Free software for everybody

I have just been talking with a fellow Information Technology  nerd and we have been discussing the merits of Free Software.

This was prompted by the extremely price focused Information Technology business owners who only look at price when it comes to selecting Information technology.

The assumption is that by using Open Source/Free Software Technology ,you immediately save money and can get cheaper Information technology solutions with immediate effect. After all Open Source is Free Software, right.

Wrong !

There is no such thing as free software, regardless of which definition you use.

Free as in beer

Somebody likes you enough to give you a free pint of beer. But was the beer actually free?  The answer you are looking for is NO.

It cost your friend money to buy the pint and hand it to you, it cost the bar money to purchase, store and cool. It cost the brewer money to produce and transport and create.

Somebody some where has to pay. Your pint is NOT free.

The same goes for software. The software you got for free, somebody has to pay. The programmers time is worth money , the servers which host the software cost money, the equipment and knowledge that the programmer  has learnt and gathered over the years to create the software, cost money.

A lot of free software actually costs you money indirectly without you ever noticing, due to the fixation of the zero monetary transfer for the software.

You can spend a lot of time trying to get your free software to perform how you want. Documentation and sometimes the quality of the software can be quite poor. You might have got the software for free, but your time is surely worth money. If not directly money it could be time you could have spent with your kids and family.

Please also be aware that some free software is actually designed to take up your time. The software is designed to be complicated or incomprehensible so you purchase a support plan or a “done for you service” from the programmers or vendor.

It is a sneaky way of recovering costs, but it may be worth considering when selecting “Free” software.

You might say “Well if free software is not free monetarily, It’s Open Source and I’m free to modify and adapt the code how I please.”

Really ?

Free as in Freedom

The term “Free Software” is actually an oxymoron. This is because free software is not actually free. It is not free as in beer or free as in freedom.

Free software has a licence which states how and what you can do with the software. Anything which dictates how the software can be used restricts your freedom.

There are a large number of licences under which free software is licensed.

Here are 3 examples where legal cases have been established due to licence violations:

In general these licences are noble in intent. They are there to ensure that everybody has access to the software as intended. You have to be pretty selfish and arrogant to violate a free license and it rarely ends up in litigation. And most of the people who have been caught violating are vendors who took a gamble and lost.

The point I’m trying to make is you are not free to do as you please with free software. You have to be aware of the conditions of use and follow the conditions outlined.


I’m an advocate of open source/free software and use many of the tools in this genre. This actual post exists because of Free/Open Source software.

The reason for this post is to highlight that what you get for free is not actually free. You have to take into account that there is always a cost involved. When you are so focused on getting something for free you can actually end up spending a lot of money or value.

You can build some very cost-effective solutions based on Free Software, but please analyse all the key factors when comparing solutions.



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