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Free for All
|Dewey Subject Code:||006|
Full Title: Free for All: How Linux and the Free Software Movement Undercut the High-Tech Titans
Can you get rich selling free software? It's a question that's got Wall Street excited, computer makers curious, and Bill Gates nervous. Peter Wayner's Free for All explores the history of open-source programming, its emerging threat to Microsoft, and its struggle to retain its ideals in the face of big money.
Like Eric Raymond's The Cathedral and the Bazaar, Free for All outlines the arguments for leaving software source code open and free for anyone to tinker with. But Wayner's account delves deeper into the politics of the movement, reading like a high-tech soap opera. Brash and colorful characters populate the pages: Richard Stallman, the quasi-communist coder who has done as much to inspire open source as he has to alienate big business; Linus Torvalds, the self-effacing grad student whose talent for organizing the work of others resulted in the bombproof operating system Linux; and libertarian techno-philosopher Eric Raymond, whose passion for free source code is matched only by his passion for the freedom to own guns. Each has a different vision of what it means to collaborate on software development, and their clashes over the "rules" of a largely unregulated process have created fault lines that run deep.
But what may ultimately prove more challenging than these differences, says Wayner, is the open-source movement's own success. As big names like IBM and Dell court the largely volunteer community, and companies like Red Hat produce stock-option millionaires, uncomfortable questions arise. "Getting people to join together for the group is easy to do when no one is getting rich," says Wayner. "What happens when more money starts pouring into some folks' pockets? Will people defect? Will they stop contributing?" Wayner leaves the question open, and only time will provide the answer. In the meantime, Free for All offers as thorough and engaging an account of the open-source movement--and the pitfalls in its path--as readers are likely to find anywhere.
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