Free vs open: What's the difference?

Paul Hudson explores the gap between the philosophies

Similarly, I think it's counter-productive to take a hardline view on open source and free software. If you think everyone should respect the founding principles of the FSF, that's awesome. If you want to say GNU Slash Linux, that's fine with me.

The point is that we shouldn't try to force our opinion on other people, because doing so is divisive, destructive and ultimately self-defeating. As George Gershwin put it, whether it's tomayto or tomahto, "if we ever part, then that might break my heart."

What we don't want – in fact, what we must actively avoid – is the formation of a real division in our community caused by arguing about philosophies. Yes, there are some small differences between the open source and free software movements, but we have far more in common than separating us, and the few philosophical differences can easily be put to one side so that we can accomplish our goal of giving freedom back to end users once and for all.

Do they need to understand that freedom? Do they need to want to fight for it? I don't think so, in the same way that not every citizen has to be a soldier to defend democracy.

So, here's the deal: thousands of coders have worked together to produce GPL, LGPL, BSD, MIT, Mozilla and Apache-licenced software, and you get to use as much of it as you want regardless of whether you say open source or free software, Linux or GNU/Linux.

However, I hope you can accept that some people choose to run on top of that some non-free software, because they don't take free software as seriously as you might. If you want to tell them about why Free Software is important, that's fine too – start a website to educate people. But you need to understand that people use their computers to Get Stuff Done.

Compiz desktop

COMPIZ DESKTOP: With the right hardware and a recent kernel, you can get Compiz desktop effects without a proprietary driver

You can't make them have your principles, and neither can you force your view of the past on them – and you'd better get used to that situation, because it's not going to change.

And if you want Nvidia drivers or like the Adobe Flash plugin, go for it. It's free software – free as in freedom – and I'm not going to presume that my definition of freedom should stomp over yours.