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Are there advantages or disadvantages to using free weights over machines?
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There are definitely advantages of using free weights over machines. For one, you're using more muscles; you're getting your stabilizers involved. There are some disadvantages for using free weights. If someone is inexperienced with weight lifting, it will be more difficult for them to pick up a bar and move it through space, rather than go to a machine which guides the person through the exact range of motion. So a beginner can be better of starting on a machine. Once you've developed a little bit of a base, you're going to get a lot more results with free weights. It develops a lot more muscle and keeps more of your muscles working.
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