Choosing Freedom & Privacy on your Android phone

I have been using an Android phone for about 6 years now. I have been using GNU/Linux exclusively since 1998. Hence, the desire to have a phone that provided me with the same freedom and flexibility has been very strong.

Unfortunately, a few months back I realised how I had accepted a life where I could have complete freedom and privacy on my computer but was content with having almost none on my phone. I was surprised at how I was ready to tolerate proprietary software (and evil practices) on my phone when I would never install or use such software on my computer.

This is an account of that introspection and my reasons to take various steps to have more freedom and privacy while still using Android on my phone.

Continue reading

Swatantra 2017: Behind the Scenes

The Swantantra conference on Free Software is a rather unique conference organised by ICFOSS in Trivandrum. Its unique because of the extremely rich discussion that it creates around the ideology of software freedom, rather than the technology. I was fortunate to be a part of this conference in multiple ways in December 2017. And this is a short account of the same.

Continue reading

The Tyranny of Convenience

The Tyranny of Convenience by Tim Wu (New York Times)
https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/16/opinion/sunday/tyranny-convenience.html

An extremely deep and insightful essay on what convenience is doing to us and how “things” that are meant to liberate us via the convenience they provide also serve to enslave us with that convenience… so much so that:

… it is about minimizing the mental resources, the mental exertion, required to choose among the options that express ourselves… It would be perverse to embrace inconvenience as a general rule. But when we let convenience decide everything, we surrender too much.

I have long argued that, in the context of Free Software, as long as we keep valuing convenience only, we will never seek to value the freedom that free software provides us. And in a way, this essay puts that exact thought into a much larger and useful context.

Continue reading

Why is it difficult to fight against DRM?

The Defective by Design initiative was formed almost 10 years back to raise awareness about DRM and how it harms users. It has evolved into a movement that encourages users to reject DRM instead of just making them aware of its existence, abuses and dangers.

July 9th, 2017 is going to be celebrated as the International Day against DRM and on this occasion I’d like to highlight my personal view on why the fight against DRM is difficult and why DRM-enabled platforms have been growing and becoming more mainstream.

However, it doesn’t mean that its not possible to choose a world without DRM. And I have some suggestions on how to get started, should you choose to.

Continue reading

Billy Joel: The keyboard is a percussion instrument

While consuming “Billy Joel: The Definitive Biography“, I came across a very interesting comment by him about keyboards (Joel is a pianist). He says:

… the insurgent energy of rock [music] was well represented by guys pounding at keyboards. After all, it’s a percussion instrument – you strike the keys, literally pounding the instrument. It was meant to be played hard, like the drums.

This is as relevant when referring to mechanical keyboards. One does pound them after all. Hard. And the clicky keys make a wonderful, almost musical percussion sound.

How did you arrive at that conclusion?

Recently I observed that the process of arriving at a conclusion is far more important than the conclusion itself. A conclusion, when doled out, is a recommendation, a best practice and a lesson learned, perhaps after many trials. It hides, in its finality, all the errors, failures and trials experienced in the process of arriving at it. And unless someone can really look behind the conclusion and appreciate the effort involved or the problem that the conclusion offers a solution for, they might actually not appreciate the solution as well.

Continue reading