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Re: Open source - Free software

From: Barry Margolin
Subject: Re: Open source - Free software
Date: Thu, 28 Sep 2006 09:15:55 -0400
User-agent: MT-NewsWatcher/3.5.2 (PPC Mac OS X)

In article <>,
 "Roger Johansson" <> wrote:

> Barry Margolin wrote:
> > > "Free Software" is open source.  Free software, like free milk, is
> > > something you aren't charged for.  It's a shame they chose such an
> > > ambiguous word.
> > While it may be a shame, they've been using the phrase for about 20
> > years now.  It's become part of the industry lexicon.  Similarly, we
> > have the jargon "freeware" that refers to software distributed at no
> > cost.
> Have you heard the expression "spin doctor". That expression describes
> what you seem to be doing.
> You talk about the expression "free software" in very authoritative
> terms, like "part of the industry lexicon". You describe the word
> "freeware" in a derogatory way and call it "jargon".

That wasn't my intent, I was just trying not to use the same word twice 
in a paragraph.  It's an old habit I learned from creative writing 
teachers (is it in Strunk & White?), although perhaps it's inappropriate 
for this type of writing.

> > So there shouldn't be much ambiguity when the context is
> > understood -- we have distinct terms for these different concepts.
> > AFAIK, there's no other common term for what is called "free software",
> Why not call it "open source software", or GPL or LGPL software, or
> public domain software, etc..?

Open source software is not the same as free software (as I've mentioned 
elsethread, open source is a subset of free).  And GPL is just one free 
software license, so it's not an appropriate general term.

> Why do you absolutely want to use the very ambiguous expression "free
> software"?
> I can answer that question myself, actually. You want to use the
> expression "free software" for propagandistic purposes, to create and
> establish a new linguistic convention.

I don't think I have an agenda.  I think the posters who refuse to 
accept that a phrase has acquired an idiomatic meaning beyond the 
literal interpretation of the constituent words are the ones who have an 
agenda.  I didn't create this term, and after 20 years it's no longer 

Barry Margolin,
Arlington, MA
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