10 April 18:00
So, last week I had messed up my Gentoo GNU/Linux installation, and I had absolutely no will to recompile the kernel. I have been thinking for a while to give FreeBSD a reaal try, so I did! I have chosen to try FreeBSD 13.0-RC5, and I have installed it. The first thing that I found noteworthy was of course the implementation of OpenZFS, which is great as ZFS is definetly the best filesystem out there, as it's reliable, fast and extremely well structured. Sadly ZFS doesn't really work on most GNU/Linux distros (not out of the box at least), and even when it does it is not nearly as well implemented as in FreeBSD. The second thing I have noticed is how great it is not to have a real init system. I dislike systemd the most and my favorite is OpenRC (and no, FreeBSD does not run OpenRC despite having /etc/rc.conf), but I find the way FreeBSD handles it is even better than OpenRC as far as reliability is concerned. Another awesome feature of FreeBSD are jails, that provide an easy yet effective and secure way for virtualization. Therefore, we could say FreeBSD is even more secure than GNU/Linux! The last positive note on a first look is FreeBSD has a way more united community than GNU/Linux at development level. Remember how many times Richard Stallman trash talked Linus Torvalds and vice versa? Well this will never happen in FreeBSD as the kernel and the userland/userspace is all managed by the same community, the FreeBSD community. This surely improves the reliability of the whole system.
And now with the downsides of FreeBSD: the main downside on a practical level is the lack of software: I wanted to get Signal Desktop working - nope. I wanted to get at least Jami working - no way! I wanted to get LibreWolf - no... so yeah, much of the software I use daily is not available on FreeBSD (unless you have emulators that is), but that's not FreeBSD's developers' fault, it's external developers' fault.. what's it cost them to develop the same program for FreeBSD when they have already developed it for MacOSX (which is a horrendous perversion of FreeBSD)? Another disadvantage of FreeBSD is the fact that not even some of the FreeBSD developers use FreeBSD as a daily base, I have seen several FreeBSD presentations made on MacOSX. That was probably because of practical convenience, since maybe they needed to run MacOSX or Windows to make the specific hardware used during the presentation work (mind you that once even Richard Stallman had to use a Windows computer to manage slides during a speech in Germany, and he of course pointed out how he didn't like it), but they don't mention it, they don't justify it or anything, and this of course does not give FreeBSD any good image. So please, dear FreeBSD developers, if you have the impossibility to use FreeBSD at a presentation, point it out, say it's the organization's computer and not yours, or that the projector didn't work with FreeBSD, or whatever was your reason to use that ruined inferior derivative of FreeBSD instead of pure FreeBSD (which is really good!). The last drawback of FreeBSD is the license... sure it is free as in freedom as it respects the four fundamental freedoms defined by the FSF, but it doesn't require its derivatives to be free... and because of this, we got implemented surveillance and lack of freedom on Macintosh computers, in PlayStations (from PS3 onwards), on WhatsApp servers and on Netflix! Now imagine if FreeBSD was licensed under the GPLv3, we would get completely free (as in freedom) PlayStations, iPhones, and Macbooks! As well as no surveillance on whatsapp and drm on netflix, and especially more software on FreeBSD. Now, imagine Apple had to give back all the code to the FreeBSD foundation, now we would be able to run all Macintosh programs on FreeBSD (and Macintosh gets really a lot of software), imagine if we had BSD phones that were free as in freedom (unlike iPhone), and especially... can you imagine playing all the PS3 to PS5 games on FreeBSD if Sony had to give back the code?
In conclusion, did I like FreeBSD? HELL YEAH! I love it! Would I use it as my main or even my only operating system? No, not really, since GNU/Linux is free as in freedom and provides much more (free and even nonfree) software than FreeBSD (no I don't use nonfree software if you're wondering). Could FreeBSD be improved? Sure, by pushing more developers to make programs for FreeBSD and thus getting more desktop users on FreeBSD. So, in conclusion FreeBSD is great, and it has a huge potential, but FreeBSD developers must manage things differently if they want to get on the same popularity level as MacOSX, or as I like to call it "WrongBSD".
07 April 2021 22:44
Until recently I have always been using GNU Nano as a text editor, but I felt like I needed something more advanced than that. So I wanted to try either or GNU Emacs. So I briefly looked into both, and, with all due respect to a good piece of free software, I really found absolutely no point in using Vim. I don't like the "viaual mode" and insert mode thing one bit and unlike most youtubers, I found the key-bindings quite uncomfortable to get accustomed to. On the contrary, I have found a ton of useful things GNU Emacs can do out of the box, for example vertical and horizontal window splitting, various utilities for coding and programming, and even a way to edit binary files with it. The key-bindings are actually easy to use and remember as you don't have to press all the keys simultaneously(for example, to open a new file you do not have to press ctrl+x+f at the same time, but you can do ctrl+x and then ctrl+f). The GNU Project also provides you a very detailed documentation that is actually very useful. So, if you are interested to try something more advanced than GNU Nano, you should definetly give GNU Emacs a try.
26 March 2021 13:00
Richard Matthew Stallman is finally back at the Free Software Foundation, and this is probably the single best piece of news in 2021 so far! Without him none of the free computing we all are doing today would be possible! He is the founder of the Free Software Foundation and the GNU Project. Very few people have the same dedication as he has about free software. He is the essential figure of the IT freedom. Sadly he was highly pressured to resign from the Free Software Foundation in 2019 because of his opinion regarding episodes related to the Jeffrey Epstin's scandal. This is huge bullshit, as he did not defend Jeffrey Epstin, but even if he did, he should never have been pressured to resign from anything at all, as he, as an adult man, is 100% entitled to his opinions, even if I personally disagree with many of them outside the computer world. Him being almost forced to resign from the FSF is a clear violation of what the FSF stands for! Various members of the Free Software movement, includig RMS himself have repeatedly stated that free software cannot prevent you from doing "evil" things, because who are they to judge what is evil and what is not? Moreover, it's been stated numerous times that nonfree software can get people arrested for being political dissidents, but they would not run into that risk if they used free software. Now who is a political dissident or a dissident in general? He is a person whose opinion do not match those of the government or of whoever is in power in that particular situation. Clearly by saying whatever he said about the Epstin's scandal, he had an opinion that did not match the one of people above him and people influental to him. He had the absolute right to keep teaching at MIT and to keep leading the Free Software Foundation! While the MIT might (but shouldn't) have the legal right to fire him over such a statement, in the Free Software world, making anybody resign because of their opinions (unless they personally attack a member of the FSF, for example a GNU developer who unironically says that "Dr. Stallman should be shot on the spot", should be chased off the Free Software Foundation, but that is a totally different case.) is a clear sign od hypocrisy and a violation of their own phylosophy.
Unfortunately not everyone was as excited as I am about RMS's return. Some hypocrites, who work against the concept of libre software, have written a letter against Richard and all those who have let him back at the FSF, I absolutely refuse to reference that letter as I want to give 0 visibility to it. Among these people we can find enemies of the free software, such as Google developers, Open Source advocates, and the worst category Ethical Source (or Bullshit Source as I like to call it) advocates. None of them actually wants the software to be free! Unfortunately also a few Free Software advocates (e.g. Debian developers and ex-FSF members) appear among those who support the removal of Richard Stallman. Those are very short-sighted people, who think the Free Software is a good thing, but think that Richard is a bad representative of it. What they don't understand is that there would be no free software without Richard Stallman!
Fortunately more considerate and long-sighted developers have written an Open letter in support of Richard Stallman, understanding how he is vital to the Free Software. I really please you to sign that letter if you happen to have a GitHub account, and if you do not, please make one as soon as possible, the consequences of permanently removing Richard Stallman from the Free Software world could be really catastrophic!
26 March 2021 11:00
I know the title of this post may seem very confusional to you, as many people think that free software = open source software, but that's not always the case, while Open source means just "I give you the code, you give me the improved code back", Free (Libre) software means that, plus having the freedom to run, modify and redistribute the program as you want. This might sound exactly the same to you, but not always. Let me give you some context before giving you an example. Richard Stallman, father of the Free Software Movement has created the GNU operating system, which is what you run on your computers. Linus Torvalds on the other hand, Open Source advocate, created the Linux kernel (that was initially proprietary!). The kernel happened to be the only missing component for a complete GNU operating system, therefore they adopted it as the default kernel, thus creating GNU/Linux. The two seemed to work just fine together, until the issue of tivoization (locking the hardware to prevent software changes and certain uses of the software). Back then the license was still the GPLv2, that did not prevent evil manufacturer from locking down the hardware, as it wasn't a known issue yet. Richard Stallman of course came in and went against this monstrosity, by creating the GPLv3 license, that disallows such inhuman acts. Linus Torvalds instead had nothing against that atrocity, because "it has nothing to do with returning an improved code", he even went to the point that he imposed the licensing of the Linux kernel to be GPLv2 only, and not "GPLv2 or later". The most outstanding tragedy that happened after Linus Torvald's insane choiche is what's happening with Android. Android relies on the Linux kernel, but not on the GNU coreutils, therefore it has no GPLv3 in its licenses. Android has one of the most disaserous sets of free licenses anyone could combine: the Apache license (permissive) and the GNU GPLv2 (copyleft but allowing tivoizaion). This means manufacturers are allowed to make their nonfree version of Android (e.g. EMUI, MIUI, Samsung's variant, etc.) because of the permissive license, meaning they will disallow certain modifications, unless you change your Android ROM. The real catastrophe though, is tivoization, that is allowed because of GPLv2, that will physically disallow you at hardware level to change your Android ROM, meaning you will be stuck with unnecessary and dangerous proprietary bloat dictated by phone manufacturers. Think about it for a second, if Mr. Linus Torvalds was not that crazy to support Open Source software instead of Libre software and adopted the GPLv3 on the Linux Kernel, we all could have 100% libre smartphones! We would be able to run whatever we want on them, to remove, modify or replace whatever feature we don't like, in order to make it our phone, to be users and not useds of smartphones. I think now you can realize how important it is to endorse Libre software over Open Source software, and how important it is to license all your software under the GNU GPLv3 and not v2.
Without people like Richard Matthew Stallman, and especially without Richard himself, we would be all trapped using nonfree systems, except for FreeBSD and other BSD systems, that are all licensed under a permissive license, that has given life to monstrosities such as Apple's MacOS and iOS. Therefore, we should all support Free Software and Richard Stallman.
25 March 2021 15:04
Mobile phones, or smartphones, who doesn't have one? Even grandmas have them, even kids (unfortunately) have them, there is a worrying social aspect about smartphones, that you can find in my Thoughts section, but let's talk now about more technical aspects. Around 2014 smartphones used to be really cool, they had tons of features, Bluetooth, IR blaster, FM radio receiver (sometimes even a transmitter!), removable battery, expandable memory, and finally a headphone jack! They were limited, sure, but in most cases it was extremely easy to remove (via rooting), and you could install dozens of custom Android versions. There were phones for everyone, big ones, small ones, ones with special features, each with a different design. Apple was one thing on its own, it had different smartphones, with lots of limitations, but nobody followed that way (except Windows Phone 7, that was a total failure), they lacked all the cool features (except for a headphone jack), but it was fine, becasue only iDiots were buying them, and nobody the hell ever wanted to see those limitations on other OSes (and keep in mind there were other OSes besides Android and iOS back then, e.g. BBOS, Windows Mobile, Symbian OS etc). In 2016 the iDiots from Apple Inc. had the most idiotic idea in the universe, aka removing the headphone jack, everyone in the beginning rightfully made fun of that, because who actually uses bluetooth earphones outside a gym or similar? Then, greedy companies that used to make fun of Apple and its limitations, started adopting the very same disfeatures they used to make fun of! First of all the limitations, today it is paradoxically easier to jailbreak an iPhone than to root most of Android devices. Thousands of android devices come out with preinstalled apps (that can take up to several GiBs of space!) that you cannot remove in any way. Phone manufacturers have started an utterly evil practice called "tivoization", aka locking the hardware to prevent software changes, making it impossible to get su binaries and grant you root access on "your" phone! And here we need to thank Mr. Torvalds for being anti GPLv3. Andorid is based on Linux, but not on GNU, therefore it adopts the GPLv2 license, that unlike the GPLv3 allows tivoization, but I will talk about this more in-depth in the next article. Besides that, most of phone manufacturers have totally removed these features: removable battery, IR Blasters, FM radio receivers (let alone transmitters!), expandable memory and they are slowly making the headphone jack disappear, forcing you to buy very uncomfortable bluetooth earphones, or using adapters. Moreover, always thanks to the iDiots, most modern phones have a hideous desgn with something called "notch", another Apple's invention, that other manufacturers first mocked then adopted.
Now let's talk about safety and privacy, modern smartphones are such a disaster for privacy, because of the proprietary software they run, the microphone can be remotely controlled, and the same goes for the camera. This is however unlikely, but not impossible. The real problems are these, let's start with Google (and Apple if you have an iMonster), Google (and same for Apple) has developed a technology that automatizes many phone processes thanks to AI, sounds awesome, doesn't it? It does sound awesome maybe, but it's actually disturbing and terrible! Why? Because in order to help you, Google collects an enormous amount of data about you, especially with their latest invention for rapid answers, it can even read your messages (not only SMS but even on safe apps like Telegram), unless you set up a proper lock and isolation for the apps you are using, which is often impossible without third party software, which is usually proprietary, so it cannot be fully trusted. What can Google (or Apple) do with this then? They alone, not very much, apart from giving you extremely specifically targeted ads and some things of the sort. The real problem begins when they begin cooperating with the biggest evil we have to deal with: the State! Various tech companies that make proprietary software, have provided a universal backdoor to agencies such as the NSA or the FSB, and probably to agencies of your country as well! Google's or Apple's damage can be limited even on tivoized phones by not setting up a Google/Apple account and disabling whatever related to Google/Apple that you can disable. Another huge problem is that people rely on insecure proprietary garbage like WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram and SnapChat for communicating with someone, this is of course as dangerous as putting your head in a hungry lion's mouth, since you are literally giving them all your conversations, and guess what, most of these companies (especially Facebook) openly admit to be cooperating with governments to help them catch political dissidents, internet pirates etc. (remember, even if you're not considered a political dissident today, you may be considered as such tomorrow!). There are way better alternatives to those companies such as Signal, Telegram, Tox and many others that do have a secure way of messaging and are licensed under a free software license, where you can see and edit the code as you please, so that they cannot spy on you. What you should do is instantly delete your Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp (unless you need it for work that is), SnapChat etc. account, and invite all your acquitances to use free software alternatives. Another privacy problem are ordinary phone calls and SMSes, as they use a non-encrypted protocol, which can be easily intercepted by anyone with a bit of knowledge (including of course the evil State), phone calls are recorded, and the recordings are kept for several months (if not years), so that they can be used against you, especially in those monstrous surveillance countries where you have to give in your ID in order to get a SIM card, therefore you should always use encrypted calls through Signal, Telegram etc.! Also, if you have a rooted smartphone, always remember to spoof your IMEI code, as it is used for tracking!
So is the only solution to complerely abandon your mobile devices? Fortunately not, the main alternatives are two: the firs one is buying a rootable smartphone and installing Replicant, the only Android version that is 100% free (as in freedom), but there is a very small number of compatible devices. The second solution is buying a smartphone that runs GNU/Linux, such as the PinePhone, or the Librem 5. They run only free software by default, however this is nowadays an option only for more advanced users, since the software is still in beta quality! There is a third solution actually, but it's really impractical, that is buying a laptop with a SIM card slot and using it instead of your mobile phone, but I really wouldn't advise that. So how about SIM cards if I am in a surveillance country where I need to give in my ID to acquire one? The most practical solution is creating or buying fake digital ID scans that you can give in to an online SIM card store and you will surely get away with it, or going abroad and buying an anonymous SIM card there, but the usage will be quite limited in your country. To sum it up, the world of mobile phones is more scary than it is beautiful, and unless you use Replicant or a GNU/Linux phone, you should use your computer whenever it is possible.