First week of FLOSS

Jan 08, 2021

My start of the year

To start clean and use FOSS as much as possible, I will reinstall my laptop with Arch on the 1st of January. You can see the programs what I will install here. I would like to switch to Parabola but my WiFi card and BIOS prevents me. I could order one from a Chinese web shop for under 20 Euros, flash my BIOS and cross my fingers but I am not read for that yet. Perhaps I will make an exception to my No Buy Year for this or I would replace my laptop with one that can use 100% FOSS. Ironically one of the laptops that can run Parabola is a Macbook, version 1,1 and 1,2, due to Atheros WiFi cards.

Using absolutely-proprietary I checked which of the installed packages were using non free code. For some I did not think of the underlying software such as using code instead of VScode although it still uses electron under the hood. What I can find about FSF’s position on Electron

This is not only not compliant to FSF policies, but also to any free distro’s policies. The issue is that they rely a lot on bundling precompiled blobs without even including their source code. Electron bundles a precompiled Chromium blob, mentioning only the BSD license of Chromium’s own code, but ignoring the LGPL on Blink and some other components (they neither mention nor honor it). Then Electron apps bundle a precompiled Electron blob including the Chromium blob.

Also I just don’t like Electron and already use Neovim for most programming work anyway.

Running into some issues

On the first of January I reinstalled Arch Linux and ran my fork of the install script to install packages and my dotfiles. This proved to be harder than I expected as my old setup did not use a lot of the current settings in the repository. Because I made some changes from upstream(Luke’s branch) I had a bunch of bugs that were fixed a while ago. Because of my changes it became quite hard to get a good working system, either I was running into bugs or I was missing a bunch of my own settings. But after some tinkering I managed to get a workable system, which I could update along the way.

The second hurdle was installing a browser. I tried to follow the FSF recommendation of using GNU IceCat, the Arch User Repository has a binary version for it. However after install I noticed that it was using an old version of Firefox as a base(version 60.8) while current FireFox was at 76.x. This would not bother me too much but I could not install Firefox add-ons, which means I could not adapt the browser to my preferences. The out of date version was due to the binary being maintained by a volunteer in the AUR which could lag behind a bit. The next option was building the package yourself using yay but because browsers are quite large packages this took a really long time on my machine. Not wanting to do this every reinstall I looked for alternatives. I’m not too interested in advanced features, I just need to find information I am looking for and I can use Vim keys for navigation. In the end I settled for the Brave browser but I will also try Qutebrowser along side of it. A keyboard based webbrowser written in Python and PyQt5.

A lot of software I used on a daily basis was closed source or proprietary. Think of games, Android apps. I was not able to switch all of this in one week, I still play some videogames via Steam and I still use some of my proprietary apps as my data is in there. During the year I will document my transition away from these apps, such as moving from Fuelly to FLOSS.


Vito Minheere

No buy January 2021

Moving to FLOSS apps