24 July 2011

Is Linux Really FREE?

In any discussion of what free means in relation to software, you'll often see the expressions "free as in speech" or "free as in beer." In this case, free isn't a question of cost, although you can get a free copy (as in free beer) of Linux and install it on your system without breaking any laws. As Robert A. Heinlein would have said, "There ain't no such thing as a free lunch." A free download will still cost you connection time on the Internet, disk space, time to burn the CDs, and so on. In the case of Ubuntu Linux, you can have a free CD mailed
to you, so free in this case starts to feel pretty, well . . . free.

Linux is also free, as in speech, in that you have the right to view the source code and modify it to suit your needs. This is very unlike other operating systems when looking at or changing the code could get you in legal trouble.

Perhaps this is where a little French helps. You'll also see the delineations free (libre) and free (gratis). The first, libre, means free in the sense that you have freedom of expression, the freedom of speech, and the freedom to think. The second, gratis, refers to no cost. Imagine yourself at a friend's party. Your friend walks up and hands you a beergratis.
Related Post