Re: free as in beer != free as in free speech
> Beer isn't free so I don't understand how something can be "free as in beer". Is the saying trying to make the point that something that costs money is not the same as being able to say what ever you want?
IMO the Wikipedia article doesn't really put it simply, but then that could just be me !
There are people who give away their software free (as in for no charge) but they restrict what you can do with it - eg no commercial use, no giving it to anyone else, no reverse engineering, or a myriad other restrictions. So it giving you something tangible for no cost (like giving you a free glass of beer), but it's still restricted in what you are allowed to do with it.
There are also people who are more interested in the "freedom of use" side. To them, the important thing is to be able to think, speak, use freely. So if someone writes a nifty bit of code, and you think "that would be great if I just altered it a little" then you are expressly allowed to take that code and alter it to suit your needs - and to pass on the unmodified or modified code to others. Also, you are free to look at the code and see how it works - to learn from others. And finally you can use it where you like, when you like, and for what you like. This is the "free as in speech" bit.
In many cases, the two overlap - so it's free (as in cost) and free (as in freedom to use, adapt, and share). And we are all familiar with commercial software which is not free in either sense.
In many cases they do not overlap. As an example, you can download the free PDF viewer from Adobe - but it comes with a licence agreement with a long list of things you aren't allowed to do with it. It's free (as in beer) but not free (as in speech).
And of course, thinking about security you can't look at (or ask someone else to look at) the code of this (or any other no-cost but not libre software) to see if it phones home with your details or any other such freedom/security infringing activities.
You might think it's not possible to have free (as in speech) without also free (as in beer). But that's not the case. It's quite allowable for me to take some software, adapt it, package it up and build a system to do/manage some task. Under the GNU public licence I am specifically allowed to do that. I am also specifically allowed to ask people for money - and some people may be happy to pay for the convenience of having everything packaged up into something they just "turn on and use". What I am not allowed to do is refuse to pass on the modified versions of the FOSS software I've used. I can keep other bits (eg scripts and stuff, web page designs, etc) to myself and paying customers, but not the modified FOSS software.
This is the RedHat* business model - a lot of what is in a RedHat Linux system is FOSS which they cannot refuse to let you have. However into the mix they have added their own utilities, configs etc. In effect, what you buy when you pay RedHat for a system is a bunch of FOSS that you can get for free, plus a load of RedHat proprietary stuff, and all packaged up into something you pop in and turn on.
* RedHat is just the one that comes to mind first - others do the same (SUSE is another, paying gets you their extras).
The confusing thing is that people talk about "open source" which doesn't automatically mean that it's free (as in speech). And people talk about free software - without specifying which meaning of free they mean.
Lastly, you'll often hear the name Richard Stallman (aka his initials RMS) when such conversations come up. He's a "hard core" free (as in speech) advocate and can be, ahem, quite blunt. Search around and you'll find a lot of comments that he's "quite difficult" to deal with. I've met him briefly at one of his talks, and he is - to the point where I think he diluted him message by turning people off. But IMO he is quite right in most of what he says - and if it weren't for people like him making the right noises I do think we'd be a lot better off.