Revisiting personal software freedom
Since it was Software Freedom Day again, I figured I should revisit my personal software freedom and see what has changed since my post two years ago. There hasn't been a vrms meme again this year so I don't have anyone else to compare with. A small survey on IRC indicates folks still need non-free nVidia drivers, embedded software, GNU documentation, Java and more.
Since then I have switched my laptop from the Dell Inspiron 6400 to the Thinkpad X201 Tablet. Nothing really changed with my laptop, GNU documentation is still non-free and the new Intel WiFi chip on my new laptop still uses non-free embedded software. To remind myself of the non-free bits embedded in the hardware (CPU microcode, BIOS, EC etc), I have installed intel-microcode and microcode.ctl.
Since then I didn't get any new phone, still the same OpenMoko FreeRunner. I'm now using QtMoko on a 4GB microSD card and Debian and SHR on other cards for testing. QtMoko is based on Debian and is the latest incarnation of Qtopia. It is probably free but I haven't done any audit of it. One interesting thing that changed with the FreeRunner in the past two years is that Harald Welte and friends started OsmocomBB, a project to create free software for the GSM modem built into the FreeRunner and many old feature-phones. I haven't tried it yet due to lack of time. While at the Chaos Communication Camp 2011 I learnt about the blackbox that SIM cards are (video), which hopefully OsmocomBB has a chance to protect against. AFAIK nothing else has changed to improve software freedom on the FreeRunner, the WiFi, GPS and other parts still contain non-free software with no chance of a replacement in sight.
Since then I am still using the same wireless router and ADSL modem and I wasn't brave enough to try replacing their software. I still use gmail out of intertia, but I at least have started using offlineimap to prepare for the day when I will move away from it. I still use Google Maps, mainly for searching for public transport routes. With my recent travels in Europe I encountered many places where OpenStreetMap has much better coverage than Google. One nice thing about Google Maps adding public transport information is that public transport organisations have been publishing public data feeds for Google to consume. Apparently there is also a realtime variant. I also found one website using a JSON API for Google street view. The combination of these gives me hope for better support for spatial data in free software. The data (aerial and streets) will obviously remain a much longer term freeness issue though.
For flash video on the web get-flash-videos appeared and made it even easier to ignore flash, especially since I got a few patches added to it. In addition Swfdec died but Gnash improved enough to replace it. Lightspark was also created but has so far been pretty buggy and unstable. Free RAR v3 format support appeared in the form of TheUnarchiver. The Voxware audio codec and DigiTrakker MDL files are still not supported by Rhythmbox. Unicode has been updated and so now Debian doesn't support every script fully. I still manage to avoid Skype. The nouveau drivers have matured enough to provide 3D support, multi-monitor support and general stability for the one nVidia card I used in the past two years.
Overall, I'm reasonably happy with my level of software freedom. My main strategy for preventing regressions in my software freedom remains to just avoid doing things that require non-free software. The most problematic FLOSS issues for me are embedded software, spatial data support and Flash support. Please feel free to contact me with any comments or questions.
Happy Software Freedom Day everyone!