I Love Free Software Day 2016

“I Love Free Software Day” is over, but nevertheless I want to mention some stuff about the tools I use and love to say thanks to the community and probably inspire others to get started.

Let me tell you what I use and love: I run my computer on a Linux Mint as it makes life very easy. I do not want to spend nights to prove me and my family that freedom and independence takes hours to install - concerning Linux distributions I like it the easy way and Mint is a point to start from.

On that system most of what I do right now is writing. Therefore, I use Atom for putting down notes and scientific texts in Markdown. To get out the right formats, I use pandoc, a tool that is completely underestimated. It converts my text files to everything I need, mainly HTML, PDF and ODT.

When it comes to collaborative writing GitBook is my new star. Feel free to check out an OER text book I wrote with it. In the same breath Git and GitLab need to be mentioned and also LibreOffice for the collaboration with the file based office folks. Zotero is my favorite literature tracker, Better BibTeX the plugin that makes Zotero 100% better and Zettelkasten the tool that helps me get my mind made up for writing so that others can understand me. I do not want to miss Okular as it plays well together with Zotero making remarks and annotations in PDF files.

Let me mention some other pieces of software that I’m very thankful for: GIMP, Scribus, Inkscape, Kile, Fritzing, Dia, Audacity, Brasero, Kdenlive, Transcriber, VLC, LibreCAD, Pidgin, Robomongo, VUE, Processing, Arduino, FreeCAD, Tor, Tails and VirtualBox. And this is just the Desktop side!

On the server side I love: Owncloud, wallabag, Tiny Tiny RSS, Docker, nodeJS, Ghost, Wordpress, Discourse, Apache, nginx, DokuWiki, MediaWiki, Diaspora and Etherpad.

You might have noticed, not all of the software mentioned above is really free as in free speech. But even if it’s MIT licensed or else it is community-driven and open in the way that you can learn from and contribute to it. I believe in the following:

The so called process of digital transformation will only be successful, if we use Free and Open Source Software. We mustn’t tie our (digital) lives to services of transnational companies that can and may change the rules whenever they like.

Whenever you use or install a piece of software do The Check of Freedom and Independence:

  • What if the service shuts down tomorrow?
  • What do others do with your data?
  • What if I want to learn how everything is set up?
  • What if I want to change something in the software/service?
  • What if I want to pass on my changes to anyone else?
  • What if I want to transfer my data from the service/software to some other?
  • What if I want to collaborate with other people that do not have the money for buying that software or paying the service?

Feel free to ask yourself questions like these and decide if you are really free and independent when you use your computer. Richard Stallman’s philosophical writings are still a well of inspiration although sometimes a bit to ideological to have a direct practical use. But as we let software and algorithms gain more and more control over our lives, we should be careful to make early and insufficient compromises.

Foto: “Freedom” von Sunsword & Moonsabre CC-BY