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 Free.fr 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.

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