Going full FOSS

Jan 02, 2021

I started using Linux full time around 4 years ago, due to it being easier to install and work with Python. I started out with Ubuntu(as most people will) and never looked back. Around 2 years ago I started looking into making my setup more geared towards me. So that my computer will work for me instead of me fighting my operating system. During that time I found Luke Smith’s channel and moved towards Arch. I really liked the simplicity and the fact that you control what is installed.

Last year I read more about the origins of Linux and stumbled upon GNU and the FSF. The GNU project is started by Richard Stallman and focuses on users freedom. In their own words:

GNU is an operating system that is free software—that is, it respects users' freedom. The GNU operating system consists of GNU packages (programs specifically released by the GNU Project) as well as free software released by third parties. The development of GNU made it possible to use a computer without software that would trample your freedom.

Why use free software?

My dislike for proprietary, both in software and hardware, motivated me to switch to more free software tools. Proprietary meaning the rights or property belonging to a company or another owner. This means that you are not free to copy, modify or distribute it. The main culprits of hardware are specially made cables for certain products, such as Apple cables(lightning and magsafe) and variants on usb cables which only work for one device. Every company should just switch to support usb-C so that only one type of cable is needed. Because usb-C is a standard others are free to create their own cables, instead of just one company being allowed to create them and have a monopoly over them.

Free software also allows you to continue your way of working. Proprietary programs can be changed at any moment and access to older versions can be cut off, which could leave you unable to continue working with your files. See the [Anti DRM campaign]https://www.defectivebydesign.org/) from the FSF.

What do I use?

Unfortunately going 100% FOSS is really hard to do. Just installing one of the GNU recommended GNU/Linux distros requires a machine which can run without any proprietary code, which dismisses 99% of the market. My laptop of choice a Thinkpad T440p is able to run the distros if I switch out the Intel WiFi card for an Atheros one and flash the Lenovo BIOS to accept it.

The distro and packages that I use can be found in my forks of LARBS and my dotfiles. This is what I use for my personal computer, for work I use whatever is compatible with what the company is using. Currently that is Linux Mint with most of the packages mentioned above installed or Open source versions of other software, such as VSCodium instead of VSCode.

Also it is hard to revert back from proprietary software, mainly due to the fact that either the data is in a weird format or hidden altogether. Because I have used Android before being introduced to FOSS I have a few proprietary programs that I use. Some of them are nice enough that they allow you to download your data, data that your entered to begin with. Although I can not complain too much as I did receive benefits from using their applications. Some of the applications I use are:

  • Fuelly, to document fuel economy and maintenance on my car and motorcycle
  • Sheiko gold, a “AI” training application which manages my training program
  • Kurviger, An application which found the best roads to ride your motorcycle on. I bought the pro version for 10 Euro.
  • Runkeeper, Keep track of running data.
  • Strava, Keep track of cycling data.
  • Spendee, Keep track of finances.
  • Stretching, provides stretching programs as a cool down
  • Thenics, Calisthenics training app
  • Flitsmeister, Navigation and speed trap information
  • Supermarket app
  • Investing app
  • 70mai dashcam, was needed to set up the dashcam and download videos
  • Untappd, keep track of beers that I drink. Although the number of beers is quite high and a bit of a problem.

Some of them I could do without or switch to a FOSS alternative from F-Droid. For the apps that do not have a free alternative I could start working on a version for that. With it being FOSS others could join and contribute as well. From F-Droid I use the following apps:

  • Feeder, a RSS reader
  • GNU IceCat, Browser
  • VLC, media player
  • OpenBoard, keyboard
  • MuPDF, PDF reader
  • AdAway, Blocks sites with host files
  • Interval Timer, create intervals for running

This year I hope to switch most or all of these apps to Free and Open source variants. While doing this I hope to not only take but also give something back to the community, mainly in the form of software. I could help out with some pull request or create my own software if I am missing something.


Vito Minheere

Moving to FLOSS apps

No buy 2021