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Check out these cool 'Youth Hacking 4 Freedom' projects

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While we wait for the projects developed by the participants of the second edition of the Youth Hacking 4 Freedom contest, let's go back to last year's edition to learn about two of the projects submitted.

Deniss and n0toose are two participants from the first round of the competition. They worked on completely different projects, which shows the variety of ideas our participants can come up with. Let's take a look at StarVibeLab and OnionSproutsBot, the projects of Deniss and n0toose respectively.

Deniss is currently studying Computer Engineering at the University of Latvia. He loves to learn new things and has already tried a few hobbies like 3D modelling, drawing, UX design, music production, DJing and of course programming. His first contact with coding was when he was about 13 years old; he struggled at first, but later he became quite good at it. For the first edition of the YH4F contest, Deniss worked on his project StarVibeLab, combining his coding skills with his love for music.

Our second guest is n0toose. He submitted a handy tool to help people download the "Tor Browser", a browser that helps users to stay anonymous while surfing the web. To make it easier for people to download the "Tor Browser", n0toose developed a Telegram bot. This bot guides people through the process of downloading and installing the "Tor Browser". This tool is especially useful for people coming from countries with a strong surveillance apparatus.

FSFE: Hello n0tosse and Deniss. Thank you for joining us.

FSFE: How did you come into contact with programming and how did you learn to program?

Deniss: To be honest I'm not sure how exactly it all started. But I think it started when I was like 13 years old. Back then I thought programming was cool and I tried to learn it somehow but at first I didn't succeed. I ended up trying again later and now I'm doing fairly well.

n0toose: My exposure to technology begun when I was very, very young. I would say that I am essentially self-taught. I don't come from a family of tech workers and my country's school system didn't really help with the practical aspects of programming, so I really had to depend on the Internet.

FSFE: And what was your first contact with Free Software?

Deniss: I am not sure if that's the first encounter but I think it was when I started using Emacs. I've been doing some research and found out about this editor and once I got used to the keybindings, I fell in love with it. I love the customizability and hackability of it, so that I can customize the editor according to my needs. To be honest, I'm rarely doing any sorts of customization at the moment but it's good to know that it's an option and I'm sure that without this ability there wouldn't be so many packages for Emacs.

FSFE: How did you both find out about the contest?

n0toose: I tend to follow the FSFE's work and found out about the competition through the organization itself. I used the competition as a vehicle to finish a very important project that I just never had enough time for.

Deniss: I first heard about YH4F in another hackathon I participated. And I loved the idea about this contest being done over a longer period of time instead of the usual "do as much as you can in 24h".

FSFE: Deniss, how did you come up with your project idea StarVibeLab?

Deniss: Before I started making StarVibeLab, I was getting my feet wet in music production and was in process of learning music theory in order to gather some "tricks" to build better music. I then decided it would be neat to make something interactive that would facilitate the learning of music.

 The StarVibeLab tool - A web Piano with information about the C major chord (C - E- G)
"The StarVibeLab tool is a web piano with information about music theory. In this case the C major chord.

FSFE: When did you learn to play music?

Deniss: About half a year before I started making StarVibeLab. I bought a midi keyboard around that time and also started learning music theory.

FSFE: n0tosse, how did you come up with your project idea?

n0toose: There were already some applications that distributed links to different places that a person can download the Tor Browser from. For example, you could send an email or send a Twitter DM, and you'd get a set of URLs containing a download link. This is useful if you can't access torproject.org.

 The menue of the get Tor Browser Telegram Bot

FSFE: Was Telegram your first choice? And why did you choose Telegram?

n0toose: If I were to recommend a secure communications app to someone, I'd probably choose Signal or Matrix. However, pragmatically speaking, Telegram is used by half a billion users everyday, allows bots to show buttons to users and you can also send large files reliably. It's very ideal if you want to reach as many people as possible, regardless of where they come from or what they do.

FSFE: What motivated you to keep working on your projects?

Deniss: Perhaps the fact that I was participating in a contest. I've also set some milestones which helped me tracking my progress and motivated me to keep going. Oh, and I also got to work with Clojure(Script) -- a language that I learned fairly recently and which I really adore because it doesn't get in a way and lets me to focus on the problem I want to solve.

FSFE: Did any of you encounter any problems during the coding period or the building period?

Deniss: I did encounter problems but they weren't huge ones. I just had to stitch things together, while also making sure that I don't end up in an unmanageable mess of a code. A lot of small problems.

n0toose: I had actually worked on several proofs of concept before the competition, so I used the competition as an opportunity to turn it into something usable. The code wasn't very clean, and certain core features, such as being able to use other languages, were implemented with the help of other contributors later down the line. But, at the time, the basic concept finally worked.

FSFE: Will you continue to work on your projects?

Deniss: Perhaps in the future but not right now. I have studies, am participating in faculty's student council, have a part-time programmer job and also would like to explore the world of embedded programming. StarVibeLab is a way for me to intertwine music learning with programming and since I've set music production aside (for now), the StarVibeLab gets pushed aside as well.

Nonetheless I have several features and milestones written down which I could start tackling once I get back to the project. Finding better sound files instead of synthesizing my own and including more theory are the tasks that I feel are the most important to solve.

FSFE: Thank you both for your time and we wish you both good luck with your next steps.

The coding period for the second edition of YH4F is still ongoing. This competition offers young people between 14 and 18 the opportunity to challenge themselves, meet like-minded people and win cash prizes.

Launched by the FSFE, YH4F aims to inspire young people by giving them the chance to hack a software project in a fair and fun way, while meeting other young developers from all over Europe.

You can find more information at the YH4F website.