Week 5. Digital lifestyle to support freedom. How can we contribute to the Free Digital Society?

5.1. Be careful which programs and services to use

  • Facebook is a monstrous surveillance engine.
    • Facebook does surveillance on its useds and not useds as well. Call them "useds" rather than "users" because Facebook is using them, not vice versa.
    • Publishing somebody's photo in Facebook is treating him or her badly. Exception - public events.
  • Distribute data in formats favorable to the free software.
    • Ogg Vorbis, webm. NO MP*, NO Flash, NO quicktime and other non-free formats.
    • If your hardware records the data in non-free format convert files to the free formats before distributing.
    • Make sure the platform you use to distribute the files does not lead the users to use non-free software (e.g., YouTube has non-free JavaScript and Flash).
  • Carefully select the programs and devices you use: avoid DRM, spyware, malware, proprietary jails.
  • Don't use products that steal your freedom. E.g., Amazon "Swindle".
  • Mobile phones - mobile computers with outstanding surveillance capabilities. Stalin's dream.
  • Protect your personal data - it can be misused! (e.g., wi-fi access which requires your identity).

5.2. Use free software yourself

  • Free GNU/Linux distributions:
  • Non-free parts in Linux: firmware. Binaries masqueraded as source-code.
  • Free GNU/Linux distributions contain only free software (hence, do not contain non-free firmware). As a result not all the hardware works.
  • Tolerate inconvenience if your aim is freedom. Otherwise you will lose your freedom.
  • Reject proprietary software. No matter how useful it is.
  • Prefer releasing no program to releasing proprietary program. Reason: releasing proprietary program harms society. If you do not release program at all you don't harm society at least.
  • Free Software Directory

5.3. Education and Free Software

  • Four reasons to use free software in education:
    1. Saving money. Most superficial reason. Proprietary software companies started to give gratis or nearly gratis copies of their software to the educational institutions.
    2. Educational system should not make society depending on the proprietary software. Schools shall reject gratis copies of proprietary software for the same reasons they reject free samples of addictive drugs for the students.
    3. Education of best programmers. If software is proprietary student can't study its source code and education is not possible. Studying how to program is not studying how to write small programs. Students shall start from writing small parts in large programs. Free software gives this opportunity.
    4. Ethical education. Education in citizenship. Schools teach above all to the spirit of good will, habit to help the neighbor. Schools shall give examples of ethical behavior. Which is not possible with proprietary software.
  • Students and teachers - pressure your school to move to the free software:
    • Make the people aware that usage of non-free software is wrong.
    • If you are student and you have a class where proprietary software is used stand up in the very first lecture and ask to help you to find a way to make the work of this class with only free software. Explain that you are ready to work harder and understand possible inconveniences.
    • Your readiness to inconveniences shows that you are serious about freedom and influences other people around you.

5.4. Make the Web Free

  • The JavaScript Trap:
    • Web servers load to your browser JavaScript programs. Typically they execute them silently - without letting the users know.
    • Many of these programs are non-free
  • GNU LibreJS: Free JavaScript in your browser:
    • Free add-on for Mozilla-based browsers (e.g., Firefox).
    • Checks all JavaScript code which is about to be executed by the browser. Blocks the code if it is non-trivial or non-free. Informs the user about blocked JavaScript in the page.
    • GNU LibreJS makes it easy to complain about non-free JavaScript to the web masters. It extracts web masters contact information from the page and shows a special "Complain" button to the user.
    • It's very important to complain about non-free JavaScript code to contribute to FSF cause.
  • The JavaScript Developers Task Force:
    • To make sure that all the JavaScript executed in the browser is free is only a first step.
    • Need to be able to easily change the code and exchange it with others. Challenging task.
  • Switch to free browser: GNU IceCat:
    • Mozilla-based.
    • Removed Firefox name and logo because they have imposed non-free restrictions.
    • Extensions list: modified in such a way that only free extensions are listed.
    • Does not send the addresses you've visited to google (privacy).
    • Tracking mechanisms are blocked (e.g., Facebook "Like" button, Google analytics etc).
    • LibreJS is active by default.

5.5. Act to support Freedom

  • Celebrate Freedom Fighters.
    • Edward Snowden is a hero. Many people are trying to demonise him. It's important to celebrate him and the people like him.
  • Warn your friends about dangerous products.
    • Example: Amazon Kindle. It makes people antisocial, divides them. Make sure your friends know this before they decide to use this product.
  • Promote free software in your educational institution:
    • It's your responsibility to campaign for free software in your educational institution!
    • Setting up reverse engineering classes is very important. We need to operate the hardware with secret specifications without non-free software.
  • Reject propaganda terms:
    • E.g., "Piracy", "Theft". It is not right to call Sharing this way (see also lecture 2.4 "War on Sharing").
    • Good way to reject propaganda is to use jokes and humor. E.g., "Piracy? Attacking ships is very bad. Movie piracy? Pirates of the Caribbean is a good movie".
  • Join Defective by Design movement:
    • More about Digital Restrictions Management (DRM) - see in the lecture 2.4 "War on Sharing".
    • This campaign shall be big. Don't expect that the battle will be won without you.
  • Upgrade from Windows! It's not possible to live in freedom with Windows. Any version of Windows. Don't downgrade to Windows Vista at least.
  • Learn how to make easy changes:
    • Anybody can exercise Freedoms 0 and 2 (see lecture 1.2) - the freedom to run the program as you wish, for any purpose and the freedom to redistribute copies so you can help your neighbor.
    • Freedoms 1 and 3 (see lecture 1.2: the freedom to study how the program works, and change it so it does your computing as you wish and the freedom to distribute copies of your modified versions to others) require programming skills.
    • It's useful to learn how to make easy changes in the software. You don't need to become software engineer in order to be able to do them. Analogy: it's useful to know how to make small maintenance of your car even if you are not a professional mechanic.

Additional materials

Useful tools

FSF Campaigns

Close Windows, Open Doors

Close Windows, Open Doors

Defective by Design


Support free media formats


For developers