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You are here: Home Blogs Community Replicant needs your help to liberate Android in 2020

Replicant needs your help to liberate Android in 2020

by Zoe Kooyman Contributions Published on Dec 10, 2019 02:47 PM
Contributors: Denis "GNUtoo" Carikli

The Free Software Foundation (FSF) supports the work of several important free software projects through fiscal sponsorship in a program we call Working Together for Free Software.

Donations to any of the Working Together for Free Software projects directly benefit the work that can be done. Too often, these projects are underfunded and developers are putting in a lot of personal time and effort to keep the project moving forward. Because of the FSF fiscal sponsorship, they can receive donations and apply for funding.

Our annual fundraiser is happening right now. If you're able to, please consider making a donation to Replicant through their dedicated sponsorship page. Every dollar you contribute helps this inspiring project work towards a freer mobile future.

Associate members are at the heart of our foundation and strengthen our ability to help other free software projects like Replicant. Join today to help us reach our goal of welcoming 600 new associate members before December 31st. As a special bonus, all new and renewing annual associate members ($120+) can choose to receive one of our exclusive year-end gifts. If you get a minimum of three people to mention you as a referral, you can get them too!

Below is an update from developer Denis "GNUtoo" Carikli, who is one of three people on the "steering committee" of Replicant: a fully free Android distribution running on several devices. It is a free software mobile operating system putting the emphasis on freedom, privacy, and security.

Mobile devices such as phones and tablets are becoming an increasingly important part in our computing, hence they are particularly subject to freedom and security concerns. These devices aren't simply "phones" or "tablets." They are full computers with powerful hardware, running complete operating systems that allow for updates, software changes, and installable applications. This makes it feasible to run free software on them. Thus, it is possible to choose a device that runs a free bootloader and free mobile operating system -- Replicant -- as well as fully free apps for the user. You can read more about privacy and security on mobile phones and the solutions that Replicant offers, as well as learn some valuable lessons on how better to protect your freedom on mobile devices on the Replicant Web site.

Replicant is currently steered by a team of three people: Fil Bergamo, Joonas Kylmälä (Putti), and myself. At the beginning of this year, we successfully applied for funding from a program from the European Union called Next Generation Internet. We also received a sizeable donation from Handshake, which allowed us to make some significant investments.

The most notable changes we are working on are building a new version of Replicant based on Android 9, which will enable a wider range of users to use a fully free Android distribution for the first time. We are also reducing maintenance costs to increase sustainability. The Replicant project is now using the official linux kernel with very few patches, and we contribute patches upstream as well. This means we send our work back to the main developers of the kernel Linux so that everyone can benefit. This allows us to create a virtuous circle that makes Replicant benefit GNU/Linux and GNU/Linux development benefit from Replicant. Working with upstream would not be possible without funding, as it requires a lot more work than what we used to do with previous Replicant versions.

Getting people more acquainted with the work we do helps us source new contributors, as well as convince people to use Replicant. This year, we managed to travel to a few important conferences, as well as organize our own Replicant conference. A full report of the conference is available, along with slides, videos, and a summary of the discussions that took place. The conference allowed us to bring together the people who care about Replicant and who understand the importance of the work we do. Watching these presentations can help any new Replicant developers to contribute to the project, as they explain a lot about our architecture, our history, and how to begin making a version of Replicant for newer devices and Android versions.

Being awarded a large grant is a highly competitive process, which means we cannot rely on that for continuous funding to pay for all of our work, so we choose to spend money on tasks that have a long-term impact. For instance, this could include completing the library that communicates with the Samsung IPC modem protocol (libsamsung-ipc), which would enable other Android distributions to use it and share the changes they make with us. It could also help us to continue our work on free WiFi firmware. These investments will ensure that developers can continue to maintain Replicant even when larger donations are not available.

Projects like Replicant rely on individual donations like yours to continue their work independent of large donations and funding. They can always use your help, whether that help is financial, or provided in time and effort. To further assist them, you can use Replicant and become part of the project's community by using its forums, contributing to its wiki, and submitting any bugs you discover.

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