My interview for the keynote at Akademy published

I am invited to give a keynote at KDE’s Akademy on Saturday 25 July. In the preparation for the conference Devaja Shah interviewed me, and his questions made me look up some things in my old mail archives from the early 2000s.

The interview covers questions about my first GNU/Linux distribution, why I studied politics and management, how I got involved in FSFE, how Free Software is linked to the progress of society, my involvement in wilderness first aid seminars, as well as my favourite music. (Thanks to Victorhck who translated the interview into Spanish and also added corresponding videos.)

I am looking forward to interesting discussions with KDE contributors and the local organisers from GPUL during the weekend.

Sharing multiple links on Android

Did you try to share several URLs at once on Android before? Until now I copied and pasted each one of the links step-by-step into an e-mail or a text. While checking F-Droid for new programs last month, I discovered bulkshare, which offers an easier way to achieve this task.

First you share each of the links with bulkshare through Android’s share menu. Then you open bulkshare and re-share it with another program. In this step you can choose which of the links you want to share (by default all).

Screenshot of bulkshare with multiple links open

After sharing several links to bulkshare you can re-share all or a selection of them

This way you can share the link list for example with K-9 mail or other programs, edit the text around it and send it out.

Thanks to the author Alex Gherghișan for this nice program.

Final PDFreaders advertisement squashing

We currently wrap-up the PDFreaders campaign, and we need your help to measure our success.

Started in 2009 FSFE’s goal with the campaign was to get rid of advertisement for proprietary PDF readers. We focused on the websites of public administrations, and many people helped us gather contact details for over 2000 public websites which advertised non-free software. Many people helped us to contact the public administrations, governments were made aware of it and published guidelines. Until now we know that 772 of the 2110 bugs were fixed, which is a 36% success rate.

A highway without any advertisement

A highway without any claims by the government which cars you need to drive there, or advertisemt for those cars

But for most countries we did not check the status for several months now. That’s why we need your help now to make one final round. We are looking for volunteers who can help us checking websites in their native language.

Here a step by step guide:

  1. Check the etherpad to see if someone is already working on your country list
    • If yes, please coordinate directly who takes care about what, so you do not waste your time
    • If no, please indicate in the pad that you start to work on it.
  2. For each web page listed on the page or the xml file, go to the web page and search if there is still an advertisement for non-free PDFreaders
    • If yes, keep the bug open.
    • If no, use your favourite search engine with a query like: “site:DomainNameOfOrganiation.TLD adobe acrobat pdf reader
      • If you have no results, close the bug by adding the current date in the “closed” field in the xml file
      • If you have some results and there is still advertisment without also listing Free Software PDF readers, let the bug open and change the link in the “institution-url” field to one from the results you just found.
    • If the link is broken, use the query from the point above
      • If you have some results and there is just advertisement for non-free PDF readers, change the broken url with a new one in the “institution-url” field.
      • If you have no result close the bug by adding the current date in the “closed” field.
    • When you have finished to update, please inform others by updating the status on the public pad and sent the xml file to our web team.
    • Now, you have all our gratitude. Thank you very much!

Afterwards we will send an update about how many institutions removed the advertisement, and what else we achieved together with you in the campaign.

Spread the message with Free Software merchandise

Bag with the slogan "There is no cloud, just other people's computers"

Our "There is no cloud, just other people's computers" bag

For those of you, who are not not subscribed to our newsletter: During the last weeks, many people ordered our “There is no cloud, just other people’s computers” stickers. Now Rich Folsom wrote a Chromium Browser add-in, which converts “the cloud” to “other people’s computers”.

Since so many people like the slogan, we now also have the corresponding “There is no cloud, just other people’s computers” bags in our webshop. Furthermore we have a new Open Standard t-shirt with robots in fitted light blue or a non-fitted khaki, the “I love Free Software” t-shirt in light blue, or a fitted “Hacking for Freedom” t-shirt in grey, as well as the metallic “GNU/Linux inside” stickers and a golden GNU pin.

If you want to spread the Free Software message at work, conferences, or when you are shopping, you can order the equipment on our merchandise page.

Unexpected turn at panel discussion on software patents and Free Software

On Monday 17 March 2015, I participated in a panel discussion organised by the European Patent Office at the Cebit in Hannover. The title of the discussion was “Patents, Standards, and Open Source — a changing landscape”. I prepared to discuss software patents, but something unexpected happened in the panel discussion.

I was invited by Grant Philpott (Principal Director of ICT area in the European Patent Office) to participate in the panel discussion. Beside him as a moderated there were: the following participants: Brian Hinman (Senior Vice President and Chief IP Officer, Royal Philips), Koen Lievens (Director DG1, European Patent Office), and myself.

To prepare I first read the EPO’s position on software patents again, and then prepared for the discussion together with our current interns Marius Jammes, Miks Upenieks, and Nicola Feltrin. So they had to read some articles — including one of my favourites “The Most Important Software Innovations” by David Wheeler — and we discussed the main arguments in favour and against software patents again. That was a good practice for them, as well as for me. After this we were well prepared to discuss details about software patents.

Before the event, Brian Hinman and myself were asked to prepare a short input statement about the “main IP needs of the ICT sector in the future, how you see these being ideally met, and what will need to change in order to get to that ‘ideal’ situation.” (My notes for this statement are below.) This was the start of the panel discussion.

I was astonished what happened when the audience was included in the discussion: almost all their questions were about Free Software, and almost none about patents. Instead of expected comments like “but how do we give incentives to inventors” or “but we have to secure investments”, people were interested in Free Software specifics. From the 45 minutes on the panel we at least spoke 25 minutes exclusively about Free Software business models, compliance issues, copyright management, and why Free Software is important for our society and the economy. Afterwards I spent over an hour to answer several questions from the audience which we could not cover during the disucssion.

So this discussion took a completely unexpected turn for me. But in this case I was very happy about that.

My introduction statement

Today Free Software runs on the majority of computers around the world: from supercomputers and other servers, to robots or space shuttles, to computers we carry around every day in like phones or tablets, to very small computers we often do not recognise as such.

How did we achieve it, that nowadays the most important operating system is Free Software, every company uses Free Software, and that it is almost impossible to develop other software without using Free Software yourself?

We achieved that because Free Software empowers people rather than restricting them. Based on copyright we use licenses which grant everybody the rights to use, study, share and improve software for any purpose.

  • The right to use it for any purpose, garantees that everybody can participate in using and developing software. So there is no discrimination on who can use the technology or for what you can use it.
  • Every Free Software license grants you the right to study how it works: In a world which is as complex as ours we cannot afford to keep things secret if we want to solve problems. Source code plus documentation is the best way to share the knowledge how IT devices work. Publishing source code is also the best way to enable interoperability and therefore competition.
  • To adopt software to your own needs it is crucial that you are allowed to improve it. Technology should do what you want to do with it, not what others thought it should do. So you are allowed to modify all parts of the software, use only parts of it, experiment with it, and combine programs to create new products.
  • Furthermore you have the right to share knowledge and workload with others. We have many problems in the world, which can be solved with software. But we have few people who can actually solve them in a good way. Let us enable them to concentrate on fixing new problems, instead of fixing one which was already solved. So Free Software always allows you to share the software — modified or not — with others.

We guarantee everybody those rights through copyright.


  • Legal issues: too many legal issues around technology. Let people be creative to fix other people’s problems, instead of focusing on problems resulting e.g. out of copyright and patents.
  • Licenses: most FS licenses are much easier to understand than proprietary software licenses. Solution: but still we can make them easier to understand and work with, and have fewer licenses.
  • Patents: problematic to have additional monopolies on principles instead of implementations. Burden to do research what other people already did in a field, the need to negotiate with them, dealing with lawsuits. So stronger clarification that patents on software are not allowed. In case it is not clear if it is software or hardware, patents should not be granted.
  • Secrecy: not publishing the source code and thereby preventing others in society to understand how products work or to make interoperable products. This restriction also continues after the copyright period. Solution: at least publicly financed software (including research) needs to be published under Free Software licenses. This way the results can be integrated in all kind of products. Maybe requirement to depose source code.
  • Restricting hardware platforms: someone else controls what you can install on your computers. Solution: clear right that you are allowed to change software on your computers, and as a company also sell those afterwards.

I love Free Software: Thanks to all the GnuPG contributors

Today is “I love Free Software”-Day. A day to thank all the hard working people behind Free Software. Beside initiating #ilovefs I also try to write a short thank you note to one project every year. After I thanked Coreboot in 2013, and mpd, ncmpcpp, and MPDroid in 2014 this year I want to thank all the people involved in GnuPG coding and promoting.

Unfortunately I do not remember when exactly I started using the GNU Privacy Guard (GnuPG). I just know that I started using a PGP implementation in 2001 on my GNU/Linux machine. First with some friends from our local Free Software group to encrypt and sign our data and communication, which was a very cool feeling. Later I tried to convince close friends and family with whom I had private conversations to set it up so “we can communicate like we do with letters instead of postcards”.

Person with a red ilovefs balloon and a speaking buble saying GnuPG

(Just for clarifications: no it is not me on the picture, it is Maurice from our team in the Netherlands.)

In 2002 — at that time I was definitely using GnuPG — I had the pleasure to meet friendly Debian guys at the University of Konstanz, who were also quite active in keysigning. So from that time on, whenever I met someone using GnuPG we signed our keys to establish new trust paths.

When I joined FSFE in 2004 it gave me the chance to work with the main GnuPG author Werner Koch. As we decided in 2004 to use GnuPG smartcards as sustaining membership cards for FSFE, I also helped Rebecca + Thorsten Ehlers and Werner with some contributions to the GnuPG smartcard Howto.

This was also the time when I got my first business cards for FSFE, and they included my GnuPG fingerprint! At that time lots of people, especially outside the Free Software community, raised their eyebrows after I answered their question what those numbers are.

In the following years I had the pleasure to meet more and more GnuPG developers: NIIBE Yutaka, from the Free Software Initiative Japan, who thankfully explained me new cool stuff every time we met, and Marcus Brinkmann who was employed to work for GnuPG in the past.

For a long time I had the impression that GnuPG usage was decreasing, and it was not considered that cool anymore. But recently that changed after the Snowden leaks. Many new people wanted to learn how to secure their communications. Fortunately many people, including a lot of our FSFE’s volunteers, organised and helped at Cryptoparties, teaching e-mail encryption.

Recently I was very happy to see FSF’s Email Self-Defence Guide, which explains how and why you should use GnuPG for your electronic communication. Afterwards Erik Albers worked together with our volunteer Franz Gratzer to to create FSFE’s “E-Mail self-defence” leaflets. Thanks to our translators they are now layouted in simplified Chinese, German, English, Spanish, French, Italian, Dutch, and Albanian. The translations for Greek, Latvian, Serbian, and Turkish are in the proofreading process, and the Catalan as well as the Polish translations are almost ready for proofreading. So whenever you want to promote encryption, those leaflets can help you with that.

Many people contribute to GnuPG. I have more space than Laura Poitras in the credits of her film Citizenfour which mentions GnuPG as well, so I will thank some people directly. Beside them there are others who also did important work to enable me to have private communication and to keep my computer more secure. So to all of you whom I do not know (yet) or whom I forgot: Thank you! I love what you are doing!

Special thanks to the GnuPG hackers David Shaw, Marcus Brinkmann, NIIBE Yutaka, Jussi Kivilinna. Thanks to the people documenting GnuPG, e.g. Thorsten and Rebecca Ehlers. Thanks to Martin Gollowitzer for supporting FSFE’s sustaining members when they have questions about our smartcards. Thanks to Nicolai Josuttis (Enigmail), the kmail developers, the developers and maintainers of the signing-party tools. Thanks to Zak Rogoff and FSF’s campaign team for the E-Mail-Self-Defence guide and to Ana Isabel Carvalho and Ricardo Lafuente who designed those awesome infographic. Thanks to Erik Albers who convinced me that we need the GnuPG leaflets and who created them. Thanks to Franz Gratzer who did the layout for those leaflets. Thanks to FSFE’s volunteers for translating them in so many languages! Thanks to all the people around the globe who organise cryptoparties and help others to secure their communication, especially Hauke Laging, Felix Stegerman, and Guido Arnold.

But my biggest thank you of course go to Werner: thank you, Werner, for keeping up your good work during all those years!

New stickers and leaflets: No cloud and e-mail self-defense

This week we received new additions for our information materials in the Berlin office.

First of all, the English version of the “e-mail self-defense” leaflet. In September Erik layouted and printed a German version of that leaflet to distribute at the “freedom not fear demonstration“ in Berlin. We received a lot of positive feedback about the leaflet, and had to order the German version three times already. Now we also have the English version, and our translators are working on Dutch, Italian, French, Spanish, Greek, and Chinese.

Beside that, yesterday our new “There is no cloud – just other people’s computers” stickers arrived. Our former intern Bela Seeger worked on them during his internship, and the first feedback is very positive.

If you want some of the stickers and leaflets, we will from now on include them in FSFE’s promo packs.

An invisible part of the Free Software Foundation Europe

In all organisations you have people, who do crucial work which is invisible to the public. But without them, the organisation would not function. In the FSFE, one of this people who takes care of a lot of invisible tasks is Reinhard Müller. After maintaining FSFE’s website, coordinating FSFE’s translation team, and taking care of our Fellowship database for many years, in 2007 he volunteered to be FSFE’s Financial Officer. With this post I want to offer you an insight into the invisible tasks performed by Reinhard.

Karsten and Reinhard working together

From 20 to 22 June, Karsten and I myself met with Reinhard in Lustenau/Austria to go through his current tasks. The goal was to minimise a single point of failure in our organisation. We want to make sure that Reinhard’s tasks could also be performed by someone else in the case he decides to do a journey round the world. So beside impressing us with the wonderful landscape, Reinhard gave us a detailed summary. Here a short overview of tasks he performs in the FSFE’s “Lustenau Office”:

  • Payment of invoices and archiving them: yes unfortunately we do not just receive donations, but also invoices. Reinhard takes care of that.
  • Checking our bank statements: this includes contacting individual donors asking them to become Fellows instead to minimise our administrative overhead, add donors above 480€ to our donors page to as well as checking our liquidity.
  • Paper filing for the accounting: for the cash books, our bank accounts, check if something is missing.
  • The accounting: together with aqbanking-tools and some nice self-written bash scripts, Reinhard merges all payments from the bank, the manually added numbers from the cash box, the credit cards, and others accounts into CSV files. In this process all payments receive the correct account number. (For me this is one of most advanced tasks, which Reinhard already documented quite well. I also learned a lot about accounting.)
  • Reporting taxes to the financial authorities: We have to pay tax for the merchandise (19%), the legal conference tickets (7%), plus in very rare cases services we sell (which is especially complicated if it is outside Germany). Reinhard calculates our taxes and reports them to our tax consultant, who again after checking reports that to the authorities. He has to finish this 1 month, and 10 days after each quarter.

I learnt a lot during those days while documenting those tasks, and I am very thankful that Reinhard does all those things for the FSFE in his spare time. Furthermore it was great to enjoy the sunny weather and the beautiful mountains.

Below, you can see Reinhard with the FSFE’s first t-shirt, ever. It has the Latin quote by Saint Augustinus written on it: “Omnis enim res, quae dando non deficit, dum habetur et non datur, nondum habetur, quomodo habenda est.” which translates to “For if a thing is not diminished by being shared with others, it is not rightly owned if it is only owned and not shared.” (Meanwhile we switched to English as the main language for our t-shirts.)

Reinhard with the first FSFE t-shirt in the Austrian mountains

FSFE’s German speaking team meeting 2014

From 13 – 15 June 2014 FSFE had its German speaking team meeting in the Linuxhotel in Essen. The participants had some problems to travel there because of the chaos resulting from a heavy thunderstorm in the region. A lot of train lines where not functional, and the situation on the streets was also chaotic. But just because no ICE trains stop in Essen does not mean we will not continue our work for Free Software. In the end we were able to bring all volunteers to the Linuxhotel.

The two buildings from Linuxhotel

On Friday after dinner we finalised the agenda, especially discussing the workshop topics and decided depending on popularity which ones we will have during the weekend. Furthermore we added a slot for lightning talks for Saturday morning. After dinner we met Michael and Mechthilde in the Linuxhotel, who reported from their work during the day at the GLS bank to promote FSFE (in German).

Saturday morning started with 30 minutes of lightning talks. Erik Albers talked about our work and the results of the Free Software pact and how we could use that for regional elections. Maurice gave an overview of our activities in the Netherlands, especially their work at cryptoparties and the privacy cafe, the Netherland team’s involvement in the Free Software pact, and reported that the NL team now consists of around 10 active people. Guido Arnold presented a bash script to make it easier to publish local FSFE meetings on different FSFE websites, and microblogs. He motivated others to look at the code and improve it. Torsten Grote talked about the status of Free Software microblogging software. As the last one, Erik Albers gave a short overview from our German speaking local groups. Afer that the first slot of two parallel workshops started:

After lunch Michael Stehmann held a session how to better integrate evaluation in our work. We will do more work on this topic in the comming months. Then it was time again for two parallel workshops slots:

In the evening local Free Software supporters joined us for a BBQ, like former HURD developer Neal Walfield, FSFE’s booth master Rainer Kersten, FSFE’s Fellowship representative Stefan “Penny” Harmuth, and GnuPG author Werner Koch.

Due to longer travel times caused by the storm, Sunday was quite short. In the morning we slightly modified the agenda, and again had two workshop sessions. On group continued with the WhatsApp workshop to do further testing, and in the other group Erik Albers talked with local team coordinators about their situation and what ideas they have for the future. After “destroying” the rest of Saturday evening BBQ, and cleaning up, 2 days of good work were over again.

Consumer protection for mobiles: Is it a torch light or a spy in your pocket?

On Friday 15 May, I was at an event in the German Parliament about the power of consumers in the digital world, organised by the Green party. I participated because part of the event was a workshop about consumer protection for mobile devices.

A lot of programs people install on their Android devices do not respect their rights. It is common that those programs ask users to accept non-readable terms and conditions, reveal where the device and therefor the user currently is, access personal data like user’s address books or text messages. Innocent looking apps like a torch light program are violating user’s privacy. This is not me explaining the problem, that was what Carola Elbrecht from the German consumer protection organisation (VZBV) and other participants explained.

I gave an overview what the FSFE in particilar and the Free Software community in general are doing, and what problems we have. I explained them how we help users to install Free Software versions of Android on their phones, so they can have up to date software, and do not have to buy a new phone just because they need new software. How vendors tell consumers that they loose warranty when they install another operating system, and that we inform users that this is wrong. How we help people to install their software from a Free Software app market like F-Droid, where all the software guarantees consumers that they can use it for any purpose, that people around the world can study the source code and understand what the program is doing, and that everybody is allowed to change the apps, for example remove malicious features which compromise user’s security. It is software which respects the user’s rights instead of violating them.

Member of Parliament Nicole Maisch, who was responsible for the workshop, already knew about our work and asked us what politicians could do to help us. I highlighted that it would help the Free Software community if it is legally guaranteed that users have the right to install another operating system on mobile devices. That vendors have no right to hinder users doing this by technical measures and that it is clear that you do not loose your warranty. Furthermore I explained why it is important that apps developed by the public administration are Free Software, and are also offered outside of Google Play and the iTunes Store.

After the workshop I had a lot of good talks with different people, mainly from consumer protection organisation or with journalists.

Now just assuming you also want to know what you can do to protect consumer rights on mobile devices, here some suggestions:

  • Promote Free Your Android (FYA) in your peer groups, and explain people how they can be in control of their own computing and why this is important. Nikos Roussos is currently doing a good job pushing Free Your Android in Greece. In his recent blog post Nikos wrote about his Free Software setup, how he removed Google Analytics from the CyanogenMod builds with freecyngn, and which apps he can recommend others. Torsten Grote, who started FYA, gave a talk at FISL (OGV video, 82M) with the latest developments of the campaign.
  • If you are an developer, join the F-Droid team! FSF published an interview with Ciaran Gultnieks, founder of F-Droid project, who explains the problems with Free Software in the Android app space like obsolete source code, proprietary code and libraries, and libraries which spy on their users. Help the F-Droid team to master those challenges.
  • Help with translations! FSFE’s volunteers wrote, translated, printed and distributed leaflets about the Free Software app store F-Droid. After Torsten Grote made a new version, this month we plan to print new languages versions. We still need people to proofread the German, Greek, Spanish, Finnish, and Netherlands versions. As well as help with the French and Italian translation. Please contact our translation team if you can help.
  • Join the FSFE team at RMLL! In July FSFE will be at RMLL in Montpelier/France, where former FSFE intern Daniel Marti will give talks and workshops about F-Droid, Erik Albers will talk about Free Your Android, and Paul Kocialkowski will present the Replicant project there. If you already know how more about F-Droid, flashing phones, or have experience with Replicant, please support us there to teach others about it.
  • For all of you who are not yet; become a supporting member of FSFE! In order for FSFE to send employees like me to events in the Parliament we need an appropriate budget. Then someone can follow-up with politicians for several years to achieve results, brief consumer protection organisations about user rights on mobile devices and support them in their work, or FSFE can pay travel expenses when it is done by our volunteers. Just with good financial support we will be able to achieve results against large organisations, which have other interests than user rights.