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When it comes to free software, the open-source community certainly has a monopoly on high-minded posturing and puffy rhetoric. Just take a look at the Philosophy page of the GNU operating system's website:

"Free software is a matter of liberty, not price. To understand the concept, you should think of free as in free speech, not as in free beer. Free software is a matter of the users' freedom to run, copy, distribute, study, change and improve the software. More precisely, it means that the program's users have the four essential freedoms."

But when it comes to free software, those free-loving, free-wheeling open sourcers have an unlikely challenger: Microsoft. Yes, you heard us right, Microsoft: the ice to Fedora's fire; the night to Ubuntu's day.

But as unlikely as it may seem, Redmond actually has a thriving - though largely unsung - library of free applications available to download. And we're not just talking about freeware cobbled together in bedrooms by people who don't get out much.



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