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You are here: Home Free Software Supporter 2020 Free Software Supporter - Issue 147, July 2020

Free Software Supporter - Issue 147, July 2020

by Free Software Foundation Contributions Published on Jun 03, 2020 02:12 PM

Welcome to the Free Software Supporter, the Free Software Foundation's (FSF) monthly news digest and action update -- being read by you and 227,904 other activists. That's 194 more than last month!

TABLE OF CONTENTS

  • Software patents hold back progress -- even in healthcare
  • Teaching my MIT classes with only free software
  • Regarding Git and branch naming
  • Digital rights and the Black-led movement against police violence
  • We must all speak up
  • The US Senate's new anti-encryption bill is even worse than EARN IT, and that's saying something
  • Some work-at-home tips for free software contributors
  • COVID-19 contact-tracing apps in MENA: A privacy nightmare
  • Guix further reduces bootstrap seed to 25%
  • Etalab shows how free software can be made available for the public sector
  • Zoom admits to shutting down activist accounts at the request of the Chinese government
  • MIT, guided by open access principles, ends Elsevier negotiations
  • GNS technical specification milestone 3/4
  • June GNU Emacs news
  • Join the FSF and friends in updating the Free Software Directory
  • LibrePlanet featured resource: Gain industry support
  • GNU Spotlight with Mike Gerwitz: 12 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: https://www.fsf.org/free-software-supporter/2020/july

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Miss an issue? You can catch up on back issues at https://www.fsf.org/free-software-supporter.

Want to read this newsletter translated into another language? Scroll to the end to read the Supporter in French, Spanish, or Portuguese.


Software patents hold back progress -- even in healthcare

From June 22nd

On Friday May 8th, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) announced the COVID-19 Prioritized Examination Pilot Program. Doctored up to look like a helpful response to a global pandemic, it's actually the exact opposite. Under the program, the USPTO will waive some fees associated with accelerated application review for patents on works that require US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval. They'll also work to try and get these applications granted within six months. These changes will make it easier and faster for people to gain patents on any technology related to the pandemic, including patents on software. It's not in our scope to determine the impact of other kinds of patents, but we know specifically that they are terrible for software, and at a time where software is critical to saving lives, expediting software patent applications will only cause harm.

Teaching my MIT classes with only free software

From June 10th by Gerald Jay Sussman

This spring (2020), the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) moved all its classes online because of the COVID-19 pandemic. It made available licenses for various nonfree programs, but I objected to them on grounds of principle. For my class, an advanced class in computer programming, I made arrangements to avoid suggesting any nonfree software to my students.

Instead, I used an installation of BigBlueButton running on a server owned by the FSF. Rubén Rodriguez of the FSF helped get this and other software working.

Regarding Git and branch naming

From June 23rd by the Software Freedom Conservancy

Both Conservancy and the Git project are aware that the initial branch name, "master," is offensive to some people, and we empathize with those hurt by the use of that term.

As a first step, Git will add a mechanism to allow users to specify the default used as the name of the first branch when creating a new repository. Also, consistent with its project governance, Git has undertaken a community process to explore changing the name of the first branch created automatically for new repositories away from "master." That change is currently being discussed on our mailing list. As always, changes in Git's core will minimize disruption for Git's users and will include appropriate deprecation periods.

Digital rights and the Black-led movement against police violence

From June 25th by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF)

Black lives matter on the streets. Black lives matter on the Internet. EFF stands with the communities mourning the victims of police homicide. We stand with the protesters who are plowed down by patrol cars. We stand with the journalists placed in handcuffs or fired upon while reporting these atrocities. And we stand with all those using their cameras, phones and digital tools to make sure we cannot turn away from the truth.

We must all speak up

From June 8th by the GNOME Foundation

Historically, free software has failed at engaging with Black, ethnic minorities, and marginalized communities. This is especially a problem when those who could benefit the most from a free software stack -- to be in control of their own computing -- are marginalized in their efforts to contribute towards that computing. Thus, GNOME stands firm with #BlackLivesMatter.

The US Senate's new anti-encryption bill is even worse than EARN IT, and that's saying something

From June 24th by Andrew Crocker

The new Lawful Access to Encrypted Data Act -- introduced this week by Senators Graham, Blackburn, and Cotton -- ignores expert consensus and public opinion, which is unfortunately par for the course. But the bill is actually even more out of touch with reality than many other recent anti-encryption bills. The new bill doesn’t bother with commissions or best practices. Instead, it would give the US Justice Department the ability to require that manufacturers of encrypted devices and operating systems, communications providers, and many others must have the ability to decrypt data upon request. In other words, a backdoor.

Some work-at-home tips for free software contributors

From June 23rd by Bradley M. Kuhn

The global COVID-19 pandemic has changed everyone's lives, and taken the lives of so many of our family members and friends. For those of us that have been spared, our lives must continue, and this is particularly true for those who work in free software, since so many of us already worked from home. Doing so when our world faces so many simultaneous crises is undoubtedly difficult. I share below a few ideas that I've had that might be able to help my fellow free software contributors.

COVID-19 contact-tracing apps in MENA: A privacy nightmare

From June 18th by Dima Samaro and Marwa Fatafta

At the outbreak of the COVID-19 global pandemic, a number of countries in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region turned to technology to help track and prevent the spread of the virus, using apps, drones, and even robots to monitor the movement of citizens under quarantine. Now, as countries are looking to slowly return to life and lift lockdown measures, more are jumping on the bandwagon, including developing their own contact-tracing apps, as seen most recently in Morocco and Tunisia.

Despite their life-saving potential, these apps also have the same potential to violate user freedom and privacy that all proprietary programs do. And without adequate legal protections and privacy safeguards in place, these apps can open the path for authoritarian governments to violate human rights and harm marginalized populations.

Guix further reduces bootstrap seed to 25%

From June 15th by Jan Nieuwenhuizen

We are delighted to announce that the second reduction by 50% of the Guix bootstrap binaries has now been officially released! The initial set of binaries from which packages are built now weighs in at approximately 60~MiB, a quarter of what it used to be.

In a previous blog post we elaborate on why this reduction and bootstrappability in general is so important. One reason is to eliminate -- or greatly reduce the attack surface of -- a “trusting trust” attack. Last summer at the Breaking Bitcoin conference, Carl Dong gave a fun and remarkably gentle introduction and at FOSDEM2020 I also gave a short talk about this. If you choose to believe that building from source is the proper way to do computing, then it follows that the “trusting trust” attack is only a symptom of an incomplete or missing bootstrap story.

Etalab shows how free software can be made available for the public sector

From June 9th by Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE)

Etalab is a department of the French government administration in charge of digital affairs, named direction interministérielle du numérique (DINUM). Etalab has created two lists of free software: one of software recommended for the public sector, and one of software created by the public sector. The FSFE interviewed Bastien Guerry from Etalab to learn more about how these lists came into being, and the ideas behind them.

Zoom admits to shutting down activist accounts at the request of the Chinese government

From June 11th by Jonathan Shleber

Zoom, the proprietary video chat service that has been a ubiquitous feature of life during the COVID-19 pandemic, said that it shut down three accounts at the request of the Chinese government for holding memorials for the victims of China’s violent suppression of peaceful protests at Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989.

This is just one more reason to avoid Zoom and try free software tools for staying in touch instead -- and to make sure the people you care about know that they have better options. And if you're an FSF associate member, you can use our freedom-respecting Jitsi Meet instance, too!

MIT, guided by open access principles, ends Elsevier negotiations

From June 11th by MIT Libraries

Standing by its commitment to provide equitable and open access to scholarship, MIT has ended negotiations with Elsevier for a new journals contract. Elsevier was not able to present a proposal that aligned with the principles of the MIT Framework for Publisher Contracts.

Developed by the MIT Libraries in collaboration with the Ad Hoc Task Force on Open Access to MIT’s Research and the Committee on the Library System in October 2019, the MIT Framework is grounded in the conviction that openly sharing research and educational materials is key to the Institute’s mission of advancing knowledge and bringing that knowledge to bear on the world’s greatest challenges. It affirms the overarching principle that control of scholarship and its dissemination should reside with scholars and their institutions, and aims to ensure that scholarly research outputs are openly and equitably available to the broadest possible audience, while also providing valued services to the MIT community.

GNS technical specification milestone 3/4

From June 1st by GNUnet

We are happy to announce the completion of the third milestone for the GNS (GNU Name System) Specification. The third milestone consists of documenting the GNS zone revocation process. As part of this, the GNUnet team has reworked the proof-of-work algorithms in GNUnet also used for GNS revocations. The (protocol breaking) changes will be released as part of GNUnet 0.13.0.

June GNU Emacs news

From June 29th by Sacha Chua

In these issues: checking the major mode in Emacs Lisp; set up org-roam on your own machine; continued discussion on the squareness of Emacs; reflection on Emacs themes; and more!

Join the FSF and friends in updating the Free Software Directory

Tens of thousands of people visit directory.fsf.org 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 irc.freenode.org, 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, July 10, from 12pm to 3pm EDT (16:00 to 19:00 UTC). Details here:

LibrePlanet featured resource: Gain industry support

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 "Gain industry support," which provides information about how to contact retailers and hardware companies and pressure them to support free software. 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 campaigns@fsf.org.

GNU Spotlight with Mike Gerwitz: 12 new GNU releases!

12 new GNU releases in the last month (as of June 29, 2020):

For announcements of most new GNU releases, subscribe to the info-gnu mailing list: https://lists.gnu.org/mailman/listinfo/info-gnu.

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

This month, we welcome Jacob Bachmeyer as co-maintainer of DejaGnu.

A number of GNU packages, as well as the GNU operating system as a whole, are looking for maintainers and other assistance: please see https://www.gnu.org/server/takeaction.html#unmaint if you'd like to help. The general page on how to help GNU is at https://www.gnu.org/help/help.html.

If you have a working or partly working program that you'd like to offer to the GNU project as a GNU package, see https://www.gnu.org/help/evaluation.html.

FSF and other free software events

  • July 22-28, 2020, online, GUADEC 2020
  • August 23-29, online, DebConf 20
  • October 18-20, 2020, Raleigh, NC, ATO
  • November 13-14, 2020, online, SeaGL

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:

  • Arthur Gleckler
  • David Turner
  • Hideki IGARASHI

You can add your name to this list by donating at https://donate.fsf.org/.

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:

  • Bruno Haible (Texinfo, coreutils, Diffutils)
  • Marc Nieper-Wißkirchen (Gnulib, GCC)
  • Mario Frasca (Emacs)
  • Mathias Lang (GCC)
  • Mitto Systems Limited (DejaGnu)
  • Nicholas Vollmer (Emacs)
  • Pietro Paolini (GNU sed)
  • Stephen Casner (binutils, GCC)

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: https://www.fsf.org/free-software-supporter/2020/julio

Para cambiar las preferencias de usuario y recibir los próximos números del Supporter en español, haz click aquí: https://my.fsf.org/civicrm/profile/create?reset=1&gid=34&id={contact.contact_id}&{contact.checksum}

Le Free Software Supporter est disponible en français. Pour voir la version française cliquez ici: https://www.fsf.org/free-software-supporter/2020/juillet

Pour modifier vos préférences et recevoir les prochaines publications du Supporter en français, cliquez ici: https://my.fsf.org/civicrm/profile/create?reset=1&gid=34&id={contact.contact_id}&{contact.checksum}

O Free Software Supporter está disponível em português. Para ver a versão em português, clique aqui: https://www.fsf.org/free-software-supporter/2020/julho

Para alterar as preferências do usuário e receber as próximas edições do Supporter em português, clique aqui: https://my.fsf.org/civicrm/profile/create?reset=1&gid=34&id={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 https://my.fsf.org/join. 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! https://my.fsf.org/join

The FSF is always looking for volunteers (https://www.fsf.org/volunteer). 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 (https://www.fsf.org/campaigns) 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 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/.

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