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March 04, 2005
Land of the Free Software
The terms "free software" and "Open Source Software" are commonly used interchangeably. I think the most common interpretation of the word "free" in free software is that the software was aquired without spending any money. At least that was my interpretation until recently.
I was just introduced (in the latest issue of Linux Magazine) to a different interpretation based on a famous quote by Richard Stallman. Free, or open source software isn't just about getting something for nothing. The more significant aspect of open source software is the "freedom" that comes with it:
- freedom to use it however you want
- freedom to install it on ALL your computers (and your friends)
- freedom to modify it to precisely meet your needs
By some strange coincidence, this revelation came at an opportune time. I recently purchased a 10-button Logitech mouse but could only get 9 of the buttons to work in my favorite window manager. Excercising the freedoms of open source software, I checked out the window manager source code from CVS, modified the code, recompiled it and am now enjoying all 10 buttons of my mouse. For years, I had been enjoying the no-cost benefits of open source software, but this was the first time I really took advantage of the fact that the source is "free".
So the next time you are smoking cigars and debating about open source software, remember this important aspect of "free" software. In the open source world, we are living in the land of the free software.
Posted by Rob Sullivan at March 4, 2005 07:05 PM
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