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REVIEW: "Free as in Freedom", Sam Williams

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  • Rob, grandpa of Ryan, Trevor, Devon & Ha
    BKFREFRE.RVW 20020514 Free as in Freedom , Sam Williams, 2002, 0-596-00287-4, U$22.95/C$34.95 %A Sam Williams sam@inow.com %C 103 Morris Street, Suite
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 8, 2002
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      BKFREFRE.RVW 20020514

      "Free as in Freedom", Sam Williams, 2002, 0-596-00287-4,
      U$22.95/C$34.95
      %A Sam Williams sam@...
      %C 103 Morris Street, Suite A, Sebastopol, CA 95472
      %D 2002
      %G 0-596-00287-4
      %I O'Reilly & Associates, Inc.
      %O U$22.95/C$34.95 800-998-9938 fax: 707-829-0104 nuts@...
      %P 225 p.
      %T "Free as in Freedom"

      Richard Stallman would probably be worthy of a biography for his
      production (management?) of emacs, alone. But, of course, it is
      Stallman's advocacy for free software that is the impetus behind, and
      focus of, this work.

      Williams' writing is very readable. Which is a good thing, since it
      is also quite circuitous. The book takes a long time to come to the
      point of certain stories, and a number of important bits of
      information have to be put together from widely separated sections in
      order to make a proper picture. Early on the text suggests, of
      Stallman, that you have to see the totality of a large number of
      seemingly unrelated aspects in order to get a full picture: a similar
      point could be made about the writing. Some items never do get
      explained. An aside implies that Stallman is (at least somewhat)
      estranged from his mother, but we are never told why or how this
      happened. I would readily admit the right of a biography subject to
      some privacy, but the basic point of such a work is to find out what
      it was in the past of the person that moulded character and prompted
      actions. This text is singularly devoid of such analysis.

      The author uses a fairly standard flashback technique in developing
      the narrative: events in the near present are interlaced with a mostly
      linear, if rather patchy, progression through Stallman's life. While
      not completely disjointed, the style does not work as well in this
      volume as in others. If there is a connection between the current
      events and the "historical" periods covered it is not evident, and the
      intercutting is annoying without seeming to make any specific
      statement or contribution.

      It is interesting to note the extreme care in researching some
      conversations in contrast with simple technical mistakes, such as the
      confusion of HTML (HyperText Markup Language) with desktop publishing.
      Despite Williams' stated background in the technical world, the
      technology is not dealt with well in the story, and this failure
      weakens the explanation of Stallman's significance.

      An interesting read, but important only for the compilation of facts
      and quotes about its subject.

      copyright Robert M. Slade, 2001 BKFREFRE.RVW 20020514


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      rslade@... rslade@... slade@... p1@...
      Half of the wood he burns in the fire; over it he prepares his
      meal, he roasts his meat and eats his fill. He also warms
      himself and says, `Ah! I am warm; I see the fire.' From the
      rest he makes a god, his idol; he bows down to it and worships.
      He prays to it and says, `Save me; you are my god.' - Is. 44:16,17
      http://victoria.tc.ca/techrev or http://sun.soci.niu.edu/~rslade


      ------- End of forwarded message -------

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      rslade@... rslade@... slade@... p1@...
      Decadence is a much abused word, but one proof of a decadent
      society seems to be that morality is replaced by style. In
      Warhohl's world, instead of good and evil, there was only what
      was cool or uncool. - Mary Harron
      http://victoria.tc.ca/techrev or http://sun.soci.niu.edu/~rslade
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