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Re: request information.


You are confused by the two meanings of the word `free' in English.

The meaning that has to do with open source, free software is `freedom'.
To use the Spanish words, free software is `libre' software, not
`gratis' software.

It is false to say:

    If you decide to go Linux, you will not have to pay anything more
    for your system or for Emacspeak ...

You can pay lots, if you wish.  It depends how much you want to learn
and do yourself and how much you want to contract out to others.  It
is often a good idea to pay.

In any event, if you purchase a CD, you pay; if you purchase a book,
you pay.  And if you purchase a service, such as support, you pay.

It happens that open source, free software is sold in a competitive,
free market, so the price is low compared to prices for restricted
software and associated services.

Indeed, in some circumstances, the cost of making copies of software
is so low that no one charges you: for example, you may not pay any by
the minute or by the megabyte charge for a download from the Internet.
And sometimes companies give away CDs with software on them, as a
marketing gimmick.

Low price leads to the confusion about whether `free' is about payment
or freedom.   

The English word `free' has several meanings.  As Miguel de Icaza, the
leader of the GNOME desktop project, once said to me,

    English is broken; it does not distinguish between `free beer' and
    `free speech'.

Spanish, on the other hand, distinguishes between `gratis' and
`libre'.  When you speak of `free beer', you mean beer that is gratis;
but when you speak of `free speech' you mean freedom.

Free software is `libre' software.

When you pay, generally speaking you pay for media containing
software, such as CDs, or you pay for a book, or you pay for support
services, or you pay for customization, or you pay for solutions.

Often, people also give away their support, as I am doing now by
writing this message -- a nice characteristic of this section of the
economy.   This gratis support often confuses people, because they get
it `for free'.  Sure, it exists.  Also, you can purchase support. 

Incidentally, Eric Raymond and Bruce Perens invented the phrase `open
source' a few years ago as a synonym `free software'.  They wanted to
work around the dislike many companies have of free markets.  The
phrase is popular; Eric and Bruce succeeded in their purpose.

However, I prefer the term `free software' since it better conveys the
goal of freedom; the proposition that every man and woman has the
right to do first rate work, and must not be forbidden from doing so.

    Robert J. Chassell                  bob@rattlesnake.com
    Rattlesnake Enterprises             http://www.rattlesnake.com

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