Free Software

Without congressional action or a strong judicial precedent, I would _strongly_ recommend against anyone trusting their private data to a company with physical ties to the United States. Ladar Levison

Don't Use Facebook

Intel & ME, and why we should get rid of ME (6/10/2016)

Malware is not only about viruses – companies preinstall it all the time (5/22/2015)

Microsoft’s Windows 10 has permission to watch your every move (10/04/2014)

Digital independence day: Your guide to DIY, open-source, anonymous free computing (7/3/2014)

Why Free Software Is More Important Now Than Ever Before (9/28/2013)

IBM invests $1 Billion in Linux (9/24/2013)

Linus Says No NSA Backdoor in Linux (9/10/2013)

European Commission report endorses open source (1/15/2007)

Caution

Free software isn't just low cost, it has advantages in auditability, security, extensibility, quality, and performance. Linux runs the fastest computers.

You would think that if something is free, that demand for it would be high to unlimited. For the most commonly used applications, free software is better. There are literally thousands of applications. It may not be widely used in the US, but it is in the rest of the world.

We know that cell phone microphones can be turned on remotely, Apple IPhones batteries are not removable so you may not know if they are really shut down, that location tracking or address books can be accessed by apps (or others). Medical devices implanted in the body are updated wirelessly and, since their software is proprietary, are not open to audit. Mattel is making a Barbie doll that has voice recognition, and it remembers what is said, is that cause for alarm ? Late model TVs have microphones and voice recognition.

Proprietary, non-auditable software is in almost all late technology, not just Volkswagens. Demonstrations have shown that some recent automobiles vital functions can be taken over remotely. Late model automobiles are surveillance-ready.

Consider that voting machines could have the same kind of problem: they run perfectly, except possibly on election day.

The internet of things will soon surround us and is ideal for universal surveillance. Together these observations should make a strong case that most all software needs to be auditable. For that, it must be Free Software.

The Case For Free Software

A detailed explanation of free software is here at https://www.gnu.org/philosophy/free-sw.html

Free software transparency allows it to be fully audited. Because anyone can access, examine, explore and modify the source code, functions can not be hidden.  This should be a requirement for at least some applications...like voting machines. Manufacturers of voting machines are all right-wing partisans, and they insist that the software on their machines is a proprietary, trade secret. You can't see it and it is not auditable Yes, they can steal elections. Voters should insist on open source.

It is more about freedom than money.

Eban Moglen: Freedom in the Cloud (video about an hour)

List of Linux Adopters

Linux brings over €10 million savings for Munich

Helsinki city officials highly satisfied with Free Software

India saves and grows with open source software (9/3/2012)

Free Software for a small country

Stand Up for your freedom to install free software

GNU/Linux chosen as operating system of the International Space Station

Why You Should Switch To Free Software

When you shop for a computer you are, almost invariably, offered two choices: Windows or Mac. Aggressive advertising assures that's all you hear about. You may pay for Windows whether you want it or not.

So what's wrong with that ? Apple's products are much more expensive than they ought to be. Apple gets a heavy premium. Windows has managed to come with just about every other computer. Both are seriously compromised by EULAs, tracking techniques, trade secrecy, government trapdoors, advertising (spam by another name), commercial invasions, and they try to lock you into their walled garden.

If you are annoyed with high priced software that 'phones home', bothered by boot up procedures that interrupt your schedule, frustrated with the high cost of applications, unwilling to read EULAs (those long contracts that appear every time you make a change and that you cannot refuse), or troubled by additional fees, upgrades that disturb your actual work, instead of proprietary programs, consider free software: GNU/Linux.

Free software is better because it is crowdsourced, multi-lingual, open to examination, constantly improving, impressive performance, polite in upgrading, and has a worldwide community. Many manufacturers embed it in the their products, so it's probably in your cable box, or other smart devices.

Testimony before the EU Parliament: Eban Moglen video (16 minutes.) HIGHLY recommended.

Treacherous Computing

No DRM For The Web


Windows 10: Microsoft under attack over privacy (8/1/2015)

LEAKED: German Government Warns Key Entities Not To Use Windows 8 – Links The NSA  (8/21/2013)

Communication in the post-Prism world (8/2013)

We have intrusive corporate and government entities with an insatiable appetite for informatiion. The NSA tracks virtually all electronic communications whether it be internet clicks, telephone activity, search engines, email traffic, and they are particularly interested in any connunication that is encrypted. It is a fact of life that as technology improves, surveillance becomes cheaper and more ubiquitous, and it is difficult to imagine a future that is not Orwellian.

Free software is a little better, but no answer for opaque government. The good news is: encryption works.

When software is proprietary, you can't see what it is doing, you can't work on it, It is not transparent or open to audit. This is a fatal flaw for applications such as voting machines.

Proprietary software appears to be a black box. You do not know what is inside it. Eban Moglan spoke to the Free Software Foundation:

"This is really about who is going to have the keys to the home next decade. ...At what point do you want to admit onto your network ... computers which run software you can't see, can't understand, can't control and which reports to other people what is going on your network without your ability to interrupt or do anything? What point do you want to bring a box like that home and put it down on the desk that your child needs to do his homework? ...Those boxes, general purpose computers, running software you can't see, can't control, ...are called intruders. Do you want to have an intruder in every room of your house in ten years or don't you... ?"

 

For most products purchased from private suppliers, secrecy prevents disclosure of many details. If your cable box tracks your viewing habits, your computer camera can be turned on to monitor you, your automobile tracks your location, your voting machine is hackable, your telephone is routinely surveilled, or your media controls what you are allowed to see, well... that's just the 'free market' for you.

DRM is DefectiveByDesign

DefectiveByDesign.org is campaigning to stop Digital Rights Management (DRM). See Bruce Schneir's website to find out who owns your computer or a guide to living a DRM-free existence. Here is how to watch DRM Flash content.

"Windows Vista includes an array of 'features' that you don't want. These features will make your computer less reliable and less secure. They'll make your computer less stable and run slower. They will cause technical support problems. They may even require you to upgrade some of your peripheral hardware and existing software. And these features won't do anything useful. In fact, they're working against you. They're digital rights management (DRM) features built into Vista at the behest of the entertainment industry.

And you don't get to refuse them. ...

Microsoft put all those functionality-crippling features into Vista because it wants to own the entertainment industry. This isn't how Microsoft spins it, of course. It maintains that it has no choice...It's all complete nonsense." --Bruce Schneier, "DRM in Windows Vista"

Follow these links, you will see that software does not always do what you want. It sometimes has bugs, and other times it works on behalf of the vendor...not you.

School Cameras schools activated webcams in school issued laptops...in students home.

Disgruntled Ex-Auto Dealer Employee Hacks Computer System To Disable Over 100 Cars

Hackers can give you a Heart Attack...Literally.

DRM

Voting Machines can be hacked. Since the code is proprietary, the public is not allowed oversight.

NSA Has A Massive Database of American's Phone Calls

Windows 7's Deadly Sins

Why Microsoft's Word Must Die

Sony Root Kit

Amazon Kindle

Will your computer's "Secure Boot" turn out to be "Restricted Boot"?

Privacy


Worse, some products can actually be hazardous. Toyota may have software problems, but, without the ability to look at the code, who can find that out ? You would want assurance that the wireless device that can be implanted in your chest because you have a heart condition can't be hacked.


See Nina Paley's message

If malfunctioning software can have public safety implications, that software should be made available to a reviewing authority for evaluation. The better solution is to demand free, and open source software.

Malfunctioning software can only be fixed by those with access to source code. You are not allowed to work on proprietary software, you cannot share it, and you cannot use it unless you agree to a contract that you don't have time to read carefully.

There is another choice: free software: GNU/Linux.


Who Should Use Free Software ?

If you value your freedom, you should run only free software. It can release you from locked-down, proprietary walled-gardens,  free you from EULAs that you must agree to and that can change at any time, allow you to look at audit and understand software that you are using,  assure that you can work on and modify code, you can build on the work of others, you can protect your privacy. verify the integrity of the code, and you will trust your software more.

Although it is mostly about freedom, everyone is trying to save money or facing massive budget cuts: consumers, schools, all levels of government. We can get better results by going to free software. There is not much reason to pay for general purpose software any more. That said, consider supporting free software projects with your contributions.


The OLPC project gave rugged laptop computers to millions of children in underdeveloped countries. It also gave them free textbooks, internet access, and free software.

Free software in schools. (See Sugarlabs, Planet Sugarlabs, One Laptop Per Child (OLPC)...could replace the need for textbooks. Free textbooks require no paper, no cost, and weigh nothing.)

Kids Need a License to Tinker

Scratch

Free software in government (see also the OpenPlans site.)

What is Free Software ? (John Sullivan video.)

The Nation Goes Open Source



Benefits

The marginal cost of free software is zero. Everyone can have access to educational tools, the ever increasing digital libraries, open source textbooks, and even courseware from major universities.

Freedom

Free Software never requires a subscription fee. Instead of a long EULA that you must accept, there is a carefully drafted license which allows you to modify, copy, give away the software. More about this below.

Performance

Performance is better. Aside from the fact that it is cost free, it is faster because there is no hidden functionality and because it is, in effect, peer reviewed. Software bloat gets identified and removed.

Auditability

Free software is auditable.  Anyone can see the source code. Hidden traps can be exposed as long as the code is completely open.

Security 

Encryption works: How to Protect Your Privacy in the Age of NSA Surveillance.

Free software is more secure. SELinux is security enhanced linux that made it acceptable to NSA.

'Here You Have' is a Windows problem. PCWorld 9/10/2010.

Privacy

If you were required to write all of your mail using postcards, you would mind. If you are not encrypting your email, your messages are just as open as if they were on a postcard.

Need for encryption for consumers and for business. About PGP.

Extensible

Free software is more extensible. Because code is freely available, developers can build on software that is already written. There are some remarkable applications. Because it is Open, it can be peer reviewed, modified, and used for still further development.

The GNU Project defends software freedom: the user's freedom to run it for any purpose, share it with neighbors, improve it for your own purposes, modify it and redistribute it for the benefit of the whole community.

Why Free Software ?

A video message from renowned free software programmer and FSF member Jeremy Allison:

What is Free Software ?

"I could have made money [by joining the proprietary software world], and perhaps amused myself writing code. But I knew that at the end of my career, I would look back on years of building walls to divide people, and feel I had spent my life making the world a worse place." Richard Stallman, GNU Project (http://www.gnu.org/gnu/thegnuproject.html).

Richard Stallman defines free software in this video.

 

Standards

UK government chooses Open Document Format

Proprietary formats may only be fully known to their vendors, so if they should change you are forced into acquiring new versions of their software, and you may not be able to use older files. They decide. Open formats have publicly accessable specifications and do not change rapidly.

Many companies, especially Microsoft, create proprietary file formats that may be of limited life expectancy. After a few years the formats change, the software evolves, and some of the older data may no longer be accessible. You will need to buy a new version of the software to keep up.

Older versions of documents stored as Microsoft word files are no longer supported and you may no longer be able to read them. Since the format is encumbered by patents, you are pretty much bound to the whim of the MS developments. MP3 files, JPEGs, and many other formats are patent protected, proprietary and subject to change at the whim of the vendor.

Free software formats are open, standard, and unencumbered by patents. Public domain, standard formats are important especially for archive material.

Standardized formats that are open are necessary for long-term accessibility. Government (and everybody else) should insist on open formats for their long-term IT documents.

Play OGG

lpi.org

Mozilla Open Standards

Xiph.org

W3C

Open Formats

Massachusetts favors Open Source software

Join the FSF Campaign for OpenDocument

Pot, meet kettle: a response to Steve Jobs' letter on Flash

Security

Experts agree it is far more difficult for intelligence agencies to manipulate open source software programs than many of the closed systems developed by companies like Apple and Microsoft. Since anyone can view free and open source software, it becomes difficult to insert secret back doors without it being noticed." NSA's War on Internet Security

See this video of Jacob Appelbaum

Recommendations for the hacktivist community.

FreedomBox:  See this video of James Vasile or his longer presentation here.

Email Self Defense

If you visit the next links at LinuxJournal.com, which the NSA regards as 'extremist', you will be flagged for extra surveillance. (7/3/2014)

Corporate Spying
     FinFisher
    VUPEN

See Privacy

How to Install Tor (7/3/2014)

Join the Tor Challenge

Tails is a live operating system, that you can start on almost any computer from a DVD, USB stick, or SD card. It aims at preserving your privacy and anonymity, and helps you to: use the Internet anonymously and circumvent censorship; all connections to the Internet are forced to go through the Tor network; leave no trace on the computer you are using unless you ask it explicitly; use state-of-the-art cryptographic tools to encrypt your files, emails and instant messaging. Learn more about Tails.

NSA Said to Exploit Heartbleed Bug for Intelligence for Years (4/12/2014)

About Heartbleed.


There are some civics lessons here. IP ("intellectual property") is much like the enclosure movement.

Software looks like math, and yet it has been patented.

Software Patents

Patent Absurdity

Software Patents: Summarizing the Problem

End Software Patents

SWPAT

8 Inventions You Thought Were Patent-Free But Could Get You Sued If You Use Them

Licenses

GPL

CopyLeft.org

See videos

Eban Moglan: How I discovered Free Software and Met RMS

  

The Cathedral or the Bazaar

Wikipedia is a well known, crowd sourced encylopedia that is not only free, but has replaced older, printed versions. Arguably, not as well known but an even more impressive crowd sourced accomplishment is GNU/Linux software.

Compare these two models for development:

The Cathedral and the Bazaar (download the book for free.)

 The Cathedral

The cathedral is designed by a central authority. It may be secretive about its procedures. Non-disclosure agreements and other hindrances serve to protect a competitive edge. This model is the one used by prooprietary software developers.

How would you feel if you bought a car, but were prohibited from working on it ?

How often do you have to agree to End User License Agreements (EULAs) that you may need a lawyer to fully interpret, that you barely have time to read because you have your own work to do, and you cannot proceed without agreeing. Feels like extortion doesn't it ? This does not happen with free software. You are not interrupted to determine if your software is legal or paid up. You do get polite notifications when upgrades are available.

The Bazaar

Because free software is open source, anyone can examine the code. Often there are many participants in contributing. The effect is the same as peer review. There is much less opportunity for malware.

Richard Stallman created the GNU system, which is not Unix. He is also the head of the Free Software Foundation. Important licensing documents, such as the GPL3 were drafted with his help.

Linus Torvald, formerly of Finland, was the originator of Linux, the Kernel. A piece that Stallman missed to create an operational version of free software.

Tim Berners--Lee at CERN coded the first versions of an internet browser, and a server. Open Source projects like Firefox and Appache are the most widely accepted internet applications and have demonstrated that software can be developed by a crowd. It need not be proprietary to be successful. Since many people participate in the maintenance of free software, it is peer-reviewed. Results can be better and more trustworthy.


Applications

For notable applications see the ACM Software System Awards page.

Repositories

Visit the Free Software Directory

Explore the literally thousands of applications that are now available.: The easiest to use are those that come from a distributions repository because they usually have dependencies that are already satisfied.  One  of the best ways to explore (as  superuser)  is to use the synaptic program.

Other repositories: Free Software Foundation, Sourceforge, github, NASA has opened all of its code, and many companies offer open source products such as Craigslist..

Applications

Software of any serious size requires learning and practice. Many have tutorials on youtube. Many are accompanied by free documentation. Some  have books that are well worth the price. . A number of them are cross-platform, which means you can install them not only on free software platforms, but on Windows or Mac computers. You need to look them up to find out. Udacity has free courses.

Youtube has many entries for Linux applications: for example

Here are some of the better known applications:

Graphics

Graphics: Gimp, Inkscape (LWM)), Blender 3D Animation (LWM), Scribus Desktop Publishing (LWM)) , dia Diagram Editor, krita, KPaint, OpenGL, ImageMagic, Color Scheme Designer, Synfig, Karbon14,  Papervision. Graphviz, (and more.)

Photo Processing

Origami: Doodle,  Oripa

3D: Blender, 123D catch, Meshlab, Meshmixer, MakeHuman

Video Editing: KDEnlive, Pitivi, OpenShot, Cinelerra, Kino. ArtistX, TVPaint , Blender, avinfo and more.

Ebooks: sigil, TeX, Lyx

Media

VLC Media Player,

Audio: SoundConverter, Sonic Visualizer, Audacity, Jack, Lash, OpenAL, Nyquist, Waon, Grace, Supercollider, Pd, Chuck, see LinuxAudio.org

Media Player: Amarok, Kino, avconv, MPlayer, Totem, Xine, XMMS,  gnash,

Music

Music: Musescore, LilyPond, midieditor, pmw, Synthesizers, Midi sequencers (see Rosegarden), GMorgan, Gmorgan Play Along, Hydrogen, AMS, ZynAdd,  OOLilyPond., See this extensive list of midi software: http://wiki.linuxaudio.org/apps/all or Aaron Wolf's blog. PlanetCCRMA (only for Fedora).

Games: a wide variety. Even machine emulators that allow you to continue to run old Atari and Commodore software.

Radio Station: Airtime, Open Broadcaster (from Sourceforge)

Telephone: GNU telephony, Asterisk or  BLASTERISK, Symbian, Android

Science

Math: GeoGebra, Maxima, Octave,; (download the 900 page pdf manual at https://www.gnu.org/software/octave/octave.pdf, groupexplorer, . See others

Science Stellarium

Open AI

Natural Language:

Computer Vision: OpenCV

Open Source Robotics Foundation, ROS (Robotics Operating System), Drones

Robotics

Education

See Free Software Foundation page on education and this education blog

Maddog Hall: Education and Free Software (video 1:04)

Education: Edubuntu, OLPC, Sugar, K12os, Moodle, SchoolTool, CourseFork

    See this

Office

Office Applications: Libre Office, Open Office, (See this.), Calligra Suite

Accounting: OpenMiracle

Project Planner: ProjectLibre, MrProject

Content Management:  Plone, Drupal, Django, MediaWiki, Zope, Endrun

Medical: OpenMRS

Library: Libary Freedom Project

Home

     Home Assistant

Web

Web Browser: IceCat, Firefox, Konqueror, Mozilla, Galeon, Iceweazel. chrome, Dillo.

Web Development: Apache, Javascript, web.py, BlueGriffon, Bluefish, KompoZer, Quanta Plus, Bootstrap

Email: Evolution, Kmail, Kontact, postfix

Blogging: Laconi.ca

News Reader: Pan

Social: diaspora 

Video Conferencing: Big Blue Button

Development

Languages: C, C++, Go, Haskell, PHP, Perl, Python, Guile, Scheme, Lisp, ADA, Fortran, Assembler, LLVM

GUIs: FLTK, GTK, QT, WX,

Tools: Make, Autoproject, Autoconf, AutoMake, Autotrace, GLADE, emacs, cflow and many others:

Development: cppcheck, autotools, gdb, gcov, gprof, swig, valgrind, splint, r-project, autogen, qemu

Databases: MySQL, BaseX, PostgreSQL, Propel, Mongodb

AI

Admin

System: Samba,

DynDNS (to run your server) is not free anymore, so look at this.

Security

enigmail

FreedomBox

Tor, PGP, Tails, ...

Tutanota

Distributions

Free software has been getting easier to use and there are now distributions friendly enough for most consumers. Ubuntu or Mint is easy to install and compares favorably to Apple or Windows software. Knoppix has excellent hardware detection and is frequently used as a diagnostic tool for failing computers. See the GNU project for software that respects your freedom.

Distrowatch tallys  the number of  downloads  for each.

There is a proliferation of distributions,  because there are different concerns for each. Some are specialized, some for old machines, others for hand-helds, some for freedom from proprietary ties, many have proprietary hooks, some furnish only source code so that you have to compile it all, and so on.

Many offer a live disk you can try without even installing. Bear in mind that running from a cd (or DVD) is much slower than actually installing, but it can tell you if your machine is suitable for a particular distribution. Many hardware architectures are supported.

Download a free, live CD from websites listed below. Burn the CD as an iso, then run it directly from your CDROM drive without even installing. Running from the CD will be somewhat slow, but actual installation will improve performance considerably. If you have a slow internet connection, it could be easier to buy cds from a good vendor: For example, LinuxCollections or frozentech sells them for a nominal fee.

Pick one distribution, and don't mix any components from others unless you know exactly what you are doing.

The State of Linux Distributions (9/10/2013)

GNU/LINUX distros

General Purpose

Mint is the most downloaded.

Ubuntu installs easily and is easiest to use overall. As Richard Stallman has said: It is not free though because it comes with some proprietary software. See the Ubuntu videos.

Ubuntu Studio is excellent for artists.

Debian is the parent of the best distributions, more free of restrictions, but is slow to upgrade to the latest versions. Choose the stable version if you are not adventurous.

Fedora is a derivative of Red Hat (IBM supported). Planet CCRMA, based on Fedora, has impressive audio applications.

Gentoo is a distribution for those who like to compile everything from scratch.

Tails for privacy. It uses the Tor network by default.

Live CDs run without install

Knoppix  may be the easiest live CD to boot. It has very good hardware detection and it can be an excellent diagnostic tool.

Mepis

For Small (or possibly older) Machines    

Machines that are not too old can be revitalized by installing an appropriate distribution.

Meego, for hand-held and mobile phones,  is backed by Intel and Nokia.

Moblin, for mobile devices (Intel backed.)

DSL: Damn Small Linux is for machines of limited capability.

Puppy Linux

MultiMedia

Planet CCRMA offers a suite of audio applications that can only be installed on Fedora distributions.

64Studio: optimized for audio, but a branch of Debian. There is a 32 bit version.

The distributions that are most free:

Free, in this case, means no proprietary software components. If you choose one of these distributions, some functionality may not be available (including newer media, since many include DRM.)

Most distributions have some compromises in their use of non-free software. Understandably, manufacturers do not want to erode their competetive edge by disclosing everything about their products, so they will not supply source code. You can't see inside.

The most free are from Distributions recommended by the FSF

gnewsense

Blag

GNULinux, click here.

Lap Top Giving.org

Hardware Support 

FSF criteria for hardware endorsement.

LinuxMCE - Linux for home automation.

Need for Free Machines.

Freedom Included a small company that will sell you a free (as in freedom) machine.

Linux Foundation

Linux-USB.org

Sane Project

Los Alamos Computers works with the FSF to offer systems preinstalled with a free operating system.

Free Hardware

See this.

13 Open Source Hardware Companies Making $1 Million or More (video)

Make Magazine Gift Guide for the Arduino

How to build your own PC Part 1 (video) Part 2,  and Part3.

Software As A Service

As always, support is available for a fee.

64studio

Distrowatch tallys  the number of  downloads  for each.

There is a proliferation of distributions,  because there are different concerns for each. Some are specialized, some for old machines, others for hand-helds, some for freedom from proprietary ties, many have proprietary hooks, some furnish only source code so that you have to compile it all, and so on.

Many offer a live disk you can try without even installing. Bear in mind that running from a cd (or DVD) is much slower than actually installing, but it can tell you if your machine is suitable for a particular distribution. Many hardware architectures are supported.

Try Linux http://www.getgnulinux.org/switch_to_linux/try_or_install/

Documentation: Where to get help

Free software documentation is, frequently, also free and downloadable. See the documentation category in the synaptic program.

GNU manuals

Free books about Linux.

Free software is usually accompanied by free documentation. See FLOSS Manuals

Linux Documentation Project

Getting Started With Linux

Linuxhelp

Linux Questions

LinuxAudio

Linux Survival Guide (from Planet CCRMA)

Producing Open Source Software, Karl Fogel (Free on-line.)

Search on-line, or try invoking the synaptic program.

Thanks to publishers like Oreilly and others, free and open source documentation is now excellent.

Blogs

Richard Stallman

Eben Moglen

Pieter Hintjens

Training

The Linux Foundation and edX are partnering to develop a MOOC program to make basic Linux training materials available to all for free. Previously a $2,400 course,will be the first class available as a MOOC and will be free to anyone, anywhere. The Linux Foundation is among a new group of member organizations edX announced today who will contribute courses to the platform.

Free Introduction to Linux Online Course

Linux Training Videos

Introduction to Linux course now free, open to all

Magazines

Linux Voice

Full Circle Magazine (on-line)

Linux Journal

Linux Format

Bibliography

Free Programming Books

Open Source Technology and Policy: Fadi P Deek and James A.M. McHugh.

Running Linux by Matthias Kalle Dalheimer and Matt Welsh

Creating Digital Media: Audacity, Blender, Drupal, Gimp, Scribus, and other Open Source Tools by Daniel James.

Math You Can't Use, Ben Klemens

Learning to Change the World: Walter Bender, Charles Kane, Jody Cornish, and Neal Donahue (About the One Laptop per Child project.)

Other Books, free to download, are here.

For more information see here.


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