I read another important bit of history the other day. I have written before of the Open Source movement, and a variety of open source tools. Many of these tools I have mentioned, such as GIMP and GRUB are part of the GNU project, primarily sponsored by the Free Software Foundation. It would be fair to call theses tools “Free Software” as much as it would be to classify them as “Open Source”.
The other day, I read a biography of RMS by Sam Williams entitled Free as in Freedom: Richard Stallman’s Crusade for Free Software. This book is available through the publisher O’Reilly, and also released under the GNU Free Documentation License.
I thought the book was interesting for two reasons. It brought some of the distinctions between the advocacy of RMS leader of the Free Software movement, and that of Eric Raymond, who has become one of the leading advocates of the term “Open Source” in place of “Free Software”. To put it in a nutshell, which is arguably where both of these heroes of mine belong, RMS demands source code for political reasons, while ESR demands the same in the name of improving the quality. I think that is in essence a business argument.
Its a bit weird to read a GNU licensed book, because as one would expect with a GNU project, patches are available. In fact I came across this book, because Raymond couldn’t resist publishing a patch for the book on his own web site. If you’re a Linux user, or even just interested in all this stuff, I think you should go read the book, just to place yourself in an accurate historical framework.
The other reason I found it interesting is for the insight it provided me into my own nature. RMS is many times more brilliant than I have turned out to be, but by design or because he really lived it, the biography resonated with me in parts where he speaks of things such as not understanding why other people chatter about the things they do. When Williams describes a ride through hacker hell on a Hawaiian highway with Stallman driving, he may as well have been describing me.