Using free and open-source (FOSS) software is one of the best ways you can liberate your technology. The deeper you go into this challenge, the less dependent you are on commercial software ecosystems like Microsoft and Apple. So let’s begin the FOSS Challenge!
Level 1. Switch to FOSS alternatives to common software
Free software has a long history dating back decades. Today, there are very few things you cannot do with free and open-source software.
Keep in mind that there is a ton of “free” software that is not open-source. Free but proprietary software like Google Chrome and Discord are not truly free in the ’libre’ sense of the word, so you cannot view or change the source code. LibreTechnica believes you should have complete visibility into your software. Let’s take a look at some alternatives.
Don’t forget to try FOSS on your smartphone, too! Many good alternative FOSS apps for your Android phone can be downloaded through F-Droid.
Online Services and Apps
Many commonly used online services have open-source cores. For example, Bitwarden is a popular password manager whose apps are openly developed, from the server to the mobile apps. This open nature is preferable when you’re involving sensitive information like your passwords. If you can’t look inside thier app, it’s not even possible for you to verify they’re not mishandling your data.
Another consideration is using services with open datasets. Google Maps owns all the map data used in their popular navigation appss, but OpenStreetMap project democratizes that data and is openly accessible to anyone.
Check out these Resources for lists upon lists of FOSS alternitives!
Privacy Bonus - use privacy tools like Signal.
Level 2. Install Linux on your desktop or laptop
At the core of our daily computing experience is the operating system. You’re most likely familiar with Microsoft Windows or Apple macOS, but did you know there is another way? A way that offers more customization, faster performance, less malware, and absolutely zero user tracking? Meet Linux, a family of open-source operating systems that you can install for free.
There are many kinds of Linux to choose from, but don’t let that scare you! If you’re complete new to using Linux, you can always try many distros in a virtual machine or on a live USB stick. Here are some of the most common distros.
Check out these Resources for more information on making the switch!
Level 3. Switch federated and decentralized services
Welcome to the Fediverse! Not to be confused with the overhyped Metaverse, the Fediverse just means “federated services”. These are services where individual instances are independently owned and operated, but work with others over shared, standard protocols. The best example of this is e-mail. Anyone can run their own e-mail server and exchange messages with other ones across the internet. Other federated (or decentralized) services work the same way. Fediverse Party lists some good alternatives to Instagram, YouTube, and Facebook, but perhaps the most well-known is a Twitter-alternative called Mastodon. Here are some other decentralized alternatives:
Level 4. Self-host your own services
Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) has added immense convenience to our lives. Webmail has replaced the email client, cloud storage has replaced local backups, and even whole office suites are available on the web. Many of these services require you to pay a subscription fee and let them have full access to your data, or you just host the services yoursel instead! All you need is a home server or you can run a personal server instance on a cloud provider.
One great starting point is Nextcloud which can replace all of these services.
- Cloud storage (Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, Dropbox)
- Calendar (Google Calendar)
- Cloud office suites (Office 365, Google Docs)
- Chat and video conferencing (Microsoft Teams, Slack)
Check out these Resources for more information on self-hosting!
Sustainability Bonus - Use and old laptop or PC as your home server.
Level 5. Use open-source hardware
It’s hard to believe that, with how complicated our electronic devices are these days, there are products that have completely open design and licenses. One such item is a set headphones, of which there are several projects you can create (check out Ploopy and Homebrew Headphones).
If getting deep into circuit-level topics doesn’t scare you one bit, then check out other projects at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_open-source_hardware_projects.
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