free and open terminology

As, I'm sure many of you know, language and "what we call things" in the free software/open source world is a huge thing. Some people will probably get mad for my use of the slash in the previous sentence. This post, is mostly for my own good, as an experiment (and for future reference) to see where I stand on various word-choice questions in this area. I'm going to organize the post as a series of (brief) reflections a couple of key words.

Free Software

I think free software, addresses and represents the core of what this whole mess is about. Free software--as an idea--addresses the communities, the "hacking spirit," the ideological goals, the political and philosophical elements of the community.

It's also horribly confusing in English, and no matter how often we say "free as in speech" or "free as in freedom," it's not really going to get better. I think, also, "libre" is a poor use of the English language, and I cringe a lot when I read it. I've taken, when possible to refer to "ideas about software freedom" and "the movement for software freedom," which works as long as you don't need to refer to a specific piece of software.

In those cases, I often cave and say "open source software" because it open source is a more clear adjective. I also think that open source describes "the thing" and the "process" more clearly, and that's an advantage. I dislike that open source, means "not scary to big businesses," and disregards the fact that this (free/open source) software is better/more valuable than proprietary/closed software because it is free and open source not simply because it happens to be better in quality.


I tend to say GNU/Linux, because--at least in my use cases--the kernel isn't nearly as important to how I think about my operating system as all the tools that surround them, and if the next big thing in the Unix-like (open source) operating system was a Debian or Arch-like system with GNU parts around the FreeBSD kernel or the Solaris kernel, I'm there.

I switched from OS X to GNU/Linux mostly because I wanted: better package management and (oddly enough) to be able to run an X11 desktop. The truth was, I was basically running a GNU(ish) system around Darwin (OS X's kernel), anyway.

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