- Write about it
- Ask questions & Seek help
- Audit and review your own software usage
- Tell at least 3 others about it
- You can contribute further!
- Reach out
In my personal opinion, it is meaningless if we attend an inspiring talk by Dr Richard Stallman today and are not able to reflect on his message and act on it.
Here is a small set of things that you can do. There is no timeline. But please see which of them are relevant to you.
A few months back, I wrote about how we can personalise and deepen our involvement with free software. Consider those points in addition to what I’ve outlined below.
Write about it
The first thing to do would be write about the experience, what you learnt, what you agree with or disagree with (and why) and so on.
Writing about this will enable you to record your opinions and also share them with others. Later, if your perspectives change, you can revisit this writing and reflect on what has changed and why.
Ask questions & Seek help
If you did not ask questions after the talk or didn’t get a chance to, then you can still ask questions. There are multiple forums where you can ask these questions.
Similarly, if there is a conceptual, philosophical, technical or social issue that you feel you need to seek help about, then do reach out.
Audit and review your own software usage
An easy thing to act upon and do is to audit and review your software and technology usage and then change it based on learning that you’ve drawn from Dr Stallman’s talk.
Desktop and Laptop
The quickest and most impactful thing you can do is use Free Software and GNU/Linux on your desktop or laptop computer. A good way to do that would be to install Debian GNU/Linux or PureOS on your computer.
Do you know about what software you run on your servers? What if the operating system and software you ran on your servers was GNU/Linux? What if you could power the services that you run on your server with Free Software?
All the software that affects our lives does not run on computers within our control. Much of it runs on other people’s computers (often termed as “cloud”) while some of it is only accessible as a service.
Service offered as a Software Substitute (SaSS) is a way for proprietary software developers to offer the value of the software but not the software itself. This is just another form of proprietary software that robs you of your essential freedom to use, study, change and redistribute the software.
Review your use of such services and see how you can substitute them with self-hosted and free software services.
Operating systems on mobile devices are another form of proprietary software. As are the applications which run on these operating systems.
These proprietary software applications are more invasive since the mobile phones are with us all the time and they have multiple types of sensors that can track our location among other things.
Using free software on mobile devices is not only a way to have your freedom but also protect your privacy.
Proprietary Software on GNU/Linux
It is possible to run proprietary software on GNU/Linux as well. Many times we don’t even realise that we are using proprietary software on GNU/Linux.
Check if there are any such cases in your daily software usage and then replace them so that you can have more consistency between your beliefs and your actual technology usage.
Tell at least 3 others about it
If you learnt something useful and valuable in the talk, why not tell at least 3 others about it? And then point them to other resources where they can learn a lot more?
You can contribute further!
Are you a programmer? Do you build software?
Consider releasing it under a free software license - preferably a strong copyleft license like the GPLv3.
Help others discover, adopt and appreciate free software
Write or translate documentation
Write tutorials about something you’ve done or figured out
Build a local community and free software user’s group
Support & Donate
Many volunteer free software projects accept donations today. See if the free software project you love accepts donations. Then donate to the project or to individual developers who contribute to it.
Donate to the Free Software Foundation - your contributions are the most important manner in which FSF finances its operations, pays staff salaries and continues to advocate for software freedom.
Donate to other non-profit organisations such as the Software Freedom Conservancy as a way of indirectly supporting some of the biggest free software projects they help and contribute to.
I would personally be glad to help you in your journey to use, promote, release and support free software. Please feel free to get in touch.
Photo credit: Prof Renuka Prasad B from RV College of Engineering.