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"free as in beer" - some further thoughts

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ariadacapo's picture
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I have been thinking more and more about this sentence that we proposed to put on the front page:

"free as in speech, and often free as in beer".

This is a particularly powerful statement, that, for the average Windows user, requires a lot of explainations. "Often free as in beer" implies that you may pay for GPLed software. But then you have the right to redistribute it. So there is no exclusivity on the distribution, contrary to a music piece for example.
So then you have to justify why people actually bother selling it. It's because access might be more convenient (shipped DVDs) or because there are combinations with non-free software or associated support (ex Novell SLED).

All of this makes a tremendous amount of information for the reader to assimilate before s/he can understand the first sentence on the website!
I re-read the "What is Linux" page and for now, it does not answer this properly and fully. I also re-touched the FAQ post on freedom, but this is way down into the site (so not necessarily/immediately read by the user).

So, despite this sentence being true (and certainly truer than "free as in beer and speech" as is now displayed), I suggest that we do not put it up. At least untill we improve the "Linux" page, but I honestly do not see how (without burdening it too much).

What do you think?

a thing's picture
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alter it

The fact that GNU/Linux is often gratis should stay. Just saying free as in freedom might imply to some that it isn't gratis.

However, I don't think the word "beer" should be used, for those that don't approve of alchol or don't want their small children to become obsessed with it. I suggest "free as in no money."

Quote:

contrary to a proprietary music piece

fixed

dylunio's picture
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Another problem with "Free

Another problem with "Free as in beer" is that beer (well afaik) never has 0 cost, people might get confused.

dylunio

free-zombie's picture
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the whole point of free beer

the whole point of free beer is that it's gratis Eye
"free beer" is a dodgy term all in all - if you look at German at least;

frei - free as in liberty
kostenlos - gratis
Bier - beer

now the (pointless) translation of said sentence:

Frei wie Freiheit, nicht wie Freibier.

notice something ? Eye

dylunio's picture
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Hmm, liberated beer,
free-zombie wrote:

the whole point of free beer is that it's gratis Eye
"free beer" is a dodgy term all in all - if you look at German at least;

frei - free as in liberty
kostenlos - gratis
Bier - beer

now the (pointless) translation of said sentence:

Frei wie Freiheit, nicht wie Freibier.

notice something ? Eye

Hmm, liberated beer, interesting Eye

a thing's picture
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free beer
ariadacapo's picture
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Interesting comments and

Interesting comments and definitely a difficult subject. (the freedom phraseology, not the beer Smiling... I don't drink alcohol).

What should we settle for then?

Quote:

Linux is free as in speech, and often available free of charge.

Quote:

Linux is free as in speech, and often [free as] in no cost.

--> But we still have the problem I described above that this requires a lot of exlainations.

or stick to

Quote:

Linux is free as in beer and speech.

?

Please criticise as much as you can and propose your versions...

free-zombie's picture
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another

another suggestion:

Quote:

GNU/Linux is free as in freedom, and often available free of charge.

where "free of charge" could be replaced with "at no cost", or course.

"available in no cost" sounds wrong, and the freedom analogy is clearer than speech.

a thing's picture
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what FZ said

I second free-zombie.

ariadacapo's picture
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Pardon me for taking some

Pardon me for taking some time to reply. This is a delicate subject so I wanted to think a little.

First,

Quote:

Linux is free as in freedom, and often available free of charge.

sounds perfect to me. Unless someone objects, I will put it up on the frontpage.

Now, what about the GNU/Linux vs. Linux? It has been suggested many times that GetGNULinux.org should strictly use only the term "GNU/Linux".
I don't believe it's a good idea.
Personally, I wish everyone used "GNU/Linux" all the time. I don't say "Linux" too often and almost never write it. I definitely understand and agree the FSF's arguments about this.
But, my experience is that amongst people who have a hint about another OS, something different from Windows, it always is "Linux" (strictly always). And I quote my sister here (a recent convert): "It doesn't matter to me whether the true name is GNU/Linux, everybody knows what we're talking about when we say Linux". This is not my opinion, but the truth is that it's the opinion of every Joe User.
I want to reach these people. I want them to care about freedom, to know Windows is not mandatory, to look out for new things. Already we start to get some hits from search engines like "get linux" or "switching to linux" or even "linux communism" (!), around two a day. These are all people not riding straight into linux.org.

The question arises whether GetGNULinux.org should also point to entirely free distributions, instead of Ubuntu and OpenSUSE. Whether we should also directly fight things like iPods, Tivos, anything encrypted or closed-source. Why even talk about dual-booting? These are completely obvious extensions.
Again, I do not think we should. It's all a matter of compromise. We compromise on the "GNU/Linux" to reach people who would never hear about free software otherwise. We point them to widely-used distributions (albeit not entirely free ones) to give them the best chances for their computer Just Working and them finding help quickly.

This series of compromises are what make GetGNULinux.org different from GNU.org. Otherwise I see absolutely nothing new.

So the question is, are these compromises worth it? Is it not the same opposition Free Software/Open Source coming up again?
I don't believe so. I think the spirit of Free Software comes out nicely from the website. GNU/Linux is not advertised on convenience, Windows is not bashed as expensive, inefficient, etc. Correct me if you believe this is auto-congratulation, but I think someone trying GNU/Linux after reading the website, gets the Free Software idea pretty much right.
Part of me wants to replace all "Linux"es by "GNU/Linux"es, and be more severe on proprietary software, and stricter about freedom, and so on. But I think this would just keep us further out from most computer users.
My belief is that the free software vs. privative software, TC, DRM, etc, is a lost one, and that within 5-10 years GNU/Linux will be something just for hobbyists or servers. I want to fight against this nevertheless, and I believe that it's better having some users running Ubuntu, saying "Linux" but knowing the real name, also understanding the damages of proprietary software, rather than much less users very strict about their freedom and language.

I hope all of this is a good reason to keep the sentence "Linux is free as...." (?)

I hope I do not sound too confused and apologise for the long post.

Olivier.

a thing's picture
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even more confusing

I think it's even more confusing when you use the two interchangablely.

Also using "Linux" for GNU/Linux creates confusion when only talking about Linux.

libervisco's picture
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You actually describe

You actually describe something that could be by some people seen as a middle ground between "Open Source" and "Free Software" although I think it is much closer to the FSF than Open Source. My philosophy is using pragmatic methods as a tool to reach ethical and idealistic goals. Instead of making pragmatical methods an end to themselves or to mere practical goals, we can use pragmatic methods in promotion of ideals. Or in other words, use pragmatic methods where they do not contradict your ideology. This way you do not actually make a compromise to your ideal. You merely find practical yet noncompromising ways to reach that ideal.

Calling our Free OS GNU/Linux is not an ideal. It is something devised by RMS as a means of promoting that idea because the word "GNU" calls for an association that would lead to GNU.org and the Free Software philosophy rather than Linus Torvalds and his philosophy alone. I am not sure, but if you make it distinctively clear on your site that the full name is GNU/Linux and that the operating system isn't just something written by Linus Torwalds but largely constructed and influenced by GNU tools, the GNU license and the GNU philosophy the visitors of your site may already be sufficiently equipped to spread this word further even if they don't always call the system GNU/Linux and rather abbreviate it as "Linux".

I personally tend to write the name as GNU/Linux, but in real speech, although I firstly do point out the GNU association I mostly call it just "Linux". In the future if GNU/Linux becomes dominant I don't think even RMS will insist on the name GNU/Linux because it wont be that important anymore if near everyone would already know GNU's place in the whole story.

ariadacapo wrote:

My belief is that the free software vs. privative software, TC, DRM, etc, is a lost one, and that within 5-10 years GNU/Linux will be something just for hobbyists or servers.

Unfortunately this belief may, no matter your good will, lead you to the loss of motivation which may lead to the loss of your good will to fight. Some optimism is good. Besides, privative software, TC and DRM are threatened even without Free Software, by their own weight and errancy. I think that if FSF never existed and GNU/Linux was never developed, but privative software and DRM was progressing we would at this point in time see a group of people rising out of nowhere to fight the tide. I think many computer users who never ever heard of Free Software, but are being pressured by DRM are themselves proactively seeking to find the alternative and then finally hear about Free Software.

I find that a plausible thing to believe. DRM and privative software are essentially becoming their own enemies, especially as the buzz around more open and free culture and software continues to rise. Even some corporations now start to consider privative software as more of a weakness than an advantage and see "open source" as they call it, the future.

ariadacapo's picture
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re: GNU/Linux and Linux
a thing wrote:

I think it's even more confusing when you use the two interchangablely.

I believe it's a chance to take. I think with "GNU/Linux, or simply Linux" on the homepage, and "The accurate name is GNU/Linux but "Linux" is used more often" in the Linux page, the interchangability is correctly explained.

a thing wrote:

Also using "Linux" for GNU/Linux creates confusion when only talking about Linux.

It's true, I perfectly agree.
I think however this is irrelevant for Joe Users, whom we are adressing. I for one, after two years of GNU/Linux use, very rarely mention the kernel at all (GetGNULinux.org has no mention of it except in the FAQ). All users that will learn about GNU/Linux on the website will (and should) never deal with the notion of kernel at all, in my opinion. It's like a complicated engine part, used by unknowingly by all car drivers.

I'm sorry if it appears that I try down your arguments one by one - this is not at all what I intend to do. I am not uncaring about important things like freedom or trying to get popularity. What I am discussing here is the most effective way to have as many people as possible care about freedom in their software. I think in this case using exclusively "GNU/Linux" goes against this.

I take it from your and libervisco's reflections that the Linux page might point more directly to the GNU project (I mean directly with links, not just explaining free software). I will try to modify it in this way in the coming week.

I changed the homepage text to "Linux is free as in freedom, and often available free of charge."

Thank you very much and I sincerely hope this discussion is not turning into a conflict...

Olivier.

ariadacapo's picture
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re: optimism
libervisco wrote:
ariadacapo wrote:

My belief is that the free software vs. privative software, TC, DRM, etc, battle is a lost one, and that within 5-10 years GNU/Linux will be something just for hobbyists or servers.

Unfortunately this belief may, no matter your good will, lead you to the loss of motivation which may lead to the loss of your good will to fight. Some optimism is good.

In this case, curiously, this belief leads not to despair but to a strong rise of motivation in me. It is this very thought, this "state of emergency" as Windows Vista arrives, the urge to express things out, the anger at the hypocrisy of some privative software and culture advocates, that has been pushing me ever since I first thought I could build a website instead of waiting for someone else to do it.
Let's put it this way: the situation looks more and more like a war of privative software over more free things. Whichever the issue of the battle, I will want to have been in the side I believe in. Everyone can have their own reasons. For RMS, it would be "freedom to share", "freedom to hack" I guess, for Torvalds, "freedom to build upon", "give your changes back". For me (I don't pretend to be as high as these two persons! Smiling ), there are two things: "freedom of information" (privative software can be an enormous restriction on each's ability to learn), and "truth" (as in "nothing has to be hidden"). I believe these two things to be very important and that's where I find motivation.

libervisco wrote:

Besides, privative software, TC and DRM are threatened even without Free Software, by their own weight and errancy. I think that if FSF never existed and GNU/Linux was never developed, but privative software and DRM was progressing we would at this point in time see a group of people rising out of nowhere to fight the tide. I think many computer users who never ever heard of Free Software, but are being pressured by DRM are themselves proactively seeking to find the alternative and then finally hear about Free Software.

That's very true but the weight and errancy might be corrected quickly and efficiently. For example, the iTunes concept is incredibly well-built and I think we will see more of this in the future. One can imagine a case also where playing devices are so well-connected that non-DRM becomes a larger pressure than DRM itself.

libervisco wrote:

I find that a plausible thing to believe. DRM and privative software are essentially becoming their own enemies, especially as the buzz around more open and free culture and software continues to rise. Even some corporations now start to consider privative software as more of a weakness than an advantage and see "open source" as they call it, the future.

True also, but I profoundly mistrust corporations in their ability to bear free software's values. It might be one day that Free Software is just a little more expensive to run, or just a little slower. (this is effectively what Ballmer hopes to reach). Not one corporation will afford to stay with it.

All in all, we shall see. I hope I'm wrong, but in any case the motivation is still here, still coming, and there's a large amount that can be used as a buffer Smiling

Olivier.

libervisco's picture
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Well that's certainly not

Well that's certainly not unheard of, driving motivation from the sense of alarmism. As long as you move forward it is all good and might even some day have you realize that alarm is finally off (as in turned off) and our fight was worth it. Smiling

Not everyone is motivated by same things, but still alot of people find alot in common in the whole cause. Freedom is word meaning alot of different things to different people with one common theme: you have the right to ... go for it.

ariadacapo's picture
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more linking to GNU
ariadacapo wrote:

I take it from your and libervisco's reflections that the Linux page might point more directly to the GNU project (I mean directly with links, not just explaining free software). I will try to modify it in this way in the coming week.

I have tried to do this with a little bit of re-wording towards the bottom of the page.

It's hard because this "Linux" page tries to do two things at once:
1. Break the myth that GNU/Linux is something hard and complicated, only for servers
2. Introduce the reader to the notion of free software (something the "Windows" part does much more).

I hope it's a little bit better now.

Olivier.

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