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You are here: Home Free Software Supporter 2020 Free Software Supporter - Issue 141, January 2020

Free Software Supporter - Issue 141, January 2020

by Free Software Foundation Contributions Published on Dec 04, 2019 11:32 AM

Welcome to the Free Software Supporter, the Free Software Foundation's (FSF) monthly news digest and action update -- being read by you and 218,883 other activists. That's 2,156 more than last month!

The FSF can't campaign for free software without your help

The Free Software Foundation's (FSF) campaigns team works tirelessly to spread the message to the world that all software must be free. Campaigning for free software takes creativity, hard work, and a dedicated community. We amplify free software organizations and projects, mobilize activists, and provide resources. We're only three people, but we are the point of connection for hundreds of thousands of supporters annually. You hold the power to exponentially increase this number. It is our goal to make the free software conversation a kitchen table issue, and we need your help!

To ring in 2020, we're extending our offer for an exclusive gift to all new or renewing annual associate members until January 17th. Please help us to reach our goal of 600 new members by starting out the new year with a new FSF membership, share our promotional images to start conversations about free software, and urge your friends and family to join!


  • Bringing the free software vision to 2020
  • Presenting: ShoeTool -- Happy Holidays from the FSF
  • The FSF tech team: Doing more for free software
  • Support FSF's copyleft and licensing work
  • Defective by Design: A resistance to restrictions
  • Replicant needs your help to liberate Android in 2020
  • LibrePlanet: Not just a conference, but a network
  • What's new in the GNU Press Shop
  • Setting the right example: Say no to the Elf on the Shelf
  • At SeaGL 2019, free software was in fine feather
  • Raleigh, North Carolina: good BBQ and great outreach for free software knowledge
  • "The Rise of Skywalker" is a preview of our DRM-fueled dystopian future
  • Victory: Brookline, Massachusetts votes to ban face surveillance
  • Abbott Labs kills free tool that lets you own the blood-sugar data from your glucose monitor, saying it violates copyright law
  • Colleges are turning students’ phones into surveillance machines, tracking the locations of hundreds of thousands
  • Schools spy on kids to "prevent shootings," but there's no evidence it works
  • Oregon FBI warns community to secure "smart" TVs
  • Thunderbird, Enigmail and OpenPGP
  • GNU Radio Hackfest at ESA in the Netherlands and at FOSDEM ’20
  • December GNU Emacs news
  • Join the FSF and friends in updating the Free Software Directory
  • LibrePlanet featured resource: Group: Guix/FOSDEM2020
  • GNU Spotlight with Mike Gerwitz: 14 new GNU releases!
  • FSF and other free software events
  • Thank GNUs!
  • GNU copyright contributions
  • Translations of the Free Software Supporter
  • Take action with the FSF!

View this issue online here:

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Bringing the free software vision to 2020

From December 27th

2019 has been an eye-opening, transformative year for free software and the Free Software Foundation (FSF), bringing some major changes both internally and in the world around us. As we navigate these changes, we are guided by the FSF's founding vision -- the four freedoms that define free software, and our mission to make all software be compatible with human freedom. It must be honest, transparent, and shareable, and it must truly work in service of its users.

Presenting: ShoeTool -- Happy Holidays from the FSF

From December 23rd

ShoeTool is an animated fairy tale about an elf shoemaker who thinks he buys a machine to help him make shoes... only to find out that there are strings attached to his "purchase." Please show your support for free software and this video by promoting it on your social media using the #shoetool hashtag!

Software restrictions, analogous to the kinds of restrictions our main character Wendell runs into as a user of the promising ShoeTool, are detrimental to our freedom, creativity, and jobs. We hope watching Wendell's frustrations will shake things up in many homes and help more people understand.

The FSF tech team: Doing more for free software

From December 4th

The Free Software Foundation (FSF) tech team works everyday to maintain and improve the infrastructure that supports hundreds of free software projects, along with the FSF itself, in its mission to create a world where all software respects our freedom and dignity. We don't outsource any of our daily software needs because we need to be sure that they are done using only free software. Remember, there is no "cloud," just other people's computers. For example: we don't outsource our email, so every day we send over half a million messages to thousands of free software hackers through the community mailing lists we host. We also don't outsource our Web storage or networking, so we serve tens of thousands of free software downloads -- over 1.5 terabytes of data -- a day. And our popularity, and the critical nature of the resources we make available, make us a target for denial of service attacks (one is ongoing as we write this), requiring constant monitoring by the tech team, whose members take turns being ready for emergency work so that the resources our supporters depend on stay available.

Support FSF's copyleft and licensing work

From December 13th

The Free Software Foundation is a global leader for copyleft, and the licensing team plays a vital role in disseminating useful knowledge about free software while working to protect it. We accomplish this in part by answering licensing questions from the public and by providing resources like our list of free software licenses. We also increase access to software freedom by managing the Respects Your Freedom certification program, and cataloging free software through our endorsed distributions program and the Free Software Directory. To protect free software, we handle license compliance for the GNU Project, resulting in a stronger community and more respect for the power of copyleft.

We are proud to accomplish this as just two staff working with our executive director, board, and legal counsel. These resources combined make a potent force for software freedom, and your support will ensure our work continues with the aim to do an even better job in 2020. Let us share a bit about the work we did in 2019 and elaborate on why it is so vital that this work continues.

Defective by Design: A resistance to restrictions

From December 17th

The FSF keeps a close eye on the headlines for threats to user freedom coming from many different fronts, such as the way Digital Restrictions Management (DRM) impedes an individual's right to control their computers and devices. The Defective by Design campaign is a place for us to transform our digital dissent into in-person actions, canvassing, and effective protests. This is a report-back on this campaign's progress over the course of 2019.

Replicant needs your help to liberate Android in 2020

From December 10th

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. Because of the ubiquity of mobile phone use in modern life, freeing these small computers is an important task, which is why it's so crucial to support the Replicant project, a free software mobile operating system that emphasizes freedom, privacy, and security.

LibrePlanet: Not just a conference, but a network

From December 18th

Since 2010, the LibrePlanet wiki has provided a space for connection between free software activists, with the following mission statement: "To empower a global network of both local and project-based teams, all working together to advance free software as a social movement for user freedom."

This idea of participation and space for connection between free software activists is what motivates both the wiki and the Free Software Foundation's (FSF) yearly conference by the same name. Our LibrePlanet wiki uses the same software as what powers Wikipedia, which makes it the perfect tool for global collaborative work. We use the wiki as a tool to help organize free software supporters all over the world, so everyone can collaborate around their projects and ideas, as well as communicate with each other using our mailing lists for discussion and development, and our #LibrePlanet IRC channel on Freenode.

What's new in the GNU Press Shop

From December 5th

Greetings from the GNU Press Shop! This is an update on what's new and exciting at the Free Software Foundation's (FSF) online store, your source for GNU apparel, programming manuals, and more. We know at this time of year you'll be looking for GNU gifts for your favorite free software enthusiasts, and we have some terrific new picks for you to choose from, including a long-awaited zip-up GNU hoodie, a new color variation for the classic GNU head T-shirt, and more.

Setting the right example: Say no to the Elf on the Shelf

From December 23rd

As noted by writer Matt Beard in The Guardian, the latest iteration of teaching kids to accept constant surveillance via holiday tradition is the Elf on the Shelf, a cheerful little snitch whom parents hide in different spots every day in the house. The idea is, the Elf watches what kids are up to, and if they call their little sister a name or steal a cookie from the cookie jar, the friendly household spy will tattle to Santa, who will add them to the "naughty" list. Beware! We agree with Beard that this cutesy, innocent-seeming "tradition" (which actually only dates back to 2005!) communicates to children that someone is always watching them, and that moreover, this is a perfectly normal thing. This should give us pause, and cause us to think carefully about what kind of messages we are sending in our behavior at home and with friends.

At SeaGL 2019, free software was in fine feather

From December 9th

While the satisfactions of software freedom are quite enjoyable on your own, some of the greatest joys of free software come from our opportunities to flock together with other members of our community: to collaborate on our work, teach new skills, or simply show off new achievements. A grassroots gathering like the Seattle GNU/Linux Conference (SeaGL) is fun because it’s so thoroughly participatory: everyone comes into the room with something they’re excited to tell you about, and they’re equally excited to hear what you’re working on. The people at the front of the room giving a keynote talk are just as likely to be sitting next to you in the next session, so you can tell them what you thought of their talk, and even find out how to participate in their projects!

Raleigh, North Carolina: good BBQ and great outreach for free software knowledge

From December 20th

Although we have been really busy, we didn’t want to miss the chance to share some specifics about our activities in October. That month, members of our licensing and campaigns teams headed down to North Carolina to spread the message of software freedom. First, on the 14th & 15th, the Free Software Foundation (FSF) staffed a booth at the ATO conference where we reminded hundreds of people that freedom is better than just being open. Next, on October 16th, our licensing and compliance team held another Continuing Legal Education (CLE) seminar.

"The Rise of Skywalker" is a preview of our DRM-fueled dystopian future

From December 23rd by Jason Koebler

Don't read this article if you're worried about spoilers! With that said: it's wildly ironic that Disney, one of the most notorious purveyors of Digital Restrictions Management (DRM), didn't seem to notice that a major plot point in their new Star Wars film involves a software lock that looks a lot like DRM. And the result is dire, involving the destruction of an entire planet. Perhaps because they couldn’t get these basic user rights enshrined a long time ago in a galaxy far, far, away, we are increasingly dealing with this exact problem here on Earth.

Victory: Brookline, Massachusetts votes to ban face surveillance

From December 20th by Nathan Sheard

With the passage of Article 25 on December 11, our neighboring town of Brookline, Massachusetts, became the fifth municipality in the nation to ban its government agencies from using face surveillance, and the second in Metro Boston, after Somerville. Face surveillance exists on the same continuum of unacceptable invasions of privacy as bulk surveillance, and we applaud any progress against these abuses.

Abbott Labs kills free tool that lets you own the blood-sugar data from your glucose monitor, saying it violates copyright law

From December 12th by Cory Doctorow

Diabettech is a hub that helps people with diabetes manage their health, including by building "artificial pancreases," enabling them to maintain vastly better control over their blood-sugar levels. When Diabettech posted technical instructions and code to enable users to extract their own data from the ironically named Abbott Labs Freestyle Libre glucose monitor, however, Abbott Labs used US copyright law to have the project deleted from GitHub. Abbott Labs maintains that the project violates Section 1201 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which prohibits bypassing "access controls" for copyrighted works. In this case, though, the "copyrighted work" is data about your own blood!

Colleges are turning students’ phones into surveillance machines, tracking the locations of hundreds of thousands

From December 24th by Drew Harwell

When Syracuse University freshmen walk into professor Jeff Rubin’s "Introduction to Information Technologies" class, seven small Bluetooth beacons hidden around the Grant Auditorium lecture hall connect with an app on their smartphones and boost their “attendance points.”

And when they skip class? The SpotterEDU app sees that, too, logging their absence into a campus database that tracks them over time and can sink their grade. It also alerts Rubin, who later contacts students to ask where they’ve been. His 340-person lecture has never been so full.

These systems represent a new low in intrusive technology, infantilizing young adults in the precise place where they're expected to take on adult responsibility, and continuing the training they received, starting with the aforementioned Elf on the Shelf, to living in a giant panopticon.

Schools spy on kids to "prevent shootings," but there's no evidence it works

From December 4th by Todd Feathers

Spyware like GoGuardian, Bark and Gaggle are monitoring students' Internet habits, both on and off school grounds. The complete lack of independent research backing the claims these companies make while they harvest kids' browsing history, social media activity, location, and even keystrokes is alarming. Thankfully, kids and parents are starting to fight back, and we encourage you to find out if these programs are being used at your child's school and demand that they respect your child's privacy instead.

Oregon FBI warns community to secure "smart" TVs

From November 26th by Beth Anne Steele

"Smart" TVs are smart enough to use facial recognition and spy on your habits, but they aren't smart enough to respect your freedom. When even the FBI is cautioning you to "consider whether you are willing to take the risk," you know you've got a problem.

Thunderbird, Enigmail and OpenPGP

From October 8th by Ryan Sipes

The Thunderbird project is happy to announce that for the future Thunderbird 78 release, planned for summer 2020, they will add built-in functionality for email encryption and digital signatures using the OpenPGP standard. This new functionality will replace the Enigmail add-on, which will continue to be supported until Thunderbird 68 end of life, in the Fall of 2020.

GNU Radio Hackfest at ESA in the Netherlands and at FOSDEM ’20

From December 20 by FOSDEM

Just as the year closes, it’s time to remind people that two fantastic events are going to take place at the end of January / the beginning of February: FOSDEM 2020 will be taking place at the ULB campus in Brussels, Belgium, and just before the conference, the GNU Radio Hackfest will be taking place from January 28-30 in Noordwijk. This is a limited headcount event, so get your free tickets today!

December GNU Emacs news

From December 23rd by Sacha Chua

In these issues: Getting started on Doom Emacs, an enjoyable "test yourself" challenge, dealing with expired ELPA GPG keys, configuring Emacs from scratch, and more!

Join the FSF and friends in updating the Free Software Directory

Tens of thousands of people visit each month to discover free software. Each entry in the Directory contains a wealth of useful information, from basic category and descriptions to version control, IRC channels, documentation, and licensing. The Free Software Directory has been a great resource to software users over the past decade, but it needs your help staying up-to-date with new and exciting free software projects.

To help, join our weekly IRC meetings on Fridays. Meetings take place in the #fsf channel on, and usually include a handful of regulars as well as newcomers. Freenode is accessible from any IRC client -- Everyone's welcome!

The next meeting is Friday, January 3rd, from 12pm to 3pm EDT (16:00 to 19:00 UTC). Details here:

LibrePlanet featured resource: Group: Guix/FOSDEM2020

Every month on the LibrePlanet wiki, we highlight one resource that is interesting and useful -- often one that could use your help.

For this month, we are highlighting Guix/FOSDEM2020, which provides information about the annual GNU Guix (un)conference, happening on January 30-31, 2020, two days before the FOSDEM conference in Brussels, Belgium. You are invited to adopt, spread and improve this important resource.

Do you have a suggestion for next month's featured resource? Let us know at

GNU Spotlight with Mike Gerwitz: 14 new GNU releases!

14 new GNU releases in the last month (as of December 27, 2019):

For announcements of most new GNU releases, subscribe to the info-gnu mailing list:

To download: nearly all GNU software is available from, or preferably one of its mirrors from You can use the URL to be automatically redirected to a (hopefully) nearby and up-to-date mirror.

This month, we welcome Martin Schanzenbach as comaintainer of GNUnet.

A number of GNU packages, as well as the GNU operating system as a whole, are looking for maintainers and other assistance: please see if you'd like to help. The general page on how to help GNU is at

If you have a working or partly working program that you'd like to offer to the GNU project as a GNU package, see

As always, please feel free to write to us at with any GNUish questions or suggestions for future installments.

FSF and other free software events

Thank GNUs!

We appreciate everyone who donates to the Free Software Foundation, and we'd like to give special recognition to the folks who have donated $500 or more in the last month.

This month, a big Thank GNU to:

  • Aaron Grothe
  • Andrew Khosravian
  • Antonio Carzaniga
  • Boone Gorges
  • Daniel Gillmor
  • Daniel Riek
  • Dara Adib
  • David Turner
  • Dock Williams
  • Dominic Walden
  • Donald Craig
  • Etienne Grossmann
  • Iñaki Arenaza
  • Jelte van der Hoek
  • Jonathan Howell
  • Josh Ventura
  • Mark Boenke
  • Morten Lind
  • Olivier Warin
  • René Genz
  • Russell McManus
  • Shyama Mandal
  • Simon Josefsson
  • Stephen Longfield
  • Thomas Saglio

You can add your name to this list by donating at

GNU copyright contributions

Assigning your copyright to the Free Software Foundation helps us defend the GNU GPL and keep software free. The following individuals have assigned their copyright to the FSF (and allowed public appreciation) in the past month:

  • Barry Duggan (GNU Radio)
  • László Várady (Bison)
  • Sergey Belyashov (binutils)
  • Tim Ruehsen (glibc, GCC, binutils)
  • Tom Gillespie (Emacs)

Want to see your name on this list? Contribute to GNU and assign your copyright to the FSF.

Translations of the Free Software Supporter

El Free Software Supporter está disponible en español. Para ver la versión en español haz click aqui:

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Le Free Software Supporter est disponible en français. Pour voir la version française cliquez ici:

Pour modifier vos préférences et recevoir les prochaines publications du Supporter en français, cliquez ici:{contact.contact_id}&{contact.checksum}

O Free Software Supporter está disponível em português. Para ver a versão em português, clique aqui:

Para alterar as preferências do usuário e receber as próximas edições do Supporter em português, clique aqui:{contact.contact_id}&{contact.checksum}

Take action with the FSF!

Contributions from thousands of individual members enable the FSF's work. You can contribute by joining at If you're already a member, you can help refer new members (and earn some rewards) by adding a line with your member number to your email signature like:

I'm an FSF member -- Help us support software freedom!

The FSF is always looking for volunteers ( From rabble-rousing to hacking, from issue coordination to envelope stuffing -- there's something here for everybody to do. Also, head over to our campaigns section ( and take action on software patents, Digital Restrictions Management (DRM), free software adoption, OpenDocument, and more.

Copyright © 2020 Free Software Foundation, Inc.

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 Unported License. To view a copy of this license, visit

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