Librem 5 – The World’s First Truly Free Smartphone Announced

The KDE foundation is working with the Purism organization to create the world’s first truly free smartphone. The phone is called the Librem 5 and you can help fund the development of the hardware and the software for the phone by clicking here. As of this moment, they’re hoping to raise $1.5 million and have already reached $844,150 with 24 days to go!

The Librem 5 phone will not be running Android or iOS. It will be running PureOS which is a GNU/Linux derivative of Debian. Basically, any app you write for PureOS and the Librem 5 can also be made to work on your desktop Linux computer. This is a huge advantage that you don’t get with Android or iOS apps, most developers end up using Qt or Unity to be able to create multi-platform applications.

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Since the Librem 5 functions as a small computer, you can also hook it up to a monitor, mouse, and keyboard and use it that way. All of our smartphones, iPhones and Android phones alike, are powerful enough to be used as desktop computers but they don’t provide a convenient method for doing so. One of the Librem 5’s goals is to change that. Take a look at the crowdfunding rewards, the higher tier rewards include a monitor, mouse, and keyboard with them ($1399 includes a 24-inch monitor, $1699 includes a 30-inch monitor)! When you fund the phone, you’re funding the development of a privacy-focused computer that fits in your pocket. It feels like some days we forget just how powerful the phones we have in our pockets are. The Librem 5 aims to remind us of that.

It will feature end to end encrypted chat with Matrix along with other privacy and security features. By default, there will be no tracking.

If you want to break out of the duopoly that Apple and Google have over the industry, you will definitely want to check out the Librem 5 smartphone.

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SHA2017: hacker conference/camp videos are up

SHA2017: hacker conference/camp videos are up

SHA2017 is on today (it started over the weekend and ends tomorrow) and it is a hacker conference and camp.

Most of the conference videos are up on Youtube and they are very informative and fun. There are a lot of good talks. I’ve picked a few to showcase here but you should check out the whole playlist of SHA2017 videos.

Decentralize! Self-hosting in your own home using Sovereign

In the Decentralize! talk, the software Sovereign is explored and shown to be a good way to set up your own personal cloud and host your own services and data. Sovereign is a set of playbooks that can be run to install the software on a server that you run. It’s similar to the Freedom Box project.

The software you can self-host with Sovereign is:

  • Dovecot, Postfix and Roundcube for email servers and a webmail interface
  • Jabber/XMPP messaging server with Prosody
  • RSS reader
  • VPN server with OpenVPN (FreedomBox also can do this)
  • Git code repository hosting

Continue reading “SHA2017: hacker conference/camp videos are up”

Bitcoin, cypherpunks, a thoughtful perspective on the future

Bitcoin, cypherpunks, a thoughtful perspective on the future

Thought-provoking article in Bitcoin Magazine about a conference that happened at the end of September, the Hackers Congress Paralelni Polis in Prague.

It’s an interview with two crypto-anarchists who explain their views on the direction of society and the possibilities of a future that includes mainstream usage of Bitcoin and encryption technologies.

One of the first questions asked by the interviewer is, “what is cryptoanarchy?”

This is their answer:

Sip: Simply put, crypto-anarchy is the idea that people can govern and organize themselves without governments, by using the tools of cryptography, cryptocurrencies and other means of decentralization.

Lupták: With these tools, we can build a more effective, a more free and a more voluntary society…

This is a nifty idea, and what makes it nifty is that free software and open source developers have been collaborating for decades and have been more effective, more free and all open source developers are contributing voluntarily.

In fact, there was a recent article by Daniel Pink suggesting that the further we are from a problem, the more creatively we will think about it. In open source development, we are close to the problem but when reviewing other people’s code or submitting patches, we are further away from the problem meaning we can be more creative in coming up with solutions.

So at least for software development, a decentralized model can work. Can it work as a replacement for government? That question is still open but we have seen lots of actions to make government more transparent and more accountable to the people. If you’re looking for small-scale examples of “anarchy” in action, you can look at the Workplace Anarchy described by someone who works at Igalia, a software co-operative that sells consulting service and is quite profitable.

In the interview they mention OpenBazaar which is free/open source software that lets you run a peer2peer ecommerce site. The idea there is to reduce transaction costs to whatever the bitcoin transaction costs are and to remove any middlemen that would cut into profits. A thoroughly free-market-oriented concept that is based on market efficiency and accomplished through free/open source software with the BitCoin currency.

Metrolinx provided customer data from transit cards to police

In Ontario, Canada, the Presto card is the transit card that many daily commuters use. The company Metrolinx has provided customer information to the police without requiring a warrant in many cases.

According to the article,

The transit agency has received 26 requests from police forces so far this year and granted 12 of them, according to Metrolinx, which is the provincial transit agency that operates the Presto fare card system used across the GTHA and in Ottawa. It is not known how many requests Metrolinx granted in previous years because the agency only began tracking them in 2016.

The problem in this case is that while it may be legal for them to share information with the police, customers have been entirely unaware of what information is being shared and when and with who. Metrolinx’s privacy policy is not clear enough and they aren’t transparent enough. As one of the largest operators of public transit payment systems, they have to be held accountable and must offer clear information on how they respect customers and their personal data.

This is one of the biggest risks of moving to an all digital payment system that is controlled by one entity. In many cases customers are actively discouraged from using privacy-safe alternatives like cash or tokens.

To bring this back to open source and professionalism. If the transit card systems were open source they could be audited. If the administration software was open source it could be audited and improved to add police data requests as part of the database. Whoever built the system to gather customer data should have been professional and raised the privacy concerns that affect customers.

Google said to be planning a built-in ad blocker for Chrome

https://techcrunch.com/2017/04/19/google-said-to-be-planning-a-built-in-ad-blocker-for-chrome/

This is great news, a lot of web browser users typically do not look for adblockers, by having an adblocker built into the browser and activated by default, those users will be better protected from intrusive ads that slow down their web browsing experience.

However, the more security-minded users will want to audit the open source code for the built in adblocker.

Shazam keeps your Mac’s mic on

http://motherboard.vice.com/read/shazam-keeps-your-macs-microphone-always-on-even-when-you-turn-it-off

This is why I advocate for more software to be free/open source, because in some cases you have no idea what it’s actually doing. When the code is freely available under a free software or open source license, it becomes possible for third parties to do an audit of the code and to see what it actually does.

Shazam’s Mac app is misleading users by defining “off” as “well your mic is still on and we will only listen to what you say when the app is active, we promise”.