Michael J. Radwin

Tales of a software engineer who keeps kosher and hates the web.

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

Sam Williams spins a compelling story about a man who is so passionate about a single idea that he ends up alienating most people he meets.

Free as in Freedom: Richard Stallman's Crusade for Free Software I finished reading Free as in Freedom: Richard Stallman’s Crusade for Free Software a couple of weeks ago (it’s on my reading list for 2003). Sam Williams spins a compelling story about a man who is so passionate about a single idea that he ends up alienating most people he meets.

On the whole, the book is well-written and insightful. I found chapters 10 and 11 (“GNU/Linux” and “Open Source”) the most interesting. These chapters are less autobiographical and more historical. They do a good job of explaining why the Open Source movement is important (the Free Software Foundation is a bunch of religious zealots that don’t care to understand or work with the business world).

When I heard RMS interrupt and insult a speaker at the 2002 O’Reilly Open Source Convention because the speaker used the term “Free Software” to refer to “Open Source” software, I didn’t really understand why he would be so rude. The other chapters in the book, as a whole, tell us why he’s such a jerk. They don’t condone his behavior, but they do offer an explanation of how he came to be the person he is today.

The whole St. Ignucius shtick makes me embarassed to be an Emacs user. I can’t code without it, but I hate the pseudo-religion that RMS attaches to its use.

Lastly, a comment about e-books: Although I could’ve read the book for free online, I ended up getting a print edition. It’s so much easier to read in print that I think it’s worth spending the money on the actual book.

(I downloaded Cory Doctorow’s Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom to my Palm Zire last week because I’m tickled by the Creative Commons licenses, but I’m having a hard time with the poor contast delivered by an LCD. There ain’t nothing as easy to read as black ink on white paper.)