tobias_platen's blog

Just another GNUstep users blog

How I do my computing in freedom (GPLv3 x 10 = The Free Software Foundation turns 30)

October 4th, 2015

1 I use a Libreboot X200 computer with Trisquel GNU/Linux.

2 Trisquel GNU/Linux is my preferred GNU/Linux distro, because of its usability.

3 I use the GNOME Desktop that is included in Trisquel.

4 I read and send mail with Icedove. I run my own mail server on a virtual machine.

5 I browse the Web using an unbranded version of Firefox and I use plugins to block non-free javascript and tracking cookies. I use Greasemonkey to run userscripts instead.

6 First time that I used free software was GNUChess on Windows 3.1 twenty years ago. Today I never use Windows, I use Wine instead.

7 I use VLC to break the DRM on DVDs, for High-Definition Video I recommend Lib-Ray.

8 I have never had a Facebook account and I do not use Skype, instead I use RetroShare as a replacement.

9 People sometimes ask me to recommend an email service. I can recommend FSF-endorsed Posteo.

X As a software developer I prefer the GNU GPL v3, because of its stong copyleft.

Why I won’t buy the Purism Librem

September 22nd, 2015

Purism claims to respect your privacy, security, and freedom. Unfortunately those laptops use the latest Intel hardware which requires non-free blobs in order to boot. This makes it impossible to run libreboot on these laptops. These computers come with the Intel Management Engine (ME), which is a serious threat to users freedom and privacy. The claim to be able to unlock the ME, so that one can use those computers without that disloyal technology. Because the boot-firmware is non-free, they won’t be able to respect the users freedom. PureOS 2.0 seems to be based on Debian GNU/Linux which is a non-free distribution. Older versions of PureOS were based on Trisquel GNU/Linux, which I use since 2013 on a ThinkPenguin laptop. Some ThinkPenguin products respect the users freedom, but their laptops do not, because their boot firmware is non-free. The also talk about “Free and Open Source Software”, but Open Source misses the point of free software. Because software freedom is important for me, I decided to buy the Libreboot X200 that Respects Your Freedom. That GNU-Free laptop is also much cheaper than the Purism Librem.
Freedom status of Purism and Minifree

Skype is broken! GNUnet Conversation will restore user freedom and privacy

September 21st, 2015

Skype is an centralized service that requires a nonfree client program. Because of the centralisation it is easy to eavesdrop on calls. Because the software is nonfree the developer has power over the users. Insted of using Skype one should use Free Software replacement such as GNUnet Conversation which provides end-to-end encryption. Decentralized networks such as GNUnet are also more resilent against outages because every user can run his own personal node.

Why I still buy CDs

May 6th, 2015

I do not use iTunes because it is non-free software. While iTunes music is DRM-Free, other media distributed through iTunes contain DRM. iTunes also has long EULAs which further restrict what you can do with the music. If you buy a CD in a store there is no such EULA and you can pay anonymously with cash. iTunes does not accept cash, they only accept credit cards which tell Big Brother about your purchases and gift card which are known to be insecure. Therefore I do not use iTunes, instead I buy CDs in a store or directly from artists who self publish their music.

As an anime fan I often go to conventions where you can easily buy CDs with Japanese music (including VOCALOID music). Many VOCALOID producers sell their music online using iTunes, while others offer gratis copies for download after you have liked them on Facebook which is a Monstrous Surveillance Engine. Because I don’t like surveillance, I never used Facebook. The only way to support these artists is buying a CD. I also started writing my own music using only free software, and I plan to sell physical copies of my music at anime conventions.

I don’t use VOCALOID because it is non-free software with DRM and a surveillance feature. I also think that there is need for a free iTunes replacement, where one can pay anonymously with GNU Taler and download copies of the music in patent free formats such as FLAC and Ogg Vorbis.

My first LV2 plugin

January 24th, 2015

My first LV2 plugin

Recently I wrote my first LV2 plugin. It’s an additive singing synthesizer similar to Madde by Svante Granqvist but it also uses the Excitation plus Resonance voice model that is used by VOCALOID. It runs in realtime and it can be controlled using a MIDI keyboard. But it can also act as a placeholder for the singing voice in an Ardour project when composing songs.

LV2 is a plugin standard for free software developers that allows decentralized extensibility. It is a replacment for the older LADSPA and DSSI plugin standards that are commonly used with older DAWs such as Rosegarden and LMMS. Unlike other well known plugin standards such as VST there are no licencing restrictions in LV2. There is a small program called Jalv which connects your LV2 plugins to Jack and makes testing easy. It is also possible to combine multiple plugins and applications using Patchage which allows you to make modular synthesizers.

The MaddeLOID plugin is part of my work on free virtual singer project which aims at building a free software replacement for both VOCALOID and UTAU. There are already some free programs such as jcadencii, vConnect-STAND and Sinsy, but most of them lack flexibility and support for other languages than Japanese. Therefore I started writing my own programs that fill the gap and improving existing ones where it should be done. New features such as Non-Session Management and Jack Transport are likely to be added to the QTau Editor, which currently lacks both a working synthesizer and a lyricizer. I dedided to use eSpeak as the speech synthesis backend, which does two different things. First words are converted to phonetic symbols, and in the second step the waveform is generated. Then WORLD is used to change the length of the notes and to apply vibrato and portamento. All of my programs and related documentation can be cloned from my gitorious.

Sync your Fairphone or any other Android phone with your GNU/Linux computer

May 11th, 2014

Some years ago when I had a Mac I was using iTunes. Then Apple introduced the iPhone and I decided not buy one, as there are to many restrictions. Instead I choose Android which is much better for freedom. But Android devices do not sync with iTunes because Apple does not want them to sync with iTunes. This is a clear example for an antifeature in the non-free iTunes software. The iJails won’t play patent- and DRM-free formats like Ogg Vorbis and WEBM. But my music collection is partly in Ogg Vorbis and allmost all Android devices do support Ogg Vorbis. Android also supports M3U playlists which are an Open Standard while the iThings use a proprietery format for playlists. After switching to I wrote some little scripts me to automatically synchronize my Fairphone with my music library. These scripts use adb push so your device does not to be in USB storage mode. Therefore you have to enable USB debugging. You can download the scripts from my Gitorious page. I dont have an M3U editor so I use tools such as grep and find for playlist creation.

If you can’t open it, you don’t [have freedom]

February 14th, 2014

Today is #ilovefs day, and Fairphone released their kernel under the GPL so that users have the freedom to build custom kernels. You can also build your own kernel modules without the risk of bricking your phone. Running your Android phone with free software is important, as spyware is commonly found in nonfree software. Many smartphones implement DRM and/or violate the GPL, but the Fairphone does not. It still runs non-free software and there is no modem isolation, so it has the same problems as many other smartphones. Unlike other phones it does not come with the Google-Apps preinstalled, and you can install F-Droid and use it with only free apps. Installing a different OS such as Debian GNU/Linux is also possible. It does not respect your freedom, but it is a step in the right direction.

GNU/Linux on mobile devices and single board computers

January 5th, 2014

One year ago I baught an A13-OLinuXino-WIFI. This version of the board comes with a nonfree distribution of Android, but you can also boot other operating systems, such as Debian GNU/Linux and FreeBSD. Recently I ordered a freedom respecing WIFI adapter from that I will use as a replacement for the Nonfree Wifi. This adapter is not supported by Android so I installed GNU/Linux on the internal NAND. I will have to install the free firmware, it is not included by default in GNU/Linux. Most mobile Android devices ship with nonfree software, for some devices it is impossible to install free software other than userland software from F-Droid.

Android is mosty non copylefted free software, a few components are copylefted (Linux and ALSA sound stack) while important drivers are nonfree in most cases. Vendors often preinstall proprietery applications such as Skype, Flash Player and the Facebook app.
Many SoC manufacturers do not allow users to install modified versions of Android such as Cyanogenmod and Replicant. Allwinner SoCs are different, as they can dual boot GNU/Linux and Android. Just insert an sdcard that contains Debian and reboot into freedom. With the new version of the bootloader it should be also possible to install GNU/Linux on the internal NAND flash.

Google and Cyanogenmod describe Android as Open Source, but Open Source misses the point of Free Software. There is no Android device that respects your freedom. The replicant project seems not to have the resources to develop its own device. There is the Vivaldi Tablet designed to run GNU/Linux. Godelico smartphones can run either Debian or Replicant.
The Fairphone is another rootable Android device, and it should be possible to run Debian and Replicant side by side on the device. Those devices can run free software, but some functionality often depends on nonfree Software. But hackers are working on free software replacements for most nonfree components.

Android is also used on many digital audio players and tablets. Unlike smartphones those devices are not tracking devices as there is no modem. Some tablets come with mobile internet, so you should not buy such a device if you don’t want to be tracked. You can use an external 3G dongle if you need mobile internet access. It seems that some Android devices do not support external 3G dongles, so the only tablet that I can recommond is the Vivaldi. If you need Android then you should buy a Vivaldi and ask for Replicant support.

Most Android devices come with nonfree firmware blobs in the kernel. Some preinstalled applications and userland libraries are also nonfree. Some versions of Cyanogenmod include their own nonfree applications. You can install F-Droid as a free replacement for Google Play. If you buy a new Android device phone you should buy one that is supported by replicant. I chose a Fairphone as a replacement for my unstable HTC Dream. I installed a SIP app as a replacement, so I can still use it as cordless phone in my home.

Android does not include GNU, it uses its own GUI and system libraries. So it is not easy to run software written for GNU/Linux, especially if X11 is used. The android kernel blocks services such as avahi, you will need an unlocked bootloader and a kernel without paranoid networking restrictions to run such programs. Even if you use a preinstalled GNU/Linux it is possible to get a precompiled kernel with Android networking restrictions. You will have to recompile the kernel from source to get a kernel without restrictions. There are some programs in F-Droid that help you to install Debian on your Android device. However, installing debian on the internal NAND flash is not possible with an App, you need to do it maually.

Many Android companies are known to violate the GPL. By contrast Allwinner complies with the GPL, both their bootloader and kernel are releases as free software. However you still need nonfree software when you first install Android into the NAND flash. Further upgrades to Replicant can be done without the use of nonfree software. Hackers are working on free software to flash those devices, but the software is currently usable.

Decentalized Social Networks and Voice Chat over XMPP

September 16th, 2013

I dont use Skype, because it requires the use of a client program that is not . Instead I use Pidgin and XMPP+Jingle. As XMPP has federation support, it can be used to talk to users that are on a differnt server. XMPP is an Open Standard, that can be implemented using free software. As a Fan of Free Culture Anime with Free Software, I do have an XMPP account at By using an Open Standards Animexx contributes to distributed social networks. All Fellows can talk to all users of and vice versa, without needing any nonfree software.

But there are many other Open Standards such as OAuth. GNU MediaGoblin, a free software for building federated social networks, implements OAuth beginning in version 0.6. I’ve created my own instance for sharing music that is made with a free replacement for VOCALOID such as eCantorix or v.Connect-STAND. I have set up this instance of GNU MediaGoblin to avoid using centralized sites such as Youtube and Nico Nico Douga. MediaGoblin is also used by cosplayers that want to share their photos.

Eine deutsche Version des Posts findet sich auf meinem Animexx Weblog

Back from FUxCon

June 18th, 2013

As a fellow that lives inside the Rhein-Main* area I went to the first FUxCon* where I met Guido Arnold at the FSFE booth.
I don’t own an iPhone because it is Defective By Design. Instead I use a 3 years old Android phone that plays Ogg Vorbis out of the box. The device isn’t fully free but you can run many free software applications if you install F-Droid. If you buy a new smartphone than I can recommend the GTA04 or the Fairphone.

I found that the keynote by Cornelius Schumacher from KDE e.V about Open-Source-Communities [sic] was interesting. The people at KDE beginning with Matthias Ettrich do care about software freedom. Their aim is to make free software usable to the general public. I use LyX, because I think that it is easier to use than LibreOffice Writer. I don’t own a tablet computer, because most vendors ship with nonfree distributions of Android. The Flying Squirrel will run GNU/Linux, it’s WiFi chip is compatible with free software.

I also met the DARC* ham radio group. With ham radio you can fetch your email without using a commercial internet connection. People in China use this technology to break censorship. I do not use services that practice censorship such as Facebook and Google+/Youtube, instead I support PageKite and FreedomBox. With a free software defined radio such as GNU Radio it should be possible to connect freedomboxes together using a censorship ham radio channel. If you and your friends use GNUnet to encrypt your network traffic, nobody will be able to eavesdrop or censor your private communications.

People from CCC-FFM* showed me how to hack a chipcard* that is used in TAN generators. These devices might be useful for other puposes. As I prefer bitcoin over proprietery payment services, it might be possible to implement a bitcoin smartcard that people can use with such a device. The only think that you will need is an empty chipcard that you can fill with your own software. Most empty chipcards require the use of nonfree software, but there are chipcards that one can hack with the free avr-gcc compiler. You can get a the things need for smartcard hacking from here*. I try to avoid PayPal for micropayment, as they blocked wikileaks. For this reason I do not use flattr anymore.

At the end of the FUxCon there was an Audacity workshop. As I use GNU/Linux to make music, I often use Audacity. I learned how to use the labels feature of Audacity that allows one to export multiple files. The workshop was done by from AUGE e.V (Apple User Group Europe). I had to name a free programm called LMMS (Linux Multimedia Studio) when somebody recommended the nonfree software Cubase for multitrack recording. There are many other free programs that you can enjoy when you switch to GNU/Linux. Rosegarden is one of them.

Recently I started writing a free replacement for MBROLA. MBROLA is a diphone synthesizer that had been able to sing ten years before Crypton Future Media released KAITO. For diphone-segmentation I use Audacity. The first MBROLOID will be called Mikulas Lenzo. In 2010 copies of Ubuntu were be distributed at Anime Boston. This year I will distribute copies of a custom Trisquel GNU/Linux image that contains a lot of free programs that Anime fans and Cosplay Photographers will find useful, including my free SingerBot, at the CosDay convention. For most music that I listen to I know that the producers use nonfree software, so it is time to teach people who want to make music how to use a free program that does do the same thing.

* this link points to a German page, you can translate it into English using Google Translate. Apertium does not support German yet.