Talk:FSF's "free software" ideal/Archive 3

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Archive 2 Archive 3 Archive 4

There should be a distinction between "free" and "FSF"

There are plenty of people that use the term "free" that don't really associate (or agree with) the FSF. This article assumes free == FSF == RMS which is a bit of an oversimplification.

I would say the term "free software" is just what people called it before that Eric Raymond fella (I'll withold my opinion of him) et al. decided to create all this "open source" hype. A lot of the types that still don't buy into Raymond's trendy ideas still use "free" over "open". There are lots of free projects that fit Stallman's definition of free, that use the word "free", but whose developers would object to the Stallman comparison.

I'd like to edit this article to reflect that but I don't know how it fits in the current one, which seems very FSF-oriented. -- unsigned.

Fortunately or unfortunately, the free software community is indeed broader than just the FSF. However, the words accepted understanding is rooted in the history and foundings by FSF and RMS. -- 17:36, 21 March 2006 (UTC)


Category:Free software has more than 150 articles in the main category. Many of these should be taken out and put in subcategories. But I don't know much about the subject. Can anyone help with this? Thanks. Maurreen 15:06, 27 July 2005 (UTC)

Ugh. The subcategories are part of the problem, it seems. For instance, there's Category:Free Mac OS software, Category:Free Windows software, and Category:Free Linux software. On the one hand, there are categories missing for plenty of other popular and frequently supported operating systems. On the other hand, you don't want to add a dozen categories to every free software project just because it runs on that many operating systems. ... Splitting by supported OS may not be the best solution. We should probably have a separate subcategory for all actual free software (e.g. Category:Free softare projects). That will at least unclutter the main category. Rl 15:42, 27 July 2005 (UTC)
There is also Category:Freeware. Maurreen 15:49, 27 July 2005 (UTC)
That's fine. Freeware is something entirely different from free software – in short: freeware means you don't have to pay for the software (free as in beer), free software means you get the source code plus a bunch of rights that usually remain with the author (free as in freedom). In other words: These two categories are distinct. Rl 19:57, 27 July 2005 (UTC)

Thanks, that clarifies. Maurreen (talk) 02:39, 28 July 2005 (UTC)

A Free Software Wikiportal

Does anyone want to make a Free Software Wikiportal? I noticed there's one on the French wikipedia, here is the link to "Portail Logiciels libres", and one on the German wikipedia, here is the link to "Portal Freie Software". This would be a good place to organize all the free software links. I noticed the French Cygwin/X page, here has a free software template, here, that links to the portal. This would be helpful to our English Cygwin/X page so people can found out about other free software. -Hyad 03:11, August 2, 2005 (UTC)

I started one (Portal:free software) but it needs a lot of work and I got busy. Gronky 01:54, 23 December 2005 (UTC)

"free software" and "open source" stand for different philosophical values

In an attempt to remove a POV, user Pengo has instead introduced one. The original sentence by RMS read:

"Although the license criteria are nearly identical, "free software" and "open source" stand for different philosophical values."

The assertion of the second phrase (after the comma) is not really a matter of opinion. Any person can compare the differences of the two movements by reading the stated motives and objectives on the movements' respective Websites: (click on the Why we exist link) (front page and FAQ)

It would be difficult to construct a reasonable argumentation to convince people that the two movements are philosophically identical. However, it would not be difficult to construct a reasonable argumentation to convince people that the two movements are different. The question of "how different" and "to what degree" is of course a matter of opinion, but at least there is room for a debate there.

The new sentence now reads:

"Although the license criteria and development practices are nearly identical, according to Stallman, the free software movement considers its philosophical values fundamentally different to those of open source movement."

Whether the philosophical values of the two movements are fundamentally, radically, significantly, unsignificantly, positively, negatively, importantly, or unimportantly different is quite interesting a topic, but whichever one we pick won't provide us with the kind of material we want to include in an encyclopedia.

The original sentence should be reinserted back I believe, or possibly, the new sentence of user Pengo could be retained, but be rewritten so as to remove the POV. For example, this one would be fairly reasonable in my opinion:

"Although the license criteria and development practices are nearly identical, the philosophical values promoted by the free software movement are different from those of the open source movement." Then possibly by using quotes from both websites, we could state the motives and objectives of the movements and let the Wikipedia readers make their own opinion on the case. -- Mathieugp 18:54, 17 August 2005 (UTC)

Agree. I like your suggestion best, but the original phrasing (by RMS) is fine, too. Rl 19:11, 17 August 2005 (UTC)
What the free software and open source movements stand for is not defined by those web sites, nor by the people who coined the terms, but by the people who belong to the movement(s) themselves. Many people in the free software movement do not hold exact same ideals of Richard Stallman (indeed no "GNU/Linux distribution" goes as far as he'd like), and i'd imagine even fewer open source advocates would consider ESR to be the definer of what the open source movement stands for. Most software developers write GPL'd or other F/OSS code because they believe in what it will achieve, not in the doctrine from a web site. For many the distinction is irrelevant and meaningless, and the terminology battles just distract from a common goal.
While I agree my phrasing isn't ideal (especially the word "fundamentally"), I would argue that many people do not believe it necessary to choose between the different movements, as they are essentially the same thing. I also chose the phrasing to reflect that Free Software advocates (such as RMS) choose to distance themselves from Open Source more than vice versa.
I don't live in California, but in Melbourne, and here Open Source and Free Software are used practically interchangeably by developers. There are not "open source" conferences and "free software" conferences. There are not "Linux user groups" and "GNU/Linux user groups". There are just conferences and user groups that are not exclusive to anyone. I imagine it is similar everywhere else in the world. Hackers are smart people, and everyone has their own opinion, and few are the same as those prescribed on GNU's or OSI's web sites.
Unfortunately I don't have a poll of developers of F/OSS who consider themselves to identify with (a) one movement, (b) both, or (c) see no fundamental difference between the two, so I can only appeal to sensibilities. All I'd like to see in the article is acknowledgement that not everyone do not consider there to be "two camps", nor for the ideals to be different, and in my opinion that is a majority of people.
Please make some new suggestions for the paragraph. But I will be disgusted by the Free Software movement if they consider their opinions to all come from one man.


The Social significance of free software, individual motives and relative security sections are a combination of POV, odd stuff that is off-topic, and unsourced claims. I'm not even sure what the meaning of the "individual motivations" section is, and it seems like it may be original research as well. Nathan J. Yoder 17:41, 12 October 2005 (UTC)

Added cleanup-section templates. You could have done this too: just add {{cleanup-section}} on the top of these sections. ;-) --Hdante 03:56, 21 November 2005 (UTC)


There's an AFD for a new article which essentially duplicates the content (an effecitve merger) of this article and others: Wikipedia:Articles for deletion/Alternative terms for free software. Nathan J. Yoder 04:55, 22 October 2005 (UTC)

Is Darwin a kernel ?

According to Darwin article, Darwin is the whole operating system, while it's kernel is called XNU. If this is correct, then the example section here should be changed. Please review. --Hdante 19:08, 28 November 2005 (UTC)

It is correct that Darwin is an OS, and since BSD and GNU/Linux are also both OSs, I've just changed "Operating system kernels:" to "Operating systems:". Gronky 23:08, 28 November 2005 (UTC)
Hello. Now the kernels are missing. This will get confusing. :-/... Maybe operating systems/kernels ? --Hdante 00:48, 29 November 2005 (UTC)
I'm not sure that they're missing - there's info about the kernel of each operating system on each operating system's page. And I can't picture someone being confused by the page not listing free software kernels. I think Linux deserves a special mention because it's an unusually famous kernel, but I can't think of a clean way to add it. Also, when I was editing that section, I started thinking it was too big anyway. Maybe listing the 20 or so most well known projects. I'm not sure, but I do know I'm stuck for time this week, so I won't be doing much. Gronky 12:29, 29 November 2005 (UTC)

Open Source is not Free Software

About one or two months ago, I spoke with Richard Matthew Stallman on the subject of Free Software. He told me that Free Software was anything BUT Open Source Software. He wanted to make absolutely sure that I knew that. He says Open Source costs a lot of money, whereas Free Software is different in some way.

Please help me to understand this more fully. -- Anonymous

It is more appropriate to think of free software as "anything but" proprietary software. The difference between open source and free software, and between free software and proprietary software is not just about money. Try looking at Open source vs. free software. Hope that helps. -- 04:51, 9 February 2006 (UTC)
There must have been some misunderstanding. Here's an essay by Richard about the two names: Gronky 22:21, 9 February 2006 (UTC)

I think this should be taken into account

One of the definitions of Free software in this article is that it is non-commercial, and not to be sold for profit. The FSF goes right against this, and on its website says that free software can be commercial as well. (As it is 'Free as in freedom, not free as in free beer')

You totally misread the intro. Go read it again and realize your foolishness. --maru (talk) contribs 18:30, 18 February 2006 (UTC)

Quotes from aticle

'Copies of free software can be sold, although there is often less incentive to buy free software when it can usually be obtained for free.'

'and not software which is sold for profit, such as commercial software'

That is contradiction...

Proprietary software

I changed this paragraph: "Proprietary software" is distributed under more restrictive software licenses. Copyright law and/or contract law restrict modification, duplication and redistribution by users; software released under a free software license rescinds most of these reserved rights.

It is not necessary to put "Proprietary software" in quotes in my opinion. I think the definition is quite uncontroversial.

It is not correct that "free software rescinds these rights". According to current law in the US and Europe, if someone possesses a program then they can run it how they like. So there's no "reserved rights" to rescind. I think it's important that a distinction is drawn between licenses like the GPL that consist of permissions as opposed to EULAs which claim to use contract law to restrict the ability to run the program as you would like.Trious 13:24, 12 March 2006 (UTC)

If copyright law has no concern about reserved rights by itself, this is purely a theoretical matter. It is tradition (and commonsense and the outside-the-box purpose) for a copyright law be used with a license that restricts the cited rights: modification, duplication and redistribution. The purpose of the original text (which is kind of a rephrasing of Stallman words) is to show this tradition: copyright law restricts modification, duplication and redistribution by users. A radical person would say that separating the two concepts would be hypocrisy in the real world. Ok, the original text was not theoretically correct. Put the "copyright" word back, however. Let this comment be understood by the readers. --Hdante 20:17, 12 March 2006 (UTC)
Hi Hdante, I'm not sure what you mean here. I think it's important to recognise that the GPL does not attempt to cover uses of the program. It only covers redistribution. RMS says this himself, see for example the video of the GPLv3 draft presentation. US and UK copyright law, not sure about others, specifically allow people to modify and run programs that they possess. Hence copyright law isn't used to restrict what end users' do with software. This is where contract law comes in. According to proprietary software companies, clicking "OK" to their EULA, or opening the shrinkwrap packaging, or whatever, means you accept their EULA, and so have a contract that's enforceable under contract law. I personally think this is on very shaky legal ground. But whatever you think, EULA's are certainly very different to the GPL. The GPL is a unilateral offer of permissions to do things that the end user wouldn't normally be allowed to do: namely redistribute the software, with possible modifications. Trious 20:46, 12 March 2006 (UTC)
  • Note: Are you saying that modification and duplication are uses of the program, thus, allowed by copyright law ?
  • What I'm saying is that there's no such thing as a (non-BSD/GPL) commercial software without an EULA. Software which doesn't use (restrictive) EULAs together with copyrights is statistically inexistent (sorry, can't cite sources for that). It doesn't matter whether the restrictions come from copyright law or contract law if you always get both of them. A mention about this should be in the text.--Hdante 04:56, 15 March 2006 (UTC)
  • Modification (patching), and duplication for purposes of backup or normal operation of the computer is permitted in all cases by copyright law. (um, exempting DMCA anti-circumvention provisions if in the USA). But what you can't do without the permission of the copyright holder is distribute the software (although you can sell boxed software, see First Sale doctrine) or distribute derivative works. (Unless it's Fair Use of course.)
  • This may be true but it doesn't change the fact that copyright law and EULA's have nothing to do with each other. There is already much confusion about this (mainly created by software companies' lawyers and FUD teams), so let's not add to it. Trious 19:01, 21 March 2006 (UTC)

Merge in Libre software

Anyone going there is far more likely to be looking for an explanation about the concept rather than 5 lines only about where the term came from. The small amount of info there could be merged in. Gronky 23:23, 19 March 2006 (UTC)

I'd prefer to keep the article, but instead make sure that the links to Libre software are appropriate or not, or whether they should be to free software instead. That way anyone following links to Libre software get the exact answer and don't have to grok the entire free software article. -- 17:31, 21 March 2006 (UTC)

I agree with the proposed merger. I think that the terms are clearly synonymous, there is no reason for a separate page, a redirect will suffice. Trious 21:40, 21 March 2006 (UTC)

Merge into Alternative terms for free software instead. That page already mentions the "libre software" term; the only content to move, I think, is the observation that "libre" itself is ambiguous in Tagalog and perhaps other languages. Possibly the latter page should itself be merged into Free software; I think that's a separate question. --Greg Price 22:24, 21 March 2006 (UTC)

Selling free software for profit?

From the article: "Free software gives users the same freedoms the copyright holder has, while the owners of proprietary software restrict freedoms to make profit."

This statement suggests that free software may be legally sold profit. Is this true, or may free software be legally sold only at the cost of producing the copy? --Theshibboleth 22:26, 26 March 2006 (UTC)

Former. --maru (talk) contribs 22:53, 26 March 2006 (UTC)

See FSF's Selling Free Software or the GPL FAQ. -- 04:17, 27 March 2006 (UTC)

Swedish Meatball

Hi Swedish Meatball, any special reason you feel that free software doesn't ease internationalization and prevent media tie-ins? (edits) (anon edits) --Nnp 23:51, 17 April 2006 (UTC)

I think you would have a better case if you could cite some sources for these statements. -- zzuuzz (talk) 23:52, 17 April 2006 (UTC)
I agree. However, if you take a look at the linked edit histories you will see he's quite determined about this, so I'm simply asking what his reasoning is.
With that said, it could perhaps be reworded into something that indicates that it eases /user/ translation of software, since the user has the source and can just open it and replace the relevant strings (if the english is hardcoded) or edit the translation files. This is pretty obvious and can be seen in the number of languages most free software projects beyond a certain size supports.
I will try to back this up with a source or two later. --Nnp 00:13, 18 April 2006 (UTC)
I think one of his previous edit summaries said "rm false info", and with this complete set of statements being presented as facts without sources - I have to agree. It is up to you (us) to provide a source and to present any counter-arguments. Also, remember that these are only arguments which should not be presented as fact. A useful source for this debate is the MS-Peru letters[1] -- zzuuzz (talk) 00:36, 18 April 2006 (UTC)

How does free software discourage games?

If anything, releasing a game's source code (Doom, Quake), et al) as free software (as opposed to releasing the entire game) encourages others to develop revised and new game engines that run on alternative operating systems and devices, encouraging gamers to purchase the proprietary game so the game files (graphics, sounds, etc.) can be married to the new engine. I know I re-purchased Doom so I could play the game with PrBoom on my Ubuntu system, thereby generating more income for id Software. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs)

Commercial games tend not to use free engines for several reasons:
  1. Engines of AAA commercial games often contain trade-secreted techniques and thus are considered a strategic asset to their copyright owners. (Id Software can get away with Freeing its engines after several years because the value of these techniques decreases over time as they are independently rediscovered or reverse-engineered from the executable.)
  2. There's still a healthy market in licensing of video game engines. (Same depreciation argument as above.)
  3. The situation for aggregation of proprietary game data with a copylefted engine is poorly understood.
  4. Video game consoles from the Big Three (Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft) use a trade-secreted bootloader that denies the owner of a machine the right to modify the game engine and run it. In fact, the GNU GPL version 3 draft prohibits "modes of distribution that deny users that run covered works the full exercise of the legal rights granted by this License." Thus the situation for use of a copylefted engine on a console is poorly understood.
  5. Because of latency issues, action games that use online play must necessarily send information that the program hides from the user at the moment the packet is received, just in case that information becomes visible to the player between now and the next packet. For example, if this information includes the coordinates of an opponent waiting behind a wall, there is little or no way to prevent people from wallhacking their clients short of prohibiting modification of the client software.
--Damian Yerrick () 01:44, 7 May 2006 (UTC)
Regarding your last issue (prohibiting modification of client software in online games, to prevent some hacks), that is not really a reason against free software in games. Recall that what is required is that all players use the same "version" (or one among the subset accepted by all) of the game, NOT that the "original" game be immutable. You have a (legally modified) version of the game that allows you to see through walls? Then you can't play here, sorry. As simple as that. No need to ban a user of modifying a piece of software the way she sees fit. Just some modifications are not allowed in some arenas, like you don't use swearwords in front of kids, but it doesn't prevent the society of inventing and using such swearwords in other contexts. Isilanes 18:01, 30 July 2006 (UTC)
There is still the problem how to make sure everyone does indeed use the same version. As every check for this would be open source, they can be circumvented. --MushroomCloud 15:44, 8 January 2007 (UTC)

Free software as a libertarian movement

The statement that "There is some evidence that free software is congruent with libertarian ideals of economic liberty, intellectual property [2]..." is not very clear. First, intellectual property is ambiguous catch-all phrase, second, free software advocates tend to be critical about IP over-enforcement, third, even the article linked says that the libertanians are divided about IP. What is the libertanian ideal of IP then?

I suggest removing the "intellectual property" part of this sentence.

Political Characterisation

I am going to delete that section. First, stating that a particular software program is communist, socialist, capitalist, liberal/libertarian, fascist, etc. makes little sense. Also, that section is totally loaded with libertarian POV. This article should describe the software, its history, importance, etc. and not describe political claims about it. Possibly a smaller section could be created, but the current section needs to be deleted. 23:04, 28 July 2006 (UTC)

Can you also do the bit about "loss of incentives for commercial innovation... lack of a capitalist competitive business environment"
e.g. if RedHat and Suse (or EmperorLinux and Yellow Dog, or Ximian and Lycoris) are selling Free Software products, competing against each other, and writing innovative commercial software, then every part of that statement is wrong... Ojw 23:52, 28 July 2006 (UTC)
Yeah, what's your source on that? You use lots of fancy terms, but my intuition tell me it's meaningless. jedsen

POV paragraph claiming that free software is antagonist with capitalism and/or commercial incentive

I'm removing this paragraph which is clearly POV. Since there are also well-known opinions that contradict it: 13:29, 19 August 2006 (UTC)

Public Domain Software

The article mentions public domain software as an example of free software, but I don't think there is any public domain software in the USA, at least. My understanding is that it is not possible to "surrender" copyrights, and I don't think any software is old enough for its copyright to have expired. I don't want to just delete that part of the article, however, because the situation may differ in other countries. In any case, this should be clarified.

I think the public domain still exists in the USA. For one example, the government of the USA cannot claim copyright and therefore their works are public domain (this does not apply to works which they commission by third parties). However, you may be right about other countries. I don't know enough to comment though. Gronky 20:09, 6 September 2006 (UTC)

Here is how it works in the US. All government production is either public domain or it is classified. The American government cannot patent or copyright an idea (although their employees can). All works before 1923 are in public domain. All works after that have strange copright durations due to the changing laws about copyright over the last 83 years. Additionally there is no provision in the law allowing for someone to place their works in public domain. Although one could get around this by providing a licence for their work that stated the same uses as public domain. This was never a problem until recently when the government decided to change the laws to make all works produced by an individual copyrighted. What you pay for with a copyright is the proof that you made the item before anyone else did. In other words it takes the burden of proof off of you if you would ever need to sue/protect your self from being sued if someone else came up with the same idea that you did. See for reference on copyright duration. See for exclusion of government by copyright and menchone of no law allowing author to place work in public domain. Andrew D White 20:30, 8 September 2006 (UTC)

Free as in freedom

Why not call it freedom software if this "free as in freedom" is so often quoted? 17:26, 25 September 2006 (UTC)

Because "free" is an adjective, and goes with a substantive ("software"), describing it. The FSF could be a "freedom movement", as a "freedom fighter" is someone who fights to obtain freedom. However, the Free Software is so because it is free in itself, not because it "fights" for freedom. The Free Software contributors are a "freedom movement" who generate "free software".
However, there could be a point in using the term "freedom software", if we think of the Free Software as a tool to fight for the Freedom. Isilanes 20:05, 25 September 2006 (UTC)

What is "free software" really?

The following comment was put into the article. I've notified the contributor and have moved it here. The edit that added this comment to the article can be seen here: [3] Gronky 16:20, 13 November 2006 (UTC)

This page defines "free software" as "software which can be used, copied, studied, modified and redistributed without restriction" and claims the FSF defines it the same way. They do not. Those words do not appear on the page at the FSF explaining what free software is ( ... and for good reason!

In fact, the GPL does not allow software to be modified and redistributed without restriction - there are key restrictions on this which create the "viral" nature of the GPL, and it could be said that these restrictions form the core of the GPL - they are "the whole point", so to speak.

For instance, GPL software cannot be "linked" with non-GPL software and redistributed, and this limits the user's freedom to modify and redistribute in important ways.

Thus, the GPL appears to be incompatible with the most obvious definition of "free software" and is considered by some (pejoratively) as a "non-free" license.

These restrictions do not exist in BSD licenses nor with public domain software, and such software is sometimes considered "more free" than GPL software - the BSD license fits "without restriction" very well by requiring only attribution, while public domain software fits the definition exactly by requiring nothing. Many people believe that the additional restrictions contained in the GPL are irrelevant to the question of freedom. (User:

It's a good point. There are restrictions, but they are there to prevent other, harsher restrictions from appearing. Perhaps this needs to be worded a little more clearly. I've modified the first paragraph to "little or no restriction". I don't think it needs it's own section, otherwise it will probably start to duplicate too much information that is better elsewhere, such as on GNU GPL/BSD license, Copyleft, etc. --h2g2bob 16:38, 13 November 2006 (UTC)
  • Nit-picking about GPL not being "free enough" is silly. The GPL is as "unfree" as it is to make it illegal to shoot folk who do not share one's POV. The (silly) "freedom to shoot anybody" is cut short to guaranty a definitely more important freedom (the one to think and speak one's mind freely), which would not be possible to guaranty without the banning to use violence. Arguing that some other license is "more free" than GPL, just because it allows for more things is like arguing that allowing people shooting others at will adds to the freedom of the society. Isilanes 14:04, 15 November 2006 (UTC)
the important point, which the article should reflect, is that free software (and the GPL) is not about an undefined "free". It's never sufficient to say "I support freedom", there has to be a definition. Free software, and the GPL, are about ensuring the recipient is free to run, modify, and redistribute (modified or unmodified) the software they receive. Gronky 14:39, 15 November 2006 (UTC)
There's a disclaimer at the top of the article. 14:06, 21 November 2006 (UTC)
This isn't "nit-picking", it's an argument that is at the core of the non-proprietary software world and that has remained unresolved for over 20 years. It's the key religious difference between the BSD/MIT/X and GPL camps, and like most schismatic rifts it isn't likely to ever heal completely. Of course the GPL restricts the actions of its licensees - the whole point of the license is to restrict the distributor and ensure that the receiver gets the whole package, source and all. The question of whether these restrictions are "good" or "bad" is one of POV, and one that doesn't belong in a Wikipedia article. This article should (indeed, must under Wikipedia policies) present Free Software from a purely factual perspective and avoid judging any of the arguments pro or con. In fact, with the exception of direct quotes from the FSF, Stallman, et al., the article should probably avoid using loaded terms like "freedom" to describe the effects of the GPL and similar licenses. RossPatterson 00:40, 22 November 2006 (UTC)
  • Your argument further supports qualifying as superfluous (if not idiotic) any warning (within Wikipedia) to GPL not being completely free. We are not discussing if "freedom" and "GPL" could/should be mentioned together, but rather if it should be mentioned that GPL is not so "free" after all. I call this bullshit, and I claim that if it be the case, then similar "warnings" should be issued in, e.g., Democracy, Constitution and so on. Moreover, I propose that the sentence Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia be rephrased to Wikipedia, the not-fully-free encyclopedia, on the basis that I can not write whatever in it, because its restricting policies limit my freedom to do so. Isilanes 11:59, 22 November 2006 (UTC)
I agree with Isilanes, words like "freedom" are not biased in this context, and attempts to avoid them risks adding weasel words to the article. I don't see the page as biased, but a proper definition section and brief mention of the differences between BSD/GPL would be welcome. --h2g2bob 15:27, 22 November 2006 (UTC)
The actual definition seems to be under "Free software licenses", so perhaps that should be renamed to "Definition and free software licenses" and moved up the page a bit; or the definition placed in it's own section. Renaming the section is my first choice, as the definition seems to run the whole length of that section (I'd say that things like Copyleft/Public Domain distinction and the Debian guidelines are really definition). --h2g2bob 17:39, 15 November 2006 (UTC)