Free free

Back in the days before the invention of the term Open Source, Richard Stallman had to use analogies to explain what he means by Free Software. It’s free as in free speech not free beer. It’s the difference between gratis and libre.

I recently read David Smith‘s popular-science type book on economics: Free Lunch. Whilst in “No such thing as a free lunch” clearly entails the gratis meaning, I am intrigued by the inference that a Free lunch is one that may not exist. It’s almost like free as in ‘error free’ where free = libre but with the connotation that ‘free’ = ‘without’.

Which brings me to another use of the word:

Free as in Freebox. The ADSL modem that doesn’t work. Well, I took my freebox to the post-office this morning and posted it back to with instructions for where to shove it and the forms filled in to ask for my money back on the basis that, over five months after applying to them, I still don’t have an Internet connection. I’ve given up on DSL for the time being and applied with a local cable company. There is a cable socket in the wall of my apartment, I’m hoping the wires aren’t crossed this time.


  1. Mark Says:

    Of course Error-free software is another Free Lunch

  2. James Soar Says:

    What about freeing Irak?

    On another note, can you guess my secret identity. 2 hints, I have known you for 10 years also we kind of lost touch and I missed you 40est birthday.

  3. Mark Says:

    You mean you’re not ‘James Soar’, who seems like he might be a Welsh football player? OK

    What do I know about you so far?
    – You wrote this comment from a Belgacom registered IP address.
    – You spell Iraq and 40th differently from the way I would do
    – You have known me for 10 years (since I was working at IBM Brussels)

    I’ve lost touch with several people from that time, some of those would not spell those things that way. According to Babelfish, Iraq is spelled Irak in both French and Dutch (they don’t have Flemish).

    Did I come to your wedding?

  4. James Soar Says:

    Hey Mark (with a k – that gives it away doesn’t it?), I am really impressed, didn’t realise I was leaving that many hints behind. Thought about a new life in private investigation?
    You haven’t come to my wedding because so far wedding has been a continuous process, so to refine we might say that you have shared some of that process over a few years. If I ever change my mind on the topic, I’d love to have you around for the event.

    Drop me a note on any of the addresses you have, it seems I have misplaced yours and I will happily give you all the latest news. Would like to know how you ended up working in France too (if I understand well).

    Sorry I missed your party, that looked like a good one. Happy birthday and merry Christmas!


    P.S. First time I am told my all-powerful alter-ego magician nick name sounds like a second-leaguer. Tough realisation.

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