Free Software Foundation Europe Launches “Free Your Android” Campaign

The European chapter of the Free Software Foundation has decided to help people liberate their Android devices from various lock-ins created by handset manufacturers and apps. The idea of this liberation superimposes with various free software ideologies and this is the first formal step taken by any organization to make the Android platform free as in free speech, and not free beer.
The Free Software foundation Europe announced this wonderful campaign on their website.
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Android is a mostly free operating system mainly developed by Google. Unfortunately, the drivers for most devices and most applications from the “market” are not free (as in free speech, not free beer). They frequently work against the interest of the users, spy on them and sometimes cannot even be removed. This campaign can help you to regain control of your Android device and your data. It collects information about running an Android system as free as possible and tries to coordinate the efforts in this area.

The campaign wants to liberate our phone on two levels. For the Android OS, the campaign recommends us to use Replicant OS, which is based on Android and is completely free. However, Replicant OS has minimal device support. Alternatively, we can use CyanogenMod, which is supported by many more devices.

To liberate our apps, the campaign points us to the F-Droid project, which is a repository for free apps without any proprietary code. The Android project has been touted as being open-source and free. However, the ground reality is that handset manufacturers do not give back their codes on time, and many proprietary apps run on Android without people knowing their inner technicalities and operations. It is only when someone looks for the pin in the haystack, that apps like CarrierIQ are discovered.

Even if this campaign does not succeed in “liberating” Android initially, it will create some awareness about the limited amount of control that Android users enjoy on their mobile devices. Nonetheless, this is a good beginning.

Google, FSF, SUSE and Red Hat Joins The LibreOffice Advisory Board

A couple of days ago, The Document Foundation announced the formation of the LibreOffice Advisory Board. The function of the LibreOffice Advisory Board will be to provide The Document Foundation with advice, guidance and proposals. The board will also have a say in the future developments and projects of The Document Foundation.

When Oracle gave away OpenOffice.org to the Apache Foundation, I wrote that it did not matter as LibreOffice is where all the action is at. Well, that view has been reaffirmed by four big names joining the LibreOffice Advisory Board Google, FSF, Red Hat and SUSE.

This is what Jeremy Allison, member of Google’s Open Source Programs Office, said about Google joining the Advisory board:

The creation of The Document Foundation’s Advisory board is a great step forward for the organization. Google is pleased to be a supporter of The Document Foundation, and to provide funding and advice to advance their work.

The backing of SUSE and Red Hat, the companies behind major Linux distributions such as SUSE, openSUSE, Red Hat and Fedora, means that LibreOffice will continue to be the favored office suite for these Linux distributions. Although, Canonical did not join the board, they too have pledged their support for LibreOffice.

The fact that LibreOffice has got the support of the Free Software Foundation is a big advantage for LibreOffice over OpenOffice.org. Recently the FSF has gone on record saying that users should use LibreOffice over OpenOffice.org. This is what John Sullivan, Executive Director of the FSF said:

The Free Software Foundation is pleased to offer its advise to The Document Foundation. We applaud TDF’s demonstrated commitment to user freedom, and will do our best to help it achieve its free software goals going forward.

The other members of the LibreOffice Advisory Board are Freies Office Deutschland e.V. and Software in the Public Interest. Each of the members of the advisory board will have one representative and will serve for a term of one year.

The Free Software Foundation Recommends LibreOffice Over OpenOffice.org

After moving to the Apache Software Foundation, OpenOffice.org has changed its license from the GNU Lesser Public License to the Apache License. The ramification of changing the license from the copyleft license, LGPL, to the non-copyleft, the Apache License, will be that the corporations involved (Oracle and IBM, in this case) find it easier to distribute OpenOffice.org and its components as a non-free software.

According to the Free Software Foundation, freedom of the software cannot be guaranteed with the Apache License. Unlike the LGPL, the Apache License does not make it mandatory for the distributor to distribute the source code of the software.

All Apache projects are distributed under the terms of the Apache License. This is a non-copyleft free software license; anybody who receives the software can distribute it to others under nonfree terms. Such a licensing strategy represents a significant policy change for OpenOffice.org.

However, users and contributors should be aware that, as part of this transition, it will become easier for proprietary software developers to distribute OpenOffice.org as nonfree software.

The fact that the Apache License will make it possible for Oracle or other corporations to distribute OpenOffice.org and its derivatives as a non-free software is probably the only reason Oracle decided to give OpenOffice.org to the Apache Software Foundation and not The Document Foundation.

The fork of OpenOffice.org – LibreOffice – is now being recommended by the Free Software Foundation to both users and developers who want to contribute something. Unlike OpenOffice.org, LibreOffice is under The Document Foundation and they are committed to keeping LibreOffice under LGPL.

Fortunately, there’s a ready alternative for people who want to work with a productivity suite that does more to protect their freedom: LibreOffice. Anybody who’s comfortable with OpenOffice.org will find a familiar interface and feature set in LibreOffice, because it was originally based on the same source code. Since September 2010, numerous contributors have been working to improve the software, and the project’s legal steward, The Document Foundation, is committed to keeping it licensed under the LGPL.

Even though the Free Software Foundation is coming out with its support for LibreOffice over OpenOffice.org just now, OpenOffice.org has been practically dead for some time. After LibreOffice was released, all the major Linux distributions ditched it in favor of LibreOffice. Not only that, almost all of the OpenOffice.org contributors from the pre-Oracle era have already left it to contribute to LibreOffice. So, while LibreOffice has been releasing some very impressive applications, OpenOffice.org has been stagnating for some time now.

FSF Embraces Bitcoin for Donations

Bitcoin is a decentralized digital currency. It is free of any centralized issuer and uses a decentralized distributed database to manage itself. I find Bitcoin pretty interesting because of the anonymity involved in fund ownership and transfers.

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Bitcoin can be saved on a PC in a wallet and if you were wondering how big this crazy idea is, there are around 6 million Bitcoin currencies in the world right now. All you need to send or receive a Bitcoin is a bitcoin address and there is no transfer fees involved from a central authority because of the decentralized nature.

The FSF has embraced Bitcoin for donations and this will help Bitcoin achieve more value in a world of government regulated currencies. Their announcement says,

Our setup right now is very basic, so we are providing just a single address at which to direct contributions: “1PC9aZC4hNX2rmmrt7uHTfYAS3hRbph4UN”. Because of the way the system works, contributions to this address will not be fully anonymous.

If you’d like us to know who the contribution came from, and be able to acknowledge receipt of your donation, then please email [email protected] with your name and address, and contribution info.

The Bitcoin economy is worth 22 million USD and this is pretty small as compared to the well-established currency system we have otherwise. But the fact that people see it as a freedom from the government regulated currencies can pose a threat to it as it grows. Right now, the project is just out of its incubator and only time will tell where it goes.

Visit the Bitcoin project here.

Tor Project: Project of Social Benefit Winner at FSF

The legendary Tor Project has bagged the Project of Social Benefit at FSF and it is the most deserving candidate for this award. Every net-neutrality enthusiast has the utmost respect for the Tor project as it forms the backbone for an intervention free browsing experience. Google is also working on a similar project and the sudden wake against government censorships will be fueled by the awarding.
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The FSF has announced the award with,

The Award for Projects of Social Benefit recognizes a project that intentionally and significantly benefits society through collaboration to accomplish an important social task.

This year, the award went to the Tor Project. Using free software, Tor has enabled roughly 36 million people around the world to experience freedom of access and expression on the Internet while keeping them in control of their privacy and anonymity. Its network has proved pivotal in dissident movements in both Iran and more recently Egypt.

Executive director Andrew Lewman from the Tor Project received the award. The Tor Project has played a key role in the Egypt protests. It is based on the ideology of privacy and anonymity.

There, is a clear division of the Internet into two factions. There are people who are more into social networks and other forms of networking. Thus, they are more open to discussion, contact and conversation. On the other hand, there are people who like to stay anonymous and want to protect their privacy at any cost.

Tor has brought anonymity into the limelight with its network and it is worthy of much more than this award. This award, will help spread the word about Tor and bring it more users.