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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

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.

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

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