The Free Software Foundation Giving Guide 2021 is out! Also, laptops, smartphones, GPS and Purism

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Ignacio.Agullo
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Iscritto: 09/29/2009

For us, Freedom lovers, most computers and devices aren't fit - we want only machines that don't take our freedom away. For us it is so much important to have accurate information about machines, so we can find the right ones.

Luckyly, there is a site we can rely on - the "Respect Your Freedom" campaign from the Free Software Foundation
Respects Your Freedom Certification | RYF
https://ryf.fsf.org/

There we can find various routers, various mainboards for desktop computers, and even a workstation (what a great achievement, Vikings!). But sadly, when it comes to laptops and smartphones the choices are scarce.

As for laptops, the only ones available are old, no-longer-in-production laptops with the BIOS rewritten. I am not complaining about them being old - I used one of these for years (look at photograph) and the performance was good enough for me, and when it got wasted I got another one. What I am complaining at is that we will inevitably run out of these laptops because of not being on production any longer. So if you are reading this and happen to be an entrepreneur, please consider the opportunity of creating a brand of laptops of Free Hardware.

As for devices, it is even worse - there are none on sale. Your choices are narrowed to finding and buying a second-hand, no-longer-in-production smartphone or tablet, and replacing the Android operating system with Replicant which you can download from the Replicant site:
Replicant
https://replicant.us/

Again, I am not complaining about the smartphone being old - I have one of these myself. But there are only 6 smartphones and 2 tablets for which Replicant is maintained, and they are at least eight years old. Again, the expectancy of finding a second-hand unit of these will eventually disappear. Also, I am complaining that most of the features of these devices are unsupported - GPS, Bluetooth, NFC, Wi-Fi. Again, if you are reading this and are an entrepreneur, please consider the opportunity of creating a brand of smartphones of Free Hardware. You would be the first one, so you wouldn't have competitors for a while!

I sought for hope. And some hope I found, in the form of the Giving Guide from the Free Software Foundation. Every year before Black Friday, the Free Software Foundation published this guide that recommends gift that don't take away freedom from people. This is the generical web address:

Ethical Tech | Giving Guide
https://www.fsf.org/givingguide

This web address will actually redirect to the current Guiving Guide. Last September, the current Guiving Guide was 2020's, and for smartphones it recommended Librem Phone 5 even though it hadn't been awarded a "Respect Your Freedom" certificate. I was all decided. I was going to get a Librem Phone 5. Then I looked into the Purism site and found this warning: "Backorder shipping resumes October 2021. Lead time for new orders: 52 weeks.". Something to do with buying the Phone from out of USA, I think. The lead time bothered me, but still I was so much decided as to gladly wait. But I didn't order the Librem Phone right away - I decided to wait until October even though there was a warning that the price would go up. And up it went - from 899$ to 1,199$, and I didn't bat an eyelid. Up to now I have shown not to care about buying computers that are old, buying a smartphone that is expensive, or waiting for a time as long as a full year - but the line is drawn in ordering a product that is not event currently on production. Maybe that is what life has taught me, or maybe I am just superstitious. So I waited until October arrived... and the warning was still on the Purism site. I waited until October finished... and the warning was still on the Purism site. So we are now in November the 19th, and the warning telling that production will be resumed in October, 2021, is still there. A bit late, I think.

And so today arrives. Black Friday is coming. And the Free Software Foundation releases its 2021 Guiving Guide, for which the specific web address is the following one:
https://www.fsf.org/givingguide/v12/

... and Librem Phone is no longer recommended. "There's currently no cell phone on the market that's fully compatible with user freedom, given the presence of nonfree software in iOS and Android. There are promising projects like PinePhone and the Librem 5 that seek to run GNU/Linux on smartphone hardware, but even these aren't perfect.".

Replicant is recommended, but remember, no vendor sells Replicant devices - you have to buy a no-longer-in-production, second-hand device from the only 6 smartphones and the 2 tablets that Replicant maintains, then replace the operating system yourself. And remember, no GPS, no Wi-Fi, no Bluetooth, no NFC (that is what happens in the one I own). I think there is only one maintained Replicant device where GPS works - but precisely the one where the *phone* doesn't work. I have been suggested to buy this one and another, different smartphone from the ones that Replican maintains and then have their backs glued to each other so with two Replicant phones I can have one functional smartphone. Comical, I know. The real problem here is not the way Google handles Android, but that the manufacturers refuse to release the drivers under a Libre license. About that, a news from June the 14th on the Replicant site reads "Replicant is looking for volunteers to add support for the “GSD4t” GPS chip." Still no updates on that.

Interestingly enough, Replicant, Librem Phone and PinePhone all use Linux - all three can use Telegram and, I think, Signal. However, while Librem Phone and PinePone use GNU/Linux, Replicant is a Libre version of Android. That means that if you don't bother WhatsApp being non-Libre Software, you can only install it on Replicant.

This is the current situations when it comes to Libre smartphones. This is the question I pose: If you want a Free Hardware smartphone with GPS, are there any chances of one coming out in the next 12 months? And if there aren't any, what would be the closest choice?

Avron
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Iscritto: 08/18/2020

I am using a phone with Replicant and no non-free firmware added, so no GPS.

I am also using a phone with LineageOS, without SIM card, in order to use Organic Maps (on Replicant 6.004 rc5, I can launch the app but it takes several minutes to display the map fully) and sometimes GPS.

I don't know whether it would be possible to connect a GPS USB module to the Replicant phone. That said, since Organic Maps is not really working on the Replicant phone, this would not be so useful.

Sorry, I have no better idea now.

I have a Pinephone that I leave in a drawer after a terrible experience: can't answer or make phone calls rather often, no usable XMPP client with OMEMO, unable to setup access to my radicale contacts/calendar server, no usable password manager. Replicant does all that pretty well so I did not see the point of ordering an expensive Librem 5.

My only fear is that cellular operators switch 3G off and there is not yet a Replicant phone working with 4G.

EDIT: I forgot one important point: Technoethical seems completely unresponsive now. I am mentioning that for anyone tempted to buy a Replicant phone from them.

MistahDarcy
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Iscritto: 03/18/2016

Interesting to see that LulzBot 3D printers have been pulled from the gift giving guide - and concerning to see the list grow smaller. This is probably the smallest I've ever seen it. Most of the Gift Giving Guide is now filler for DRM Free entertainment.

anedroid
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Iscritto: 09/29/2021

While I was reading it, tears fell from my eyes. Really. I am so sad we already failed on so important field – libre hardware, and libre firmware, that is much associated with hardware. Almost all WiFi cards require non-free firmware, only Atheros doesn't. And most computers are powered by either Intel, either AMD CPUs that are unsafe because their backdoors. And we don't have any libre cellular modem, so in consequence we are unable to make any fully libre mobile phone. Otherwise, mobile phones are in general hard to repair, locked-in by vendors, and the other key components are proprietary, so developing a free mobile operating system is hard. Replicant supports only few models and is outdated in addition. Other GNU-like operating systems such as PureOS have the same hardware problems.

We are on the edge of failure in fighting for free web, just look on these billions of websites that loads megabytes of harmful and totally useless for end-user JavaScript code. I feel pain that Mozilla who had to stand on our side and defend our rights is breaking itself for a while. Internet is breaking, web standards is breaking, society is breaking. I used to spread idea of free software in my surroundings, my school, home, among friends, but they aren't interested. My class use Microsoft Teams to online meetings and I was forced to install that horrible app in my phone and sign in to Microsoft account they had created for me. Some teachers encourage to communicate through Facebook Messenger. I am of course unable to do that, especially if it isn't an official communication method approved by my school. I used to talk with my teachers about it too. Raised this ethical issue on lessons. Encouraged them to use Trisquel GNU/Linux instead of Microsoft Windows and explained why it's so important. Only one teacher seems to be aware, and she supports me, but she haven't decided to move to free software... yet. But there are few teachers who admire my technical skills but criticize me for my attitude, my idealism. They clearly want I forbid it and go making much money.

Actually, when I see all that evil in the world, not only in IT, how companies cheat and exploit on people, and pollute the environment making products that will live only 5 years, those make me very disgust for business and money. No, I am not an advocate of socialism. I'd rather say, if socialism was ZSRR and capitalism is USA, that both of these political systems are the same evil. Or just political system doesn't matter, always honest people will be treated worse.

We REALLY, REALLY need more people in our community who create free software, brand a hardware that respects our freedom and is compatible with free software, who design a safe, open protocols and theirs implementations, and we need people who educate others about dangers of using Microsoft Windows, Facebook, Netflix, Apple products and so on, and about libre replacements (not only replacements, but entire environment or "ecosystem"). We need to teach it students at schools, and teach it teachers on the pedagogical colleagues. We need to teach freedom first, to not become Open Source. Open Source is a trap I fell into once. I don't wish this to anyone.

There's still hope for humanity, but people need to change.

SkedarKing
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Iscritto: 11/01/2021

I agree, people need to change, proprietary software should never be promoted as good, it should be the kind of thing people look down on as being trash.

I mean what do these companies have to do, before people realize they are corrupt, convince people directly, to march into washington D.C to try and overturn an election?

I mention this, because that's unfortunately at this time, the only way the majority of people would ditch proprietary software completely...

Aka, if all proprietary companies did this to prevent changes to protect peoples privacy...

That's the world I think we live in, at the moment...

But yes, there is hope! Especially with Winbugs11 being the crap it is, I hear more and more on youtube, via the invidio instances, that more people are ditching winbugs.

Although, it may take, a very, very long time to achive. But hope is out there!

PS, people who love propreitary software being everywhere are ignorant of the price of such things.

Some willfully so, others however will regret it, just like I did when I learned of the evil influences of malwaresoft winbugs...

I wish I had ditched it in the 2000s, but meh.. took me till windows 8.1 to learn the truth... its a long story, but I won't waste your time on it, just know I support your goal to be free from that non-free crap.

Jabjabs
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Iscritto: 07/05/2014

I have to agree with some of the folks on here - it is starting to look very grim. I don't want to be in this place but the longer it goes on the less light I am seeing in this space.

It worries me that in terms of hardware, the selection is the same as it was 5 years ago and even then the selection was fairly aged. This is not so bad with the laptops/desktops as the performance gap still isn't too big. I intend to use my T400 for as long as possible, but when it comes to everything else - especially phones - it is looking dire. As Avron said, when 3G get switched off, the libre phones will go silent. In my country that is only 2 years away.

Proprietary online services have essentially won, the libre options aren't even pushed aside, they are simply completely ignored and it saddens me.

I still have some hope but it is going to be nothing short of a miracle to see if there is any path through this. The best I can do is to ensure my own stuff and hope that others don't get too mistreated.

Modern technology companies now control the narrative almost entirely. As Mark Twain said "Do not fight with those that buy ink by the barrel". By that he meant that do not fight with those that control the narrative, you will not win. Technology companies now control the narrative, the odds of us winning are slim.

Nowadays I am gathering a small assortment of hardware and software that I can use for decades to come, offline. Getting more into physical books and the things that cannot be as easily controlled by others. That is my path to peace.

Pablo G

I am a member!

I am a translator!

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Iscritto: 05/16/2012

It's a long post from @Ignacio...
At least I'm happy we care about his demands.
There is darkness and hope (even if we can't see so much now) at the same time.
I don't use a "smartphone" and don't need it. I support vendors of RYF like Vikings, but in the future I think we need to start from zero: for example Arduino boards with fpga's chips.

antidoto

I am a member!

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Iscritto: 10/20/2020

We are in real fortunate era, as we have a full ecosystem (libreboot, free routers, replicant, trisquel and many more) to choose from. With only minor limitations, as we usually find other ways, we use technology and we keep our freedom.
It is important we continue to do this in our personal lives and we must also keep fighting for the future of free software as well as the world we are living.
Our actions, either individually as well as collectively, are decisive about how the present transforms the future.
For example to solve pollution and the environmental crisis we must be ourselves ecologists and try to live with fewer waste, recycling, etc. We do this for symbolic reasons and personal balance. But in order to save the world, we need to force states and big companies to respect our planet, cause they are the big polluters, not our homes.
In my view, the same applies to the digital world. We need to keep our beautiful software freedom cult alive, because we need freedom in our lives, but in order to change technology we must push governments, universities and schools to abandon the use and promotion of non-free software.
Pessimism is the recipe to stop acting, be brave, be happy, there is a world out there that needs changing.
Think locally, act globally.

Jorah Dawson
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Iscritto: 12/13/2020

At least, we have some free software projects, for now.

Replicant and maybe OsmocomBB for mobile devices.
LibreCMC for routers. Anyway, we have to avoid fiber optic broadband routers because we can't change them. Using old DSL connections or the lesser evil, a 3g/4g router with a SIM card.
Librebooted computers until Raptor OpenPOWER would have a popular price or waiting for RISC-V alternatives...

That could be fine but What about cars, fridges, smart TVs and all connected devices?
We'll be force to keep old ones in order to avoid their surveillance or at least forbidding internet on such machines.

It's disheartening but I'll resist. The only way I could disrupt my surroundings is telling people how to flash a mobile without gapps (save money! don't buy another one), not using smart TVs (you can't block youtube ads), teaching about GNU/Linux distros (it's free, no viruses) and so on.

That's my two cents.

Mr. P
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Iscritto: 03/25/2020

Hello, everyone.
Compliments to Ignacio for the topic chosen, talking about is as sad as useful.

Some braves have tried to build ethical laptops with performance in line to current standards, but for what I know some projects are vanished, and others have frozen sites at unlikely dates, as you said. I also followed the fsf/giving-guide link, up to the Dischord Records site, where also there the cd/vinyls are «out of stock»....
For all the reasons already listed, IMHO the hardware problem is big. Only very few companies have the tools to manufacture the hardware (chip/semiconductors/etc.) necessary to build a computer, actually the electronic stuff vendors just buying and assembling these parts in their marked chassis/cabinet. If an entrepreneur want to build a motherboard/graphic card/wi-fi card/etc., he should however purchase from third parties the most necessary components, and then Ask for Permission to develop and use free drivers on those components. I believe that would not be defined free hardware, but open hardware. However from this, already you understand how easy it is to fail, money/instruments/compromises/etc. And because RYF companies that exist from 10/15 years, offer products even older than they and of which they maybe not even have availability, at prices for nothing competitive.
All these problems multiply for smartphones, as it is all monolithic proprietary technology, much more recent and in fast and constant evolution(there isn't olden hardware for testing/using). Because they work(dialer/gps/ecc..), you have to interact with them, and also with the phone company.
Mark Twain is right, running behind him is only a lost of precious time, something more productive and decisive should be done. Decentralization has many positive qualities, but unfortunately in this case does not help much, and even the confusion created in users by any update of this or that guide don't help. Not to mention the various manuals to free a PC, or even worse a smartphone..., which are not understandable and usable by all users.

Here too, things are not good, "tutto il mondo è paese.."(the whole world is country). 3/4 years ago, legislative requirements for the exclusive use of free software in all schools and public offices of the country, had finally been created(also with help of FSFE). Today, it passes everything through Microshit products.... If you need a state service(school/hospital/etc.), you are obliged/forced to use them.

Tring to answer your question, I don't think there is or going to come the device you're looking for, I'm sorry. There are only various ways to circumvent or limit these problems, but unfortunately it depends on its own abilities, and on the compromises to which you are willing to descend.
You can have 2 or more devices, isolated from each other, to be used when you need for different purposes. Like maybe you do now.
You can use a computer, adding what it takes to calling.
You can flash a smartphone for install Replicant/LineageOS/or whatever you need.
You can customize Android, to build a version ad hoc for what you needs.
But you still have to make compromises, about privacy or about use, and most likely you will have to do everything "yourself". I know there are manuals and guides, forums where you can ask an help, but for many and different motive you will have to put in "your hands."
I think this is more or less the current situation, IMHO.
Yes, I know,...another one post for the sad list. Sorry guys

[To Avron, thanks to have speak about LibreTranslate. Is easy and fast to use. I hope it's even correct... :):):) ]

Lef
Lef
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Iscritto: 11/20/2021

This should be moved to General Free Software Talk.

There's been more criticism here:

https://tuxphones.com/freedom-and-phone-advice/

I'm of the opinion the FSF has gone about this the wrong way. They seem to be:

- Find business who talks with the FSF ideals
- Endorse said business in hopes business helps further the movement
- Business goes nowhere

I'm of the opinion it should be:

- Find business who successfully runs a business and is open to ideas like "open source" and "free software" (eg, Pine64, System76, MNT is not quite proven business savvy imo but even they have delivered more than Purism)
- Work with them to further the free-ness of their products, or design new ones
- Make actual products

t3g
t3g
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Iscritto: 05/15/2011

Even though System76 offers an OS with non-free firmware/software for their desktops and laptops, I did pick up their Launch keyboard with open hardware, firmware, and customization software:

https://system76.com/accessories/launch

https://github.com/system76/launch

https://github.com/pop-os/keyboard-configurator