The blogroll running down the right-hand side of this page has become one of the more important parts of this project. At a glance, you can see a wide range of organisations, software, and online tools that Disintermedia supports, works with, uses, or endorses. I do my best to keep all the links are up-to-date, and make sure those who add relevant and important news regularly to their site are listed under “blogroll” as well as under the appropriate category for the kind of project they are. If you would like your organisation or project added to the Disintermedia blogroll, please feel free to get in contact, and tell us why.

Linkrot (links which break due to sites going down, domains not being re-registered, or sites changing their url scheme) is a problem for any list of links, and blogrolls are no exception. I’ve been adding a lot of new (or newly discovered) organisations to the blogroll since coming back online in May, and today I decided to go through and prune it; update or delete any dead links from the list, remove blogs which appear to be abandoned, and so on. Ideally, the resulting list gives the casual browser a snapshot of how people are organsing around digital rights, deep democracy, permaculture and transition, and the various other topics of interest to Disintermedia. Enjoy!

Filed August 16th, 2015 under Uncategorized

Update 03/03/2017: Turns out that Apertium and OpenTrad are the same thing under the hood. My bad. Well, Wikipedia’s bad, but my bad for not checking the info I got from them more thoroughly (I ought to know better ;)

———————————–

Today, I decided to look for a free code platform for machine translation. I can’t seem to find it right now, but I’m sure I remember reading somewhere that every time I feed a translation into Google Translate, I’m helping Google improve their proprietary translation software, and that’s not something I really want to do, if there’s a free code alternative.

So, off to DuckDuckGo I went, but most of the translation links I found made no effort to indicate whether or not their platform supports software freedom. In the end, I found what I was looking for in the FSF Free Software Directory, an online machine translation platform called Apertium, whose back-end software is all licensed under the GNU GPLv2.

Initially, I was just looking for a translation for a simple phrase, but as a quick test, I cut and pasted the first couple of paragraphs of the draft of this blog post into Apertium, and translated it into Espanol. Then I cut and pasted that Espanol translation back into Apertium, and translated it back into English. The result was readable, if not perfect English, about as good as anything I’ve seen using Google Translate.

A quick skim of the Apertium page on Wikipedia offered a link to a comparison of machine translation applications, which offered a few more free code options, some of which also have online demos, including OpenTrad, Moses, and Anusaaraka (intended for translation between Indian languages and English). Apertium and OpenTrad were the most usable, and admittedly there are not yet as many language pairs each can translate between, compared to the Google software. But just as OpenStreetMap started out a fairly poor cousin to Google Maps, but has made rapid progress towards parity, I’m confident the free code translation portals can do the same, and as with the maps, it can only help if we make an effort to use and promote them.

Filed August 16th, 2015 under free software

In 2010, I deleted my FaceBook account, and for the most part I’ve never looked back. Sure, my family and friends have continued to use it, and I miss out on seeing the gossip and photos and they post there. But I don’t miss the flood of trivia it used to subject me to, nor the invasions of privacy, the censorship of messages, the gatekeeping of news sources, or the tollgates it has erected to start monetizing our communication.

Then there’s the sale of my personal data to all and sundry. For example, today, in the Electronic Privacy Information Center blog, I read that FB have applied for a patent on a technique for letting banks and other “lenders” scrape the FB activity of you and your friends to help them decide whether or not to extend you credit. Just one more reason to abandon FB. Not bothered? Free Software GNUru founder Richard Stallman has compiled a long list (with links to evidence) of good reasons not to be used by FB.

Yet, according to the Atlantic, so many people still use FB that oldmedia organisations like the New York Times are planning to publish directly to FB. I suspect the numbers the Atlantic article quotes are much higher than the reality, because people who reject FB are also rejecting the tracking and surveillance which has become all too normal on the net. By using privacy respecting browsers like GNU IceCat and Dooble, and other tools like TOR and VPN (Virtual Private Networks), non-FB users tend to make their browsing habits much harder to collect statistics on.

So if you don’t want to use FB, but you still want to connect with people online, share information, and participate in community, what are the alternatives?

Despite all the talk about flashy new software projects like Diaspora, the  “federated social network” I’ve used most since I left FB is email. Admittedly, that’s been GMail for a few years, but I’m in the process of transitioning off all my Google dependencies, as I did with Yahoo a few years ago, and ultimately, I will be deleting my Google account, as I did with FB. Watch this space. I also find myself spending more and more time on Loomio.org, which is designed as a group decision-making tool, but as more people join, and more groups pop up, it has the potential to become a very interesting kind of social networking site. Speaking of Loomio, the Diaspora Community are one group using their tool for community decision-making. I did try Diaspora briefly a few years ago, but gave up when I couldn’t figure out how to add a contact. Folks on the Trisquel forum recommend a Diaspora “pod” called pod.orkz.net, so I might give that a try.

I did use Identi.ca for a while, as a way of pumping messages at my friends on Twitter without using its proprietary interface, but it stopped being useful to me when they switched to pump.io, instead of StatusNet (which was gifted to GNU Social), and the Twitter-bridge stopped working. I’ve since started using another GNU Social/ StatusNet site, Quitter, which now sends my “Queets” across the Twitter-bridge, to where the Twitterverse can criticise them. I’ve also signed up for a Tent account, but I have no idea what it’s for, or how to use it yet.

Today, thanks to a post from Natural News, I discovered Seen.is, a new social networking service from the crew behind the Unseen.is encrypted chat system. I signed up for Seen, and will be testing both in the coming months. I’m also going to make an effort settle on an XMPP address, and make sure I have an XMPP client turned on regularly, so people can talk chat to me. To be honest, the live chat integration is one of a handful of innovative features which has kept me using GMail for so long, and I will miss it.

Back in 2010, I was planning to maintain a research project on free code alternatives to FB, codenamed Fyre Exyt. This turned out to be a much bigger project that I imagined. What I’ve realised is that FB is not a piece of software. It is a website, that ties together a swiss army knife of different software tools - address book, status messages, email, chat, calendar, news etc - under one interface, and one username and password; one ring to rule them all. Some of these already have federated free code alternatives with well-established protocols (email, chat). In other cases, there are app alternatives but no established protocol for secure connecting or sharing (address book), or vice-versa. In some cases, such as calendar, there are both free code apps (eg Evolution, Lightening), and an established protocol (iCal), but there seems to be a lack of freedom-respecting calendar hosts. Each of these areas needs its own research project, and I hope to work with other groups who support the federation principle, like Autonomous, GNU Social, and the P2P Foundation, to really make this research useful.

BTW If you support the campaign to  boycott FaceBook, use #FarceBook on every social media site you use.

Yesterday, I tried displaying the desktop from Toutatis (Trisquel 6 GNU+LINUX) on my laptop ((BISHOP)) onto a Konka digital television, using the VGA socket on the back, and the VGA cable from my docking monitor. I tried hotswapping it (plugging it in with both the TV and laptop already on), but it didn’t like it. all I got my zebra static.

Tonight, I got around to trying again with the Belenos (Trisquel 7) install dual-booted on the same machine. This time I shutdown both devices first, then turned on the TV first, and as loon as the status light turned from red to green, turned the laptop on. Eureka! Trisquel displayed usably, mirroring the laptop screen onto the TV. I still want to check if Trisquel 6 can do the same thing, if I turn them on in the same order.

Next, I decided to have a go with the Geebox-on-a-stick I made a couple of years ago, on a 2GB USB thumb drive (SanDisk Cruzer Blade). Geexbox is a GNU+Linux live distro. The latest version is 3.1, which came out in 2013, but my thumb drive was made with 2.0, with XBMC (now Kodi) as the default interface. It worked a treat too. Actually, it seemed to run better with the larger screen plugged in than it normally does on this laptop!

I just found some 2011 instructions for installing GeexBox on a USB device. It mentions UNetBootin (now hosted on GITHub), which is what I usually use, but it suggests letting UNetBootin download the .ISO file for you, and asserts that they have made GeexBox compatible with the option to:

Space used to preserve files across reboots“. While being declare as “Ubuntu only“, we made GeeXboX support this option, allowing you to reserve some dedicated space on your USB key (will be reserved under a file named casper-rw on your USB disk). This is what we call persistent data storage, and is a really useful feature that allows all configuration changes, database, saved pictures and such media parts to remain after reboots.”

I intend to make a new GeexBox-3.1-on-a-stick, using a 16GB stick (DSE) which I’ve already split into three partitions, letting UNetBootin download the .ISO. Will be interested to see if this works with the TV, and if not, whether reformatting back to one partition and install 3.1 works.

Once I get a new GeexBox stick working, I might use the 2GB stick for the latest version of a utility like GParted Live, or Xpud. I thought about Tails, but an installation article published last year was already talking about a 4BG minimum partition size.

Edit: The latest UNetbootin makes no mention of GeexBox, at least within Trisquel 6. Maybe this is a Trisquel fork of UNetbootin which only includes distros with 100% free code? Neither GeexBox 3.1 or 2.0 worked on the DSE stick (Xpud is one of the few distros I’ve got to work on a partitioned USB). I did get a Clonezilla live disk booted from the 2GB stick, although I haven’t fully tested it yet.

Filed August 6th, 2015 under free software

I’m sure I’ve blogged about the problems I’ve had getting any voice chat app working in GNU/Linux on my Acer Aspire One laptop, but I can’t seem to find the posts rights now. Anyone, it’s been a persistent problem with every distro I’ve tried on this laptop, and every voice chat app I’ve tried (Skype, Hangouts, Mumble, Subrosa.io, Talky.io, and others). The video conferencing features always work fine, just not the voice. It’s a weird and confusing bug, as I have always been able to use Sound Recorder to record my voice using the built-in mic, so I knew it wasn’t a hardware problem, or a driver problem.

Anyway, I recently installed a fresh instance of Trisquel 7, and decided to try Mumble on that. Eureka! Took a little bit of playing around with the sound input settings to get it working well, but the Mumble audio wizard was very helpful with that.

Thanks heaps to the Trisquel maintainers, and the developers of Mumble/ Murmur (Mumble is the client, Murmur is the server), for creating tools allowing me to voice conference in full software freedom! Next step is to see if I can get a free code video conferencing app working.

Filed August 4th, 2015 under free software
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