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

3.82  ·  Rating details ·  1,039 ratings  ·  59 reviews
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-ye
Paperback, 240 pages
Published March 8th 2002 by O'Reilly Media (first published 2002)
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Seth Kenlon
Aug 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Feb 23, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Dylan Meeus
Aug 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
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
Clay Moeller
Mar 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
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 I as GNU/Linux hencefort ...more
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.
Ian Bradford
Jan 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
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.
Dec 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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
Nov 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing
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
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
Nov 19, 2019 rated it it was ok
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
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
Shelves: gnu-linux
Amazing insight into the world of free software and understanding its importance.
Jul 20, 2007 rated it liked it
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
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
Bryan Brown
Nov 12, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Chris Bracco
Jan 02, 2016 rated it liked it
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
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
Sep 10, 2016 added it
Shelves: computer, philosophy
A must-read for all free software enthousiasts, to understand that programing is not only about coding, this is a philosophy!
Nguyen Duy Pham
Apr 13, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
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
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
Jul 08, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in the roots of open source/free software.
Shelves: read-2010-07
This was a fascinating biography of one of the keystones of modern computing and the free software movement. Richard M. Stallman really is a notable character for his supreme honesty and frankness as much as for his volatility in groups and extreme stubbornness, and Williams' book really brought that across. I feel as though I know Stallman a little more, and I now deeply appreciate the incredible impact he has had on the tools I use every day and the philosophy he has relentlessly pursued for d ...more
Sigurd Alnes
May 27, 2013 rated it really liked it
The book Free as in Freedom is very well written, and I don't believe that anyone could have written a better book about Richard M Stallman than what Sam Williams has done here. It's an easy read, but the content is very interesting. I found the comments from Stallman quite amusing at times, and they added some authenticity to this book. Despite that Richard has devoted his life to the free software fight, and that the book reflects this, I believe that Free as in Freedom is a book anyone would ...more
Aug 12, 2008 rated it really liked it
Richard Stallman, founder of GNU/The Free Software Foundation, gets labeled as a bit of kook, and that's not entirely off base. This book relates some of the formative events that lead to RMS's becoming a hard line proponent of what really amounts to: Put things in public domain (so to speak) for the ultimate betterment of society. The guy still gets a lot of mockery even within parts of the hacker community, but given what he and GNU have done for us, we all owe him a great debt.
Senthil Kumaran
May 31, 2012 rated it it was ok
rms's bio. If you are interested in any of his writings, it would be good to read this. I rembering having read this about 8 years ago, so I do not really remember the details. All I remember is the author had a hard time publishing this book, because he had to publish it "Free" too because he was writing on someone who stood for "Free as in Freedom". Yeah, you will find the entire copy of the book in the www under the GPL license.

Colin Grove
Nov 22, 2013 rated it really liked it
Sam Williams manages to explain how Stallman's philosophy comes naturally from his personality, without tying Stallman's much-admired philosophy to his combative and sometimes alienating personality. Understanding Stallman's personality is important in order to understand the splits in the free software/open source movement, whether or not one is inclined to take Stallman's side. This biography is also an interesting study in how such great things can come from such unhappy men.
Strand McCutchen
Jun 28, 2007 rated it really liked it
I started reading this book online ([]) And finished it with a library copy. It's a decent biography of the fascinating Free Software pioneer Richard Stallman, though it's last few chapters are weaker than it's opening chapters. Overall a good read, though not groundbreaking. ...more
Saurabh Sharma
Mar 19, 2011 rated it really liked it
I learnt a lot from this book. Any one even remotely related to the computer field must read this book. The message this book gives is important even from an end user perspective. The message I liked the most is that we shouldn't have reinvent the wheel just because the one who did it before us got it patented. It really pays to not be selfish in some case.
Mar 16, 2016 rated it really liked it
A short piece of computer software history. Excellent in subject matter but the narrative becomes a bit droning on after a while. Also, some of the references and events seem to be a tad jumbled (like the introduction of the concept 'open source') which causes unnecessary confusion. Still a worth while read.
Aug 31, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone
Recommended to Ryan by: Don Smith
Just read the matter of an afternoon, though it was a printed copy of the freely distributed e-book format. Very engaging, even for someone who only has a passing interest in computing or hacking culture. I recommend it very highly to anyone.
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