When explaining to people what we mean by “Free Software”, almost all of us have turned at some point or another to the famous Beer vs. Speech analogy to explain the difference between “libre” free and “gratis” free. We’ve probably also all run into someone for whom the difference doesn’t really matter, as long as they don’t pay, they don’t really care about restrictions.
This goes for all kinds of software, not just those that are distributed free of charge. Many people consider Windows to be free, because they don’t buy windows they buy a computer and it just comes with it. Others find ways of obtaining illegal copies or licenses of commercial software, and to them too this makes that software free. For them, “gratis” is all that matters, whether legal or not, restricted or not, all they care about is the money.
In an effort to counter that mentality, I’d like to introduce a new twist on that Beer vs. Speech analogy and throw in a Puppy. I want to say that Windows, whether obtained illegally or from an OEM purchase, is “Free as in Puppy”. And not just Windows either, Flash is Free as in Puppy, as is Acrobat Reader. So is any software that you can get without paying for it if using it ends up costing you in some other way.
As everybody knows (or should know), there’s no such thing as a free puppy. Even if someone is giving them away from a box on the side of the road, and you don’t have to pay to get one, there’s no such thing as a free puppy. Because that puppy, no matter how freely you obtained it, is going to need food at least, probably also veterinary visits. There’s also a high likelihood that some furniture and/or carpets are going to have to be replaced because of it. That’s not to mention all of the time and effort a puppy requires of you.
Windows is the same way, no matter how freely you obtain it, it’s going to cost you in terms of cpu and memory robbing anti-virus software you’ll have to run, time spent keeping the registry clean, removing malware, not to mention the seemingly random times the system gets borked somehow and leaves you with the infamous Blue Screen of Death. Even when it’s in good health, it’s going to make you run around the internet looking for software to install, never knowing really what’s trustworthy and what isn’t. And heaven help you if you do get a real nasty virus, because getting that fixed is likely to cost more than buying a new computer.
And when that finally does happen, they’re going to try and sell you on the latest and greatest Free Puppy from Microsoft, which requires double the hardware power of your last computer, yet still keeps staining the carpet.