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Linspire giving away desktop Linux OS

Called Linspire Five-O, the operating system, normally available for $49.95, is available for free until Sept. 6.

Linspire is giving away free copes of its Linux desktop operating system, called Linspire Five-0, until Sept. 6, the company announced on Thursday.

Linspire Five-0 normally costs $49.95, but Linspire says it has decided to give away copies of its operating system because of confusion caused by a package called Freespire that unknown parties are making available for download, Linspire said in a statement.

Both Andrew Betts, who developed Freespire, and Linspire insist that Freespire, while incorporating Linspire source code, was not a free copy of Linspire Five-0.

"The very things that were taken out of Linspire for Andrew's project are in fact some of the very things that make Linspire, well... Linspire," Linspire said in a statement. These include third-party licenses for MP3, Java, Flash, Quick Time, Windows Media, Bitstream fonts, and Real media.

To avoid further confusion Betts has decided to change the name of Freespire, he said in a statement. It has been assigned the temporary code name "squiggle."

Linspire decided to give away copies of Linspire Five-0 because they "thought it would be fun" to emulate Freespire's free availability, the company said in a statement.

This isn't the first time that Linspire has run up against potential confusion over its identity. The company formally changed its name on Aug. 31, 2004, from "Lindows" to "Linspire" after a $20 million legal settlement with Microsoft, which claimed the original name infringed on its Windows trademark.

Linspire's developers have urged people to be patient in obtaining their free copy of Linspire Five-0. "Due to the popularity of this offer, our servers are being slammed," they said. Users can obtain a free coupon for Linspire Five-0 immediately, but are being asked to "wait a few days" to download the operating system itself.

Tom Espiner of ZDNet UK reported from London.