Free Software: Behind the Scenes
byon January 15, 2019
We wrote a few weeks ago about how Conservancy has several projects that support new people or less technical people and help bring new people into free software. We also support many projects that most folks probably don't think about very often. Many of our projects exist relatively outside of the spotlight and facilitate the creation of free software by providing tools, systems and infrastructure for developers.
Testing and Automation
Once you've got some code, how do you make sure it works everywhere you want it to -- in the way that you want it to? Testing and automation. Selenium is a suite of tools for browser automation. The W3C recommended their WebDriver tool as the best tool for the development of a more accessible and collaborative web last year. Just a few short months ago, we welcomed Reproducible Builds, a project that attests that your build is safe and uncompromised. The integrity of code is critical if you care about user safety and true software freedom and that's why each build needs to be tested and verified using a free software tool.
Interoperability and efficiency are also important. Projects that ignore this can find it hard to increase adoption. QEMU is a generic and free/open source machine emulator and virtualizer that helps developers build programs that work on different kinds of hardware. This lets developers create free software that works on all kinds of machines and with all kinds of hardware. Buildbot is a framework which enables software developers to automate software builds by scheduling different pieces of work. Both tools help developers create software that is useful to all kinds of users on all different systems.
Freedom All the Way Down the Stack
It's a little easier to expain why you want software for the tools that users directly interact with, but what about the tools that most users never see? The bits that talk to the hardware, the pieces that turn on your machine and the code that powers the internet also need to be free. You can't mix and match fee and non-free code and be sure you are getting all of the benefits of user freedom. That's why we are proud to spport so many projects that live close to the bare metal and work on critical interstitial bits that don't always get a lot of press.
Samba removes barriers to interoperability and is standard on nearly all distributions of Linux. Samba is what allows GNU/Linux and Unix machines to access file and print servers that are designed with Windows users in mind. This kind of hardware to hardware level interoperability makes it easy for folks to choose a free operating system for their personal machine, when their workplace or school isn't ready to switch.
Harvey OS provides a fully free operating system with a very compact kernel in which all resources are treated as files. This provides Unix users new ways of working with permissions and applications. Coreboot is an extended firmware platform, which provides users with a lightning fast and fully free boot system for desktops, laptops, servers and tablets. Start with freedom as soon as you boot!
We must have a free software foundation to build on top of, if we ever hope to offer users a completely free computing environment, both online and off. Linux XIA is a protocol stack for Linux that uses eXpress Internet Architecture (XIA) to enable a more trustworthy and interoperable internet while also improving continuity for network users.
Metalink is dedicated to improving downloads. Metalink makes it much easier for people — especially those in areas with inferior Internet connections — to download Open Source and Free Software. Just one non-free piece in the puzzle can counteract the intention to provide user freedom, privacy and security by that free software developers are working to provide throughout the rest of the stack.
Nuts and Bolts
We love supporting tools that free software developers use as part of their workflow to create more free software. We host three version control systems at Conservancy; Git, Mercurial and Darcs, which is a distributed revision control system written in Haskell.
We also support projects that help developers maintain their internal code. Kallithea is a free software source code management system that we use for many of our own scripts and systems. It lets teams easily maintain different versions of internal code projects. phpMyAdmin is a free and open source web interface for the MySQL and MariaDB database systems. It's a mature project that helps folks administrate their web-based MySQL instances.
Conservancy believes that everyone deserves full software freedom, without backdoors or exceptions. Developers deserve free tools and users deserve freedom all the way down to the bare metal. We don't live in that world just yet, but it's got to be built one piece at a time. Many of our projects aren't famous, but they're all important for securing full user freedom and that's why we support their work here at Conservancy.
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