Newsletter

FSFE Newsletter - August 2015

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Earlier this month, FSFE answered to the “Consultation on the respect of intellectual property in public procurement procedures”, initiated by the European Commission. According to Commission the initial purpose of the consultation was to “gather evidence, opinions and feedback regarding the respect of intellectual property rights and trade secrets in public procurement procedures”, and assess whether there is a need for a guide for public authorities in this regard.

In our answer, we restate several issues that need to be addressed in the overall topic of the consultation. For example on software patents we explained that it is impossible to procure software that is not violating any patents, and that the rights of copyright holders should not be devalued by third parties’ patents. In addition, FSFE argued that every publicly funded software should be published and distributed as Free Software by default, so that everyone can use the software for their own purposes and provide better services for public authorities in return.

Our current trainee Polina Malaja summarised our answers and wrote about the consultation in her blogpost, and made our answers available in FSFE's wiki.

How to deal with firmware restrictions

FSFE's goal is to ensure that the owners of IT devices are always in full and sole control of them. During the last years this fundamental principle is being challenged by such developments as UEFI “Secure Boot”, or the proprietary BIOS. This is low-level software that runs when you turn on your computer. It initialises the hardware and may be designed to restrict users to install software which is not “authorised” by the manufacturer. This development was also a topic in your editor's keynote at this year's Akademy in A Coruña/Spain, that gives an insight on how to resolve these manufactured restrictions.

One of the ways to counter those developments is alternative boot firmware. There are several ways to have the built-in proprietary firmware replaced with free analogues. Our fellow Kevin Keijzer explains in detail how to "set up a beaglebone black to flash Coreboot", and how to "flash Libreboot on an Lenovo X200 with a Raspberry Pi". Another fellow André Ockers explains in his blogpost how he got a Thinkpad T60p with Trisquel and Libreboot.

Beside working on free alternative boot firmware, we also have to look further into the future. We have to think about how to extend the ideas of Free Software to hardware. Richard Stallman wrote about this in his article "Why we need free digital hardware designs".

Something completely different

Get active: Contribute to our static website generator

Since 2002 FSFE is using a static website generator for our web presence. The first version was written by Jonas Öberg, who is now FSFE's Executive Director. Last month we introduced an updated version to the test instance of our website. In his blog post, FSFE's webmaster Paul Hänsch summarises its new features, and limitations. So if you are interested to improve FSFE's web presence on a technical level, read this and get in contact with our web team.

Thanks to all the volunteers, Fellows and corporate donors who enable our work,
Matthias Kirschner - FSFE