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Gabriel-Cezarin Popovici helps the campaigns team to spread the message that we need to fight for our digital freedom

by Free Software Foundation Contributions Published on Jan 10, 2024 04:55 PM
Contributors: Gabriel-Cezarin Popovici

Hi! My name is Gabriel-Cezarin Popovici, but many people call me Cezarin, or "Chi" for short. I like everything that is wholesome, and I enjoy helping others. In my free time, I'm usually studying obscure programming languages, watching animations, or playing different musical instruments such as violin, guitar, and, more recently, drums. In addition to all of this, I spend a lot of my time volunteering for different projects that I feel are important, which is why I'm very excited to be an intern for the Free Software Foundation's (FSF) campaigns team to help bring attention to the wonderful world of free software.

Headshot of Gabriel-Cezarin Popovici, looking at the camera with arms folded.

FSF campaigns intern for winter '23-'24 Gabriel-Cezarin Popovici.

Something that I have a strong distaste for is exploiting others, which is one of the many reasons I care about free software: free software protects people from exploitation.

My first exposure to the world of free software was mostly by chance. Back sometime around 2010, something made my installation of Windows unusable. However, I had a bootable device with the Ubuntu distribution of GNU/Linux. As I didn't have any way of reinstalling Windows because of its various restrictions and Digital Restrictions Management (DRM), I decided to give GNU/Linux a try. It was one of the first versions of Ubuntu shipping with the Unity desktop environment. When I was done, I was genuinely surprised at how pleasing everything looked compared to Windows 7. In the end, I didn't stick with it for very long, but it was the first time I started to understand a little bit about free software and ultimately began my journey up the Freedom Ladder.

My reason for using GNU/Linux up until 2018 was because it was just plain better than Windows. It's very easy to get extremely annoyed at Windows's constant demands for an update. Sometimes it didn't even give me the choice to save my work and close the programs myself, which often caused me to lose significant progress on my work. Its updates would mess up my boot loader, which would require me to troubleshoot the issue, often in time-critical moments. It had poor software compatibility with older versions of Windows, there would be random errors that would corrupt files on my computer, and things on Windows would constantly change in a direction that I very much disliked. When I tried uninstalling Edge and couldn't do that, I realized something: the computer I once thought I owned isn't mine, it's under someone else's control.

This is the moment when I decided to never look at Windows as a viable OS for daily use ever again, and I then quit using most everything that had a proprietary license. While attending university, I entirely refused to use proprietary programs, and I even convinced some of my classmates to use free replacements instead.

My decision to move away from proprietary software was also driven by concerns about data privacy, especially after experiencing security breaches that exposed my personal information online. Although I don't have much to hide, I value my privacy and have limited communication channels to email, my Mumble server, Signal, or Matrix, considering them as reasonably private messaging options.

I have tried using fully free operating systems such as Trisquel (to which I have also donated). If you can, I encourage you to please give it a shot. It's a great project!

Across my journey in not just using software, but also learning software development, everyone around me said that I should give up, that I will never achieve anything. This may sound surprising, but it was not an unusual sentiment at the time in the middle-of-nowhere post-communist country where I was born and raised. The only people who have been consistently helpful and encouraged me have been those in the free software community. I want to give back however much I can and learn new things along the way. I'm thankful for the existence of free software and the FSF. I don't think I could've gotten where I am today without them.

I am happy to help the campaigns team, even if I can only help in small ways. It's been amazing to learn about what a small team can achieve with the help of like-minded individuals. And I want to help spread the message that we need to fight for our digital freedom, and that free software works just as well, if not leagues better, than proprietary software.

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