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Volunteers needed in Brussels! Also, January is Busy.

by Deb Nicholson on January 25, 2019

Hello again, friends! January at Conservancy is a very busy month -- we launch an Outreachy round, close our financial year, finish up our year-end fundraising and then? Well, then we get ready to go out and talk to folks about software freedom and events like linux.conf.au and FOSDEM. In fact our Executive Director, Karen Sandler's talk on "Right Not to Broadcast" and our Distinguished Technologist, Bradley Kuhn's talk on "Preventing the IOT Dystopia with Copyleft" are both already up.

And, oh boy, are we at FOSDEM this year.

We could really use your help in several key areas:

  • Helping us set up for video at Copyleft Conf on Sunday, February 3rd after FOSDEM in the evening
  • Midday booth help on either Saturday or Sunday
  • Saturday morning help bringing stuff to FOSDEM
  • General conference staff support or video support on Monday the 4th at Copyleft Conf

If you are able to help out with any of these tasks, please drop us a note so we can schedule you. We will be eternally grateful for any slice of time you can offer. Small orgs like Conservancy depend on our supporters to pitch in -- thank you so much!

Tags: conservancy, conferences

Thanks for Helping Us Meet Our Fundraising Challenge!

by Deb Nicholson on January 15, 2019

We're really excited to head into 2019 with our fundraising goals met. Thank you everyone (and their cats!) for sharing stories about our work these last two months. We really do rely on our supporters to tell their free software loving friends and colleagues about Conservancy. Thank you especially to Private Internet Access has supported our fundraising efforts with a $50K match -- they are true Conservancy champions! Thanks also to Molly de Blanc: Free Software Superstar, for organizing our biggest year-end match ever by bringing in more individual matchers than we've ever had.

Karen Sandler and Molly de Blanc present at DebConf18 Molly was joined by Elana Hashman, Sage Weil, Josh Triplett, Keith Packard, Martin Krafft, one anonymous donor and our pals at Private Internet Access.

Thanks also to Purism and other stalwart friends like VM Brasseur who helped us by telling everyone they know that you should be donating to Conservancy. We are also honored that free software luminaries like; Katie McLaughlin, Leslie Hawthorn, Kade Crockford and Jeremiah Foster were willing to eloquently tell people why Conservancy's work is important to them.

Are you coming across this post after the fact? You can donate to Conservancy all year round, (it just won't be doubled) and we'll still use it to support a diverse, community-driven free software future. Thanks!

Tags: conservancy

Free Software: Behind the Scenes

by Deb Nicholson on 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.

Tags: conservancy, Kallithea, QEMU, Selenium, Git, phpMyAdmin

Sage Weil: Challenges and Hope

by Deb Nicholson on January 9, 2019

This is part of our ongoing series on generous matching donors. Sage is the principal architect of Ceph, a completely distributed free software storage platform. Sage serves on the advisory board for CROSS, a program that turns technology created through student research into successful free and open source projects. He even won the O'Reilly Open Source Award in 2013 for his work. Sage and several other outstanding individuals are joining Private Internet Access and a big anonymous donor in offering a total of $90K in matching funds (just through January 15th!) to Conservancy for our continued work to support community-driven licensing and governance practices.

Sage helping his daughter ride a bike.

Deb: What's the most exciting thing you've seen recently in free software?

Sage: There are two key free software trends that give me hope. The first is the recent traction in open hardware, most notably with RISC-V, which moves us closer to being able to build a completely free and open hardware *and* software stack. The second is continued commitments to open source from governments around the world, most recently with the EU's bug bounties on a few critical projects.

Deb: Tell us about the moment you decided to become a Conservancy supporter.

Sage: When I learned about Conservancy's involvement in Christoph Hellwig's GPL suit against VMWare I realized that Conservancy was more concerned with user freedom than industry politics and/or the business interests of its supporters. It's because Conservancy is a grassroots organization, supported by individual donors, that it is able to fight unequivocally for free software principles and software freedom.

Deb: Do you have a favorite Conservancy project and/or one that is indispensable to your own work?

Sage: Conservancy's support for Outreachy and its willingness to tackle the diversity challenges in open source communities is a huge contribution to the free software movement. The lack of diversity in the communities I work most closely with is (in my view) one of the greatest risks to the long-term health and success of the relevant projects.

Deb: What do you hope to see Conservancy accomplish in the next five years?

Sage: I would love to see Outreachy continue to expand its reach and scope, and I look forward to seeing the GPL litigation demonstrate that copyleft licenses can't be willfully violated with impunity. Most importantly, though, I would like to see Conservancy continue to serve as a living example of what true open source advocacy looks like as a challenge and model for other free software organizations.

Deb: Anything else you'd like to add?

Sage: The two technology trends that most concern me are the continued erosion of online privacy (and relatively scarcity of freely available tools to help protect private communications and anonymity online) and the growth of public cloud providers as new instruments of software lock-in. Free software is a key component of any strategy to push back against both of these trends, and I am happy to support organizations like Conservancy that are focused on preserving the user freedoms that we often take for granted.

Do you share Sage's vision of a diverse, vibrant and community-driven free software future? Please donate today! Or if you've already donated, share stories about our work and let folks know that we depend on grassroots support to do all the work that we do. Thanks!

The photo of Sage and his daughter is used here courtesy of Sage Weil.

Tags: conservancy, diversity, Outreachy

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