
FREE AS IN FREEDOM is Sam Williams' biography of legendary software developer and political thinker Richard Stallman. Founder of the GNU project, Stallman is little-known outside of a relatively small world of computing cognoscenti, but without him Linux and many other modern computing innovations would hardly be possible. In an interesting twist, the publisher O'Reilly has released this book under the GNU Free Documentation License, meaning that the book may be freely copied and sold.

The book g
Paul Ivanov
Jan 04, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
After a few local discussion about the merits of BSD vs GPL, listening to the Moglen v. O'Reilly (2007) match, and out of wanting to read something on my N97's ebook reader (ZXReader), I read through Sam Williams' Free as in Freedom.

An interesting biography of Richard Stallman. The bulk of the book covers RMS's childhood through the pre-history and inception of the FSF. There are numerous stories which cover the full spectrum of his personality, as well as his ethical beliefs. The last few chapt
Chris Bracco
This biography chronicles a large portion of software programmer Richard Stallman’s controversial and storied career. He is often regarded as one of the most prolific, ingenious programmers of our time, a pioneer of the free software movement and a brilliant man who has dedicated his life to programming and activism.

Though his contributions to the software industry are numerous (e.g. launching the GNU Project, GNU Public License, GNU Emacs, and more), his complicated personality and stalwart su
Ken Jackson
Jan 01, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is about Richard M. Stallman and the extremely principled fight for "free software" that he has been waging for over two decades. The author gives personal narrative of his interviews with and exposure to this controversial individual as he lays out the history of the free software movement, Stallman's dream for a GNU operating system, the partial preemption of that dream by GNU/Linux, and the huge success of the GNU General Public License (GPL).

I thoroughly appreciate Stallman's influ
A must-read for all free software enthousiasts, to understand that programing is not only about coding, this is a philosophy!
Feb 20, 2020 rated it really liked it
Richard argued that owning a software should be like owning a cooking recipe. You can choose to follow the recipe verbatim, or you can modify it to fit your own taste and need. Most importantly, you can check the ingredient to make sure there is nothing bad for you.

Some might ask, reading the source code is nothing like reading a recipe! True. Nobody expects an average user of a software to be able to read the source code (though this might change with better Computer Science education). Howeve
Nguyen Duy Pham
Apr 13, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
While it's true that this book can be considered a vehicle to promote the Free Software movement and its leader, Mr. Richard Stallman, and even though I've never been a subscriber to his philosophy regarding software pricing (or the lack thereof, as he would prefer), this book still serves as an excellent history of the hacking culture of the late 20th century. One can't help but marvel at all the accomplishments, all the tools and "toys" that Mr. Stallman had created and given away freely. It r ...more
Oct 07, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Computer Science History Buffs
Recommended to Ashutosh by: Aaditya Sood
Just Finished Free As In Freedom by Sam Williams ( I read the print edition but I just realized that there was an online edition also available. This book chronicles Stallman's journey, his ideology & him as a person with all his idiosyncrasies. Before typing gcc foo.c -o foo one should read the book only to find out how GCC is a gift of a singularly brilliant Stallman. Without him we would not even have GNU/Linux which we so treasure these days. The book is ...more
Made Adi
Jul 14, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Richard Stallman is an enigmatic character. His quirkiness and stubbornness are his strongest assets that make him successful to be a crusader of a digital freedom. He is one of the people deserves this a tribute: "those who are crazy enough to change the world are often the ones who do". This book gives us perspective on how unique a character he is in his fight to force his belief amongst the wave of proprietary softwares.

I'm forever grateful to his direct work (like gcc, gpl, and fsf) and in
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