Activism Blog Archive - Feb 2016

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2/1/2016 - Part 2: My replies to the Free Software Foundation (FSF) Vision Survey
2/1/2016 - Part 3: My replies to the Free Software Foundation (FSF) Vision Survey
2/2/2016 - No longer in Amazon affiliate program
2/3/2016 - Part 4: My replies to the Free Software Foundation (FSF) Vision Survey
2/20/2016 - I quit Tumblr
2/24/2016 - Disappointed by Bernie Sanders' web page on student loans

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Part 2: My replies to the Free Software Foundation (FSF) Vision Survey
Monday, February 1st, 2016
10:37:15 GMT


Here's part 2 of the long replies that I was trying to send in response to the Free Software Foundation (FSF) Vision Survey.

Added to, edited, and reworded to some extent, with added HTML formatting and hyperlinks.


Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4





(Quote from the survey:) Imagine it's 2020 and the opposite is true -- we are less free as computer users. Describe some things that have gone wrong. (End of quote.)


I find the Internet of Things very spooky - even now in 2016.

The "Internet of Things" and "Pervasive Computing": Some of the Worst Ideas Ever

Sometimes I wonder if we need not only the free software movement, but a free _from_ software movement. :-)


One of the most intriguing though worrying books I read in 2015 was Trillions: Thriving In The Emerging Information Ecology by Peter Lucas, Joe Ballay and Mickey McManus.




One reason I hope free (as in freedom), libre hardware will catch on a lot more is because I sometimes worry that maybe non-libre hardware manufacturers might somehow figure out how to make it totally impossible to even boot GNU/Linux on their hardware.

I wish I could 3D print my own computer stuff. :-D




I hope more can be done to financially support free, libre software authors, and everyone else in the world who could use more financial support.

Actually, I think there ought to be an unconditional basic income for everyone.

http://www.dominionpaper.ca/articles/4100

https://web.archive.org/web/20150413103917/http://www.xamuel.com/ten-reasons-for-guaranteed-minimum-income/

https://web.archive.org/web/20150628192657/http://www.xamuel.com/basic-income/


The only reason I'm able to write free, libre software at all is because my family supports me and doesn't try to treat me like a slave or try to force me to violate my ethical principles by writing closed source, proprietary software.

If I had happened to be in worse circumstances, the world would have missed out on quite a lot of my creations. (The best is yet to come. And much of it has probably been delayed a lot by my bad circumstances.)

Also, the stress, sometimes poor nutrition (which sometimes triggers headaches which might be migraines), and various other problems resulting from poverty also haven't been good for my health, so, I might have a shorter lifespan than I would have had if I had not been poor.


And maybe I'd be a less shy, timid person in general if I were in better circumstances. I probably would have pointed this survey out to more people, but I just felt too stressed out and overwhelmed to keep forcing myself to be outgoing (even on the internet).

Fortunately, posting things to my own websites, or sometimes even to very slow-paced quiet forums, is much easier for me than sending messages which will probably soon get a response which I probably ought to respond to promptly, but might be too stressed out, tired, headachy, etc. to feel up to dealing with or to even read.

At least usually avoiding the stress and time-consumption of social contact helps me focus and make more progress with my various projects sooner than I otherwise would.

Probably my software projects and perhaps some of my writing would do more to help the world (and even my own situation) than me having a social life, anyway. :-)


At least things are better than they were in the past. I'm very comforted by (among other things) my increasingly good programming skills, which give me some hope that somehow, someday, I might find a good way to make a living. Maybe even sometime before 2020. :-)

And perhaps I already could support myself if I had nothing against writing closed source, proprietary software.


If my family's financial problems had caused us to lose our home in 2013, it's unlikely I would have managed to finish a release of the Puppy Setup Kit back in Sept. 2014.

http://astroblahhh.com/puppy-linux/software/apollias-puppy-linux-setup-kit/

And if my family hadn't been struggling so much, I probably would have tried GNU/Linux many years sooner. I was curious to try it as early as 2002 - I just didn't have a spare computer to experiment with, and couldn't risk ruining my family's computer either. (Which, for many years, was a Mac, so probably no GNU/Linux would have worked on that anyway.)

I actually didn't even have a decent computer of my own until Feb. 2002. And, regrettably and with the naive optimism of youth (I was 20), I went into debt to get it.


Despite how unpleasant my life has been at times, I still have been very lucky. Financially, I'm much more trapped than people who can more easily work because they don't have severe sleep issues (and shyness) getting in their way.

But, unlike most people, I've had an unusually massive amount of free time, mostly thanks to my family supporting me. Which has been more valuable than money, I think, because I managed to put plenty - though far from all - of that time to good use.

But, sadly, probably tons of far more intelligent and talented people than me have not been so lucky.

And even many financially stable people have to spend a ton of their time slaving away at a job, time which they could probably devote to far more worthwhile pursuits.

I guess this is a good place to point out my Blog Action Day post from 2008.


Here's an interesting self-help blog post I stumbled across recently:

http://beyondgrowth.net/personal-development/deep-work-review-book-by-cal-newport/

I also suggest reading the book Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Outliers_%28book%29

It's vitally important for people to have free time. And one reason why is because in general, probably no one becomes a world-class programmer or world-class anything else without tons of practice.


Another fascinating book I'd recommend is Antifragile by Nassim Nicholas Taleb.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antifragile

Fragile things are damaged or broken easily. Robust things are resistant to damage and change. But antifragile things are things which actually benefit from rough handling, chaos, change, etc. Like a phoenix, or a hydra.


If you think about it, many closed source software business models might actually be pretty fragile, given that free, libre software and hardware of sufficient quality and ease of use could easily dissuade potential buyers of closed source, proprietary, liberty-infringing software and hardware from wasting any money on such things in the first place.




Another thing I'm concerned about is the systemd controversy. So far, I don't really understand it on a technical level, but, if I understand correctly, if too much software unrelated to systemd is made dependent on components of systemd, then, that could threaten people's freedom by making it much harder for people to build and run a GNU/Linux system without systemd.

And I've heard that incompatibilities caused by systemd dependence could make it difficult to compile free, libre software on non-GNU/Linux systems like BSD.


systemd is often referred to as "init software", but if I understand correctly, apparently it has grown far beyond just init software, and has been engulfing more and more basic functions traditionally done by many separate, independent components of GNU/Linux.

Here's the animation which introduced me to the systemd controversy:

http://devopsreactions.tumblr.com/post/112502661235/watching-systemd-evolve

And some other ones:

http://devopsreactions.tumblr.com/post/97126865868/systemd

:-)


As a Puppy Linux user who doesn't even read the Puppy Linux forum very regularly, and also as someone who doesn't pay much attention to news in general (even Linux news), I just happened to avoid even noticing the systemd controversy for a long time.

But even the creator of Puppy Linux objects to systemd:

http://barryk.org/news/?viewDetailed=00114

And there's this long Puppy Linux forum thread with mostly people objecting to systemd:

http://www.murga-linux.com/puppy/viewtopic.php?t=93586

I'm very glad that this means that Puppy Linux will probably continue making a strong effort to remain free of systemd.


I'm also very glad the Devuan project exists.

http://devuan.org/

Devuan is a fork of Debian, inspired by the fact that Debian was surprisingly overly welcoming of systemd and suppressive of people objecting to systemd.

Even though systemd is actually under a libre software license - the GNU LGPL 2.1+, according to Wikipedia - I suspect systemd really might be an insidious (though hopefully unintentional) threat to software freedom, since perhaps systemd might become so indispensable (due to software being made dependent on it) that it might become difficult to even build a GNU/Linux system or a lot of software packages without installing systemd.


On any computers with pitiful amounts of RAM I run Puppy Linux with (or any other computer), I don't want to be forced or pressured into having to waste RAM on anything at all that I can do without, but especially a reputedly big, bloated, overly complicated, tangled-up thing like systemd.

Or, quoting a description recently mentioned by someone on the Devuan mailing list - "the everything-welded-together, no-user-serviceable-parts-inside architecture of systemd".


So, I think it would be terrible if systemd somehow gets way too enmeshed in and almost (or totally) inextricably inseparable from GNU/Linux.

I hope long before 2020, that possible problem will be alleviated.


Also, I think it's really puzzling that some proponents of systemd seem to get so provoked by the fact that many people would prefer to avoid systemd.

One of the major benefits of using a libre operating system is that, unlike a closed source, proprietary operating system, you're supposed to be able to avoid having things you don't want being shoved down your throat.

So, I think the people objecting to having systemd practically forced on their systems are right to be upset, and the people who viciously mock and ridicule anyone who doesn't want systemd are (perhaps without realizing it) basically mocking and ridiculing software freedom itself.

Even if systemd were the best thing since sliced bread (which I don't believe it is), I think it would still be wrong to try to forcibly impose it on people who don't want it.

Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4


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Part 3: My replies to the Free Software Foundation (FSF) Vision Survey
Monday, February 1st, 2016
12:22:54 GMT


Here's part 3 of the replies that I was trying to send in response to the Free Software Foundation (FSF) Vision Survey.

Added to, edited, and reworded to some extent, with added HTML formatting and hyperlinks.


Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4





(Quoted from the survey:) Why is free software important to you? Why do you use it? (End of quote.)


I suspect my entire life might have gone better in many ways if I had learned more about free, libre software and hardware earlier in life.

And if I had had more access to those things earlier in life, I might have learned much more about programming a lot sooner, and thus had a better chance much sooner in life of being able to make a living.

And avoiding closed source, proprietary software and hardware would have probably saved my financially struggling family quite a bit of money over the years. But for a long time, none of us knew any better.

So, my family, including numerous children (including me, when I was a child) suffered in part because the closed source, proprietary software and hardware industry took advantage of my family's naive, ignorant willingness to buy their overpriced, liberty-infringing junk.

Problems caused by closed-source, proprietary junk also wasted a lot of all our time.


Still, I don't consider the closed source, proprietary software and hardware industries the most evil industries in the world.

Having closed source, proprietary software and hardware was at least better than having no software and hardware at all, and I did learn plenty despite the many inherent flaws of anything closed source and/or proprietary.


Being stuck with a Mac, and very frustrated with not being able to use a ton of software that was available for non-Macs, made me extra-fascinated with cross-platform things like the Inform 6 programming language.

I'm still pleased that I can actually still use things I wrote in the 90's in Inform 6 on any recent computer! :-)

Nowadays, there's also Inform 7, which is one of the most unusual and remarkable programming languages I know of.

http://inform7.com/

A pity it's closed source despite being gratis.


It was probably good that even from a young age, I acquired a quite justified distaste even for non-libre shareware.

As a child with no good way to make money to pay for shareware (or most anything else), I felt quite unfairly persecuted by shareware which would do nasty things to try to force you to buy it, like make you waste time waiting for a timer to go away, or make you reinstall the software every 30 days, etc.

I didn't like to bother my family to buy me shareware (or anything), and I was so disgusted by those nasty sales tactics that even as a child, I actually became determined to never buy any shareware like that, even if I could ever afford to do so.


Even ordinary non-shareware proprietary software didn't annoy me as much back then, though I felt unfairly deprived of that too, because there was pretty much nothing I could do as a child to earn enough money to buy most anything myself.

But I guess the shareware annoyed me more because even when I was a child, it seemed so obviously unfair and mean for the shareware authors to go out of their way to build in nuisances to mistreat, annoy, and waste the time of unfortunate people (such as children like me) who were poor through no fault of our own.

I didn't need to be harassed into buying those often quite fun and useful (despite being non-libre) programs. In fact, at the time, I would have happily bought them all without being harassed if I simply had enough money, and hadn't been harassed.

Nowadays, of course, I'm not happy (or not entirely happy) buying anything which is closed source, or which threatens liberty in any other ways. But as a child, I didn't understand the importance of that stuff yet.

(I'm still not a total puritan, though. I enjoy my Roku, Netflix, and enjoyed the streaming music services MOG and Sony's Music Unlimited before both of them got closed down. But if there were adequate libre alternatives, I'd much rather use those.)


I am actually glad I had the chance to use HyperCard, even though I was too young at the time to figure out how to do anything very complicated with that.

Here's someone's interesting blog post on HyperCard:

http://www.loper-os.org/?p=568

HyperCard was actually really cool (except for being closed source and non-libre), and I think it's wonderful that HyperCard made it so easy for even average not-very-technical people to create their own software.




(Quoted from the survey:) If you have contributed financially/been a member in the past, but no longer do, why did you stop? (End of quote.)

I can't comfortably afford to remain a paying member. That's the only reason I didn't renew.

I'm pleased to see it's now possible to pay $10 a month instead of $120 all at once, but that's still too high for me.




(Quoted from the survey:) Care to elaborate on your answers, or give us any other positive or negative feedback? (End of quote.)

On the topic of the money I've made from software:

From Sept. 2007 to April 2008, I sold a closed-source software product called the MagnaMural in the virtual world game Second Life. http://magnamural.astroblahhh.com/

In April 2008, I released it into the public domain, partly inspired by this essay:

Why Software Should Be Free

I never kept very careful track of my sales, but, I estimate I probably made less than $10 USD total selling the MagnaMural.

But, sometime after I made the MagnaMural public domain, someone gave me an approximately $20 USD donation in Second Life, which is possibly the largest donation I ever got in Second Life. (I'm not sure if it was because of the MagnaMural or some other reason, because the person didn't send a note.)

Perhaps other donations I've received were at least partly inspired by my free/libre software, but hardly anyone sends me notes along with their donations, so I don't actually know the precise reasons why most people donated.

(But, thanks to everyone! Hopefully your support will be well-rewarded by my increasingly good software projects and other things that I'm still feverishly working on.)


Oh, and until the end of July 2011, I used to host someone's non-libre freeware on my website. (Well, one thing was non-libre, and the other was libre.) Someone sent me $15 because of that software, but that's the only donation I'm certain was inspired by that software.

In 2012, someone gave me a MacBook and iPhone, apparently in the hope I would use them to make a living writing iPhone or Mac software. Fortunately, I managed to resist the temptation. :-)

At least it was nice to find out that I wasn't really missing out on much of anything by being unable to afford Apple crap. I was surprised by how unimpressive the screen was, even though that particular MacBook was from 2009.

Another problem was, I couldn't even open that MacBook to take the hard disk or battery out because the bottom was screwed on with tiny unusual screws which ruined the two mini-screwdrivers I tried to use on them. Just awful, especially compared to how easy it is to take the batteries out of a Toughbook.

At least I was able to run Puppy Linux on it. But that still wasn't sufficient justification to keep it instead of selling it and getting some cheap old Toughbooks instead on eBay.




I often wish there was a freelance job website similar to http://odesk.com/, but which is exclusively for libre jobs.

I've glanced at http://gun.io/, but, I don't know if I'm at a high enough skill level yet to even dare to try to undertake the astonishingly high-paying jobs I've seen on there. And if it turned out any of those jobs were non-libre, I would have to refuse to do them.

Also, I'd rather just do small things that I feel more sure I can handle.

Or actually, I'd rather just work on my own projects like the Puppy Linux Setup Kit, and yet somehow get paid.


A long time ago, I posted various hopefully helpful posts at the FSF's forum. Just thought I'd draw attention to them.


Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4


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No longer in Amazon affiliate program
Tuesday, February 2nd, 2016
05:44:38 GMT


In the evening on Jan. 31, 2016, soon before I got started on trying to send my responses to the Free Software Foundation (FSF) Vision Survey, I found out I had received a mail on Jan. 31, 2016 at 1:28 PM from Amazon calling me a "Former Amazon Associate", and telling me about a payment of 65 cents.

My first Amazon affiliate payment ever! :-) (And last...)


I wondered (not very seriously) if Amazon had finally noticed that sometimes I link to Richard Stallman's page on Reasons not to buy from Amazon and kicked me out for that reason. :-)

But, it turned out that I had simply missed an email Amazon sent out in October informing affiliates they had to agree to some new thing, or get kicked out of the program.

Whoops. :-)


Anyway, I guess it's about time I finally left that program. I just lazily never bothered to quit, even though I removed hopefully all of my Amazon affiliate links maybe a few years ago (not sure when exactly).

The 65 cent payment wasn't even from anything recent. In my payment history, the date on that was 11/2/2011, and the transaction was "09/2011 Advertising Fees".

So, if you ever wondered how much money I ever made from being in the Amazon Associates program - now you know. :-)

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Part 4: My replies to the Free Software Foundation (FSF) Vision Survey
Wednesday, February 3rd, 2016
10:58:10 GMT


I forgot to post this before. The final part - part 4 of the replies that I was trying to send in response to the Free Software Foundation (FSF) Vision Survey.

Added to, edited, and reworded to some extent, with added HTML formatting and hyperlinks.


Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4


(Quoted from survey:) Are there any social movements or organizations you would be excited to see us collaborate more with? (End of quote.)


Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4


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I quit Tumblr
Saturday, February 20th, 2016
21:50:28 GMT


I finally quit another Service as a Software Substitute (SaaSS) - namely, Tumblr.

That was more difficult than quitting Twitter, because I actually enjoyed Tumblr a lot more than Twitter. But not as much as I enjoy having total control over the software I use, and not being a "digital sharecropper" or feudal serf on someone else's website.

Plus, most any social media site probably has privacy issues that I should probably be more concerned about than I usually am.

And even if a website has not-so-objectionable Terms of Service at the moment, you never know when that might change.

At least I mostly just reblogged other people's posts rather than posting my own original stuff to Tumblr. But it still definitely wasn't the most worthwhile use of my time and energy.


I can't deny that Tumblr was fun, but, another problem is that many of its pages load aggravatingly slowly in comparison to Astroblahhh Desktop and WordsPlatz.

Tumblr works better for me in the Pale Moon web browser than Firefox, but Tumblr still crashed my web browser much too easily.

Way too many websites (not just Tumblr) use way too much JavaScript, in my opinion.


And I much prefer being able to totally avoid even looking at things like follower counts and other statistics, but that was tough to avoid on Tumblr.

Many people love to look at things like that, but I'd probably get (more) stage fright if I knew I had tons of readers. Though on the other hand, I tend to feel a bit disappointed (though also somewhat relieved) anytime I see my statistics are pathetic.

And even though unfollowing is probably usually nothing personal on Tumblr (and more of a way to deal with Tumblr's lack of a Twitter-like Lists feature), I never liked to see my follower count go down, even though I think it was usually because of spam accounts getting deleted, or people quitting Tumblr.

I actually don't like the idea of follower lists or friends lists on any website. They cause too many totally unnecessary, avoidable hurt feelings when people get "unfriended" or never "friended" in the first place.


In many ways, I already like Astroblahhh Desktop and WordsPlatz much more than Tumblr (and lots of other things), so I'm sure that given the time and inclination, I would be able to build a free (as in freedom), libre, open source substitute for Tumblr which I would find perfectly satisfactory.

Though that will probably take a while, especially since I want to first finish updating at least my Puppy Linux Setup Kit and Astroblahhh Desktop.

But I definitely someday want to make it even easier to update my websites than my WordsPlatz blog software already does.


Similar to multifiles-apmod.el, I think updating Puppy Linux Setup Kit and Astroblahhh Desktop will probably save an immense amount of time in the long run and change at least my own life for the better (since they already have), even though working on them is a slow, tedious chore at the moment, even with the tremendous help of multifiles-apmod.el, GNU Emacs, and the VUE concept mapping software.

At least I've finally learned to like Bash more than I used to. Bash is actually not as horrible as I used to think, and I can now actually imagine rewriting much of the setup kit in Bash instead of Perl.

I probably won't, but I'm pleased that it now seems like an acceptable, feasible possibility, largely thanks to the jq command-line JSON processor.

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Disappointed by Bernie Sanders' web page on student loans
Wednesday, February 24th, 2016
09:43:44 GMT


I finally glanced at the website of presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.

I haven't read most of his website so far, but, to my surprise, I was quite disappointed by this page about student loan debt.

Much of it's good, but I think it doesn't go far enough. I think all existing student loan debt should be canceled completely, and everyone who ever paid student loans should be paid full reparations, plus extra for all the damage done to borrowers and their families due to being deprived of much-needed money we all never should have had to spend in the first place.

I don't have student loan debt myself, since my severe sleep issues and shyness dissuaded me from even trying very hard to go to college. But I say "we" because my various relatives' student loans have definitely worsened all our lives.

So, I think just lowering interest rates and letting people "refinance" their student loans is nowhere near good enough to correct the injustices that have been inflicted upon all recipients of student loans and their families.

Addition, 5:53 AM EST. Hillary Clinton's page on student loans is even more disappointing, but I'm not surprised by that.


Addition, March 18, 2016, 1:30 AM. Despite this blog post, I still voted for Bernie in the primary election on March 15th.

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