Web log

FreedomBox - Helps You Stay Free!

On saturday 25. of May I gave a talk about FreedomBox at the "Claim back your device" track of LinuxTag in Berlin.

LinuxTag is a fairly big annual conference about (yes, you guessed right) Linux and related topics.

The FreedomBox is a project to help non-geeks care about their personal privacy when online, same ways as geeks have practiced for a decade or more. Concrete goal is to design a small, cheap physical box similar to an internet gateway or wifi router but with three additions:

  • Easy and intuitive to setup and personalize for non-geeks
  • Offers routines to help you protect your privacy
  • Offers routines to let you help others in need of privacy

"Privacy" is commonly mistaken as "secrecy": Privacy is to keep you in control of your information, so that sharing or keeping to yourself is truly your own choice.

Thanks a lot especially to Matthias Kirschner for inviting me as a speaker!

Slides (sources) for the event.

FreedomBox - scratching someone elses itch

Today Sunday November 11th I give a talk at FSCONS in Gothenburg about FreedomBox.

FSCONS is an annual scandinavian hacker conference, with a very friendly attitude and atmosphere.

The FreedomBox is a project to help non-geeks care about their personal privacy when online, same ways as geeks have practiced for more than a decade.

The project is exciting in that is frames a common dream among lots of hackers and therefore sparks new innovation and renewed commitment.

The goal is frustrating to tackle, because us hackers most often solve problems close to ourselves (a.k.a. is driven by "an itch to scratch"), and only very few of us are interface designers, which are crucially needed to make things usable for non-geeks.

Slides and sources for them.

What is FreedomBox? And when can I have one?

On wednesday 7. of November I gave a talk at EPFSUG in Brussels about FreedomBox.

EPFSUG is an interest group of Free Software users working inside the European Parliament.

The FreedomBox is a project to help non-geeks care about their personal privacy when online, same ways as geeks have practiced for a decade or more.

The goal is a small, cheap physical box looking like and operating like an internet gateway or wifi router many are accustomed to nowadays - but with three additions:

  • Easy and intuitive to setup and personalize for non-geeks
  • Offers routines to help you protect your privacy
  • Offers routines to let you help others in need of privacy

"Privacy" is commonly mistaken as "secrecy": Privacy is to keep you in control of your information - you can then use that control to keep secrets from others or to share with others as you like.

Talking about personal privacy in the European Parliament can seem a bit of a stretch. It is not a home but a (huge) office space, where it is perhaps less obvious that you should treat some information as personal, or that you are even allowed to do so.

Try watch the videos, and if you have questions then please don't hesitate to get in touch with me about them.

At the EPFSUG meeting was also a presentation by an emplyee who had succesfully installed and used Free Software at the internal network of the Parliament, but then later told that it wasn't allowed - because the IT staff need to be in control of your computer activities at the place!

The head of IT services at the Parliament attended the meeting and gave a short improvised talk at the end, expressing positive interest in behalf of the established IT services at the place towards our grassroots activities - and even praising explicitly EPFSUG as being the ideal place for all EU citizens to ask questions about Free Software in relation to the European Parliament. See for yourself in the video of Giancarlo!

Thanks a lot especially to Erik Josefsson for making this event reality!

Slides, sources and videos from the event.

How I (don't) use Facebook images

Dear Facebook friend,

I like you and I am happy that you take/tag/share photos of me, just not on Facebook!

I have a Facebook account but don't hang out there.

Please share your photos in public, not (only) inside Facebook. And please consider allowing Free reuse of your photos, by licensing them with a Free license like CC-BY-SA or CC0.

Here & Now

My suggestion for now is to use Flickr, and license all images as "Attribution, share alike".

The Perfect Way

Ideally you would publish the photos on some server that you control, like the Freedombox, but those are unfortunately not yet easy to find or use.

Why not Facebook?

Facebook is a closed system: all activities happen at one central place.

Maybe you don't care who is spying on the photo gallery that you share. That's fine - but please respect those of your friends who do care, by putting a copy of your photos somewhere with less thirdparty control.

Regards, Jonas

Blended configuration

I want all my computing environments "furnished" similarly and as close to my personal taste as possible - be it big and small machines, self-administered and user accounts of others.

…and not only for myself - similar is needed for the environments I help maintain for my friends Siri, Erik and Peter.

The environments are seldom fully equal, so simply copying things around is rarely useful.

Here's a checklist of things that I need to customize and syncronize for me and my friends to feel at $HOME…:

  • System-wide
    • Tools available on the system
    • Graphical login and Desktop environments
    • Adjust fonts, colors etc. of terminal emulator, file manager etc.
    • Register SSH in monkeysphere, MAC in DHCP and hostname in DNS
  • Account
    • Syncronize browser bookmarks
    • Install/configure browser search plugins, config tweaks etc.
    • Setup email and messaging accounts, and syncronize archives
    • Syncronize development scripts, git repositories etc.
    • Register account in monkeysphere

Above is work-in-progress. I hope to later extend with more details - probably by linking to separate pages about each subtopic.

How I (don't) use Facebook

Dear Facebook friend,

I like you and I want to chat with you, just not on Facebook!

My Facebook account is there to reach you where you are, but I do not hang out there. Please join me at Free and Open spaces instead - via email, IRC or Jabber…

Good old email

If you cannot be bothered with change, then simply email me!

My email address is dr@jones.dk like always :-)

Simple webchat

If you are in a hurry and do not use Jabber yet, then try use my Simple Groupchat.

Use guest login if you are not a user at jones.dk.

Proper Jabber

Jabber is similar to email: You need 1) an account somewhere, 2) some client application setup to use that account, and 3) the address of those you want to connect.

  1. Register an account at e.g. Indonesian http://jabin.org/ or some other server.
  2. Install a Jabber client program…:
    • on Windows try install Gajim from http://gajim.org/.
    • on smartphone try app from https://imo.im/.
    • on Ubuntu try use the Me menu in top right corner.
    • on Debian try install Pidgin: aptitude install pidgin.
  3. Invite me as your friend/buddy: my Jabber ID is jonas@jones.dk
  4. Tell your friends to do the same! :-D

Geeky IRC

Many computer geeks hang out on IRC. I find it ugly and clumsy to use, but most of my techie friends are there, so I recommend going there to discuss technical matters.

On OFTC my nickname is jonas, and I often hang out at the chatroom #debian-devel (plus a few others).

Why not Facebook?

Facebook is a closed system: all activities happen at one central place.

Email, Jabber and IRC are open protocols, exchanging between many Free systems (and some non-free ones as well).

Imagine having an overprotecting mother, who allow you only to meet your friends at one spot in town - where she can look after you.

You maybe have no secrets from your mom, but probably still appreciate the option of being alone - to have some privacy.

Facebook is that one spot in town. Jabber is "let's go meet somewhere".

Regards, Jonas

Asia 2011 - Khammam

My first morning in India I woke up very late in the house of Pavithrans parents. Pavithran was out organizing events for us, his father was at work, leaving me with his mother. She spoke little english - unsure if it was lack of skills or she was humble, or perhaps she just felt as shy as me in the situation.

How to, ahem, do your thing at a restroom when there is no toilet paper but instead a bucket of water? I decided to not yell for help but use my imagination.

How to eat breakfast local style? I knew from dinner previous night with Pavithran that local custom was to eat with my hands and that it (lucky for me) was tolerated in India to use left hand, so turned down the kind offer for a spoon. But were I supposed to mix rice with all the curries? Or one at a time? In which order? What if a curry was too hot to dip my fingers into? Was the liquid stuff to drink or to mix with the rice or eat afterwards?

I asked for help, and first she just smiled at my alien useless language and then when I persisted, she patiently demonstrated with her hands in my food how to do. The only natural thing to do, really, and I dearly appreciate her help and patiency. But wauw, it was mind-blowing to me! Since early childhood, fingers in food is a forbidden thing: "Don't play with the food!". On top of that, having someone else handle my dish while at the table is something I associate with being very old and needing to be spoon-fed.

In the afternoon we went for a small hike to an old stone fortress in the middle of Khammam - with a great view of the sun setting.

Next day we went to Sarada Institute of Technology & Science where I gave my first talk to about 100 students. I had intended to provide concrete facts on Debian generally and on my pet project, Debian Pure Blends, but then the night before decided to radically shift focus to their situation in the early twenties - as best as I could imagine it. Pavithran had clearly expected a different style talk, but I liked it and believe it was received well by the audience as well.

The teacher responsible for the event, Bhukya Jabber, afterwards asked for hints on running Debian at their computer lab. I suggested to not lock down access but instead make it easy to reinstall, and he explained how he was quite interested in a larger degree of learning-by-doing (which I had also promoted in my talk) but was constrained by curriculum dictated higher up in the educational system.

Late that day Pavithrans father introduced me to CPM Khammam - the local offices and community center of the Communist Party - and to a colleague of his at the place, N. N. Rao. I instantly fell in love with the place and its atmosphere, and now have an open invitation to come back to spend 1-2 months to study and to collaborate with other users of the place (including some kids hosted there) on Free Software.

Next morning we headed back by train to Hyderabad…

I am still amazed how radical it feels sticking my fingers into food. Not the physical feeling (I am not that disconnected from my body) but similar to a discovery I had as a teenager: After 7 years of piano lessons (and numerous other instruments less patiently) I gave up because I felt it was too difficult expressing personality through the instrument. After that I exclusively sang - as I had always done, but only now did I recognize my voice as a serious musical instrument. Similarly I now realized that eating with the fingers is not just yet another eating style like fork+knife or sticks - it is the natural one. Obviously, in hinsight.

This text is part of my Asia 2011 scriblings.

Asia 2011 - India

Arrival in a new country is always exciting. This was my first time ever to visit India, and although I have heard especially cultural bits and pieces, I was as usual nowhere near "well" prepared.

How to fill out the registration forms (surprisingly needed in addition to the visa already gathered ahead of departure) when your only known address in India is on the laptop you completely drained the battery of during the flight? Luckily they tolerated the "address during stay" to be left blank.

I got out in the heat of Hyderabad in the late afternoon, got a cab, and had my host instruct the cab driver - over the phone via roaming to Denmark - where to drop me off. After a long ride with cows and beautiful dressed pedestrians casually crossing the high speed road and a short pitstop at an ATM, I finally met Pavithran. Until then we only knew each other from casual online chat.

(I should later learn that my first impression was quite unusual - not cows or clothes or chat, but roads capable of driving at high speed!)

Pavithran checked me into a small hotel and we visited his home. It was in the middle of being rebuild, so impossible to stay at as had been our original planed.

After a few hours of looking at the neighbourhood and talking about possible events during the week, we decided to cancel the hotel and instead go visit his parents in Khammam, some 5 hours away by bus…

This text is part of my Asia 2011 scriblings.

Asia 2011 - London

First event of my trip was somewhat a gimmick: Give a 30 minutes talk on FreedomBox to an audience of 1 person, in the transit area of Heathrow airport, London.

A guy from India now living in London helped preparing my visit to India, an was eager to participate - so much that he was willing to drive out to the airport to meet me.

The meeting failed, unfortunately: My flight got delayed, and my one-man "audience" got caught in other duties. :-(

Fun to try nevertheless. Also looking back, that crazy attempt to squeeze in a meeting during a 1 hour stop-over was an indicator of the general pace of the India trip…

This text is part of my Asia 2011 scriblings.