FSFE Newsletter - November 2013
The good experimentation platforms
At the first glance some devices might look like crap. Why should anyone buy them? Some people laughed at your editor when he bought his Open Moko Neo Freerunner. You could buy cheaper devices with a faster CPU, more RAM, more disk space, nicer casing, better network connection, better microphone and speakers at that time.
But devices like the OpenMoko are important for each one of us even if we are not buying them ourselves. They are crucial because they are hardware experimentation platforms which help programmers to learn how exactly computers work -- what the code is really doing -- and therefore enables them to write better software for all of us.
Paul Boddie wrote about one of those devices: the Ben NanoNote. This device is completely supported by Free Software drivers within the upstream Linux kernel distribution. It does not rely on any proprietary software, including firmware blobs, for installation or running the device. The "Ben" encourages experimentation: you can re-flash the bootloader and the operating system with own images, and you can install programs of your choice.
The bad restrictions
The knowledge we, as a community, gain from those devices helps us to counterbalance IT manufacturers who use many different restrictions with different technology to take away control from us. On several devices the manufacturers decide which software we can install or remove from our computers, they do not want us to learn how the software works, and they do not want us to change the software. They decide how we can watch DVDs, which SIM cards providers we can use in our computers, and they want to be able to remotely delete our data including books, music, or movies.
The questions is: do we let them do this? Do we accept those restrictions? And if we do not, what else do we need to counterbalance those developments?
The pretty local meetings
In FSFE we believe that a crucial part in this challenge are local meetings. We have to connect people opposing those restrictions and help each other how to explain the topics to other people. As mentioned in the last edition we held the first meeting for coordinators of FSFE's local Fellowship groups. Afterwards the group started to summarise tips for FSFE local meetings organisers, and Lucile Falgueyrac summarised good practices for meeting moderation.
Beside the coordinators meeting, FSFE held its annual general assembly in Vienna. Jonas Öberg reflected how we worked on our mission impact and Hugo Roy wrote about the second day with the formalities, including reelection of Karsten Gerloff as President and Reinhard Müller as Financial Officer. After 2 good years Henrik Sandklef stepped down as Vice President, and your editor was elected to take over that position.
Something completely different
- Our Vienna group brought Free Software to a wider public. They organised an information booth at the Game City Fair 2013, receiving a lot of questions about Valve's steam box. If you want to understand more about this, read LWN's article "Why Steam on Linux matters for non-gamers".
- Guido Arnold explains the new concept for local meetings in the Rhine/Main area, and we have a new local FSFE group in Linz (Austria) which published their second report (German). So if you are interested in political, social, economic, or legal questions around Free Software, join the groups and try out the tips from above.
- Our sister organisation, the FSF, held a global celebration for the GNU system's 30th anniversary, and ask you to nominate individuals and projects for for the 16th Annual Free Software Awards until Wednesday, 6 November 2013.
- As usual you will find news about Free Software in education in the monthly education team update.
- The Jamaica Ministry of Health adopted GNU Health, and the German development ministry recommends Free Software to small and medium enterprises, as they say it opens up business opportunities for IT entrepreneurs and offers long-term resources for local ICT processes and innovations.
- Our friends at the EFF wrote about how the freedom to learn the workings of a program is prevented in the UK in the article: "Speculation Trumps Academic Freedom: UK Court Censors Security Researchers for Reverse Engineering Publicly Available Software".
- And if you have not yet read Ron Amadeo's article "Google's iron grip on Android", you should do so and discuss it on our mailing list. The article explains current developments in Android such as possible new dependencies on non-free software.
- From the planet aggregation:
- Hugo Roy asks himself why Facebook should be considered an "Open Source company", explains how to set up Firefox sync and documented some of your editor's favourite hacks, like how to delete text from the current position to your e-mail signature and how to work effectively with text input fields in your browser.
- Otto Kekäläinen wrote about the past and present of the VALO-CD, a project making it as easy as possible for any average home of office user to start using Free Software, and the possible future which might be the LibreKey.
- What makes Open Data succeed, and how does it fail? Carsten Agger, our local group coordinator for Aahrus/Denmark, provides a transcript from his talk about these questions.
- Jonas Öberg remembers how he started with Free Software.
- Daniel Pocock wrote about Debian's outreach program for women and the GSoC 2013 projects.
- Nikos Roussos participated at the Mozilla Summit and explains how to kickstart a static website with ember.js and handlebars.js.
- If you want to set up a pirate box, Thomas Kandler explains this in his article.
- Our new intern Max Mehl looked into organising micro task emails in Thunderbird,
- and Lucile Falgueyrac summarised how to do pre-printing work.
- Beside the planet covered topics like implementing user-friendly default settings, fixing Fedora 19's "unlockable lockscreen" bug, and an update from the NoFlo world.
Get active: They don't want you to - but what do you want?
As explained above we do not want people to accept all the restrictions on our devices. To gain more transparency we want an easy way to inform a wider audience about those restrictions, and especially give younger people a way to show that they do not agree with it. On the 4th of November we go live with TheyDontWantYou.To and together with our partner organisations we start distributing short microblog messages, highlighting different restrictions using the #theydontwantyouto hashtag.
Help us to distribute the messages, send the messages to your friends, write about them in your blog, use our stickers to raise awareness, and to let us know about restrictions you encounter in your daily life.