Achieving Freedom but For Real

In another topic, I pointed out that I was using Windows and YouTube and that I felt these systems keyed me off to the possibility that PyPI is bad and shares user download information with companies like Google in a form that is not anonymized and is specific to me.

Then, @FranklyFlawless wanted to encourage me that eliminating Windows and Google from my life were more important than whether PyPI has some issue, and more important than the topic at hand in that other thread. I don’t particularly disagree, but I wanted to have a place where I could potentially continue that train of thought without derailing an existing thread that was focused on a different problem where PyPI was only tangentially related.

So, I’m creating this thread to ask about the problem of achieving freedom, but for real and I think in particular this is interesting to think about because this year I spent a lot of time trying to daily drive the Librem 5’s. I have been on a plane trip where I used my Librem 5 (with a PDF download from an email) as my plane ticket, and another trip where I used my Librem 5 (with a PDF download) as my train ticket, and I also have been using my Librem 5 (and Librem 14, and whatever else) as a 2-factor auth system for unlocking my work despite work using proprietary Android garbage – because I stuck the Android garbage in a proprietary-contaminated VPS that I operate remotely because I didn’t see any other way to escape its attempt to mandate Android/iOS on my life.

And so I’ve made some interesting strides in trying to live a lifestyle where I go here and there with a Librem 5 in my pocket, but as I obtained new devices to work towards freedom I have not yet destroyed or discarded my old devices.
I also work remotely for my job, and had an interesting experience where I was interested in doing an entirely free software lifestyle where at one point I realized I could stop installing the proprietary work VPN by instead installing it inside of a VM and connecting to work from the VM, and later that same day I was informed that work was moving to a different style of work remote where they would provide me hardware and instead of using my own hardware, now it was time to use hardware they provided going forward and they mailed me a laptop that I am now using for my job, because that is what I was asked to do (on the same day that I realized I could just work from within a VPN).

But in all of that there is an interesting case to be made that I only experienced escaping while not actually escaping, because I never discarded my expensive Windows gaming PC nor my Android phone, and instead I have been “telling my Android phone to tell me it was powered off,” as they say, and then just still using Windows when I felt like using a system with my $1700 nVidia card in it that could run four 4k monitors at a time, or more recently sometimes only 1 or 2 of the 4k monitors, but still as a powerful solves-all.

Probably as the worst offender, and maybe the reason I can successfully daily drive the Librem 5 while others cannot, is that my phone plan is provided through Google Fi. And what that means is that all the texts are intercepted and sent to a Google server, and that I can read them from under my Google account, so texting is effectively a browser app that runs on anything. When my bank called me, and I answered on the Librem 5 and the bank man could not hear me, I called him back from a Windows machine where I could have a nice conversation because the processor isn’t throttled by “free software.” I recognize there is some manner of hypocrisy in that, but I wanted to have a phone conversation. And that was an exceedingly effective, reliable way for me to have a phone conversation while still expunging Android from my life as much as possible.

I wrote this post today on my Librem 14 that recently arrived (on the default Epiphany browser), but now that I burned some money on my Librem 5 and this Librem 14, and that I have been using them, @FranklyFlawless is correct that the really ideal thing to do, in the spirit of free software, would be for me to physically sell off or eliminate my other hardware so that my work-mandated laptop would be the last nonfree thing that I would be using, change phone plan (I would imagine to some other non-Google thing where their server doesn’t intercept my texts and let me read and reply from any device via browser), and then delete my Google account.

But I find that very hard for me to picture actually doing. It seems like if I changed to a different cell provider and a different SIM card, multiple SIMs would no longer be free so I would only be able to have one SIM-enabled device, and that device would be the Librem 5, and then I wouldn’t be able to do a web login on the Librem 5 to load the backup and get the MMS via browser when the MMS is not receiving on Chatty. Or if my bank called me, and the Librem 5 mysteriously didn’t succeed in enabling sound, I wouldn’t be able to call the bank back from a PC.

And yet, we live in a world where I don’t really feel like a dishonest person, and I don’t really feel like someone with much to hide nor much of anyone who’s after me (no state actors, etc, at least not that I know of). You know, if I had to, I think I would be okay with it if a somebody’s Grandma showed up at my door and told me she was a retired FBI, CIA, NSA, etc employee and then stopped in with a recording of every kind of pornographic thing I ever encountered on the internet, and then quizzed me on why I encountered those things online or how I was feeling. Generally I am of the feeling that I would come away from that conversation just fine, without a changed perspective on who I am and without much fear.

And yet, there is something to fear, and that’s the bizarre thing. I do not know of any single factor – any big personal secret – that I have to hide from the world. And yet, I feel like moving to free software everywhere and as much as possible might be the only way to remain sane going forward. Almost everyone I talk to seems to appreciate that something is messed up inside our computers, and the way we humans interact with them, and yet a lot of people blame other people and not the insane data-mining and machine learning we are running on every part of society that data miners can gobble up.

Engulfed in the infinite access to information, somehow it seems to become harder and harder for anybody to even know what is true and what is not. The US Congress interviewed a former US intelligence officer who said under oath that a secret group of individuals is receiving government funding without government oversight, and that they are using that funding to “reverse engineer technology from a non-human origin intelligence.” More recently the same former US government intelligence officer appeared on a podcast and described – without giving exact information – that as a form of scare tactic, the secret group of individuals who wanted him to stop going public with what he was saying sent US officials into his house to physically molest him in front of his wife, to show how he had no option but to comply.

I’m just a single adult male, but if I ever found a woman, I feel like it’s that same reality of thinking that if I knew the truth about what was going on around here and who is at the heart of modern human decision making, then they would show up and molest me in front of my wife so that I wouldn’t tell anyone what they were doing. And I don’t think I talked to anybody else who even believed this story of these tales that I happened to encounter on the internet in my personal life, and yet I can’t seem to find any government statement saying that this stuff is totally and absolutely false – or that they put that former official in jail for perjury since he stated to the US congress that a secret group of individuals was collecting “non-human technology.”

So, coming back to reality for a bit, we have this problem where everyone is starting to disagree on reality and I think a common factor is the abusive tech. It makes me really glad to be sitting at a Librem 14 right now. Maybe Purism is a government psyop too, but if they are we’re already so far gone that it’s more fun to pretend I was trying (by spending time on Purism products) than it is to simply give up and get sucked into an Android phone screen for the rest of my life, as though my life didn’t have value.

And thus, I feel like I understand that Frankly is totally and absolutely right. And yet, it doesn’t make sense to me that we should have to give up on the functionality of our machines in order to escape the cosmic boogeyman hiding his alien spaceships who comes to molest us in our homes. I went to college, and I got a computer science degree at a respectable university, and then I went and lived alone and became so profoundly frustrated with my favorite piece of proprietary software (and perhaps enthralled by YouTube) that to show off to the world I wrote like many thousands of lines of code (based on the works of others, to be fair) that allows me to simulate the Warcraft video game from my childhood that I enjoyed so much, but on the Librem 14 laptop without any WINE nor any of that garbage nor any proprietary software.

And so, I think maybe that’s what I might go do after writing this post – maybe I shall play the emulator of Warcraft that is composed of my open source code and the works of others, written across the past 8 or 12 years – and revel in how I have free software, and can therefore entertain myself meanwhile the official Warcraft strategy game forum has been filled for years with descriptions of the suffering of those who chose to use proprietary software, while the hope for the goodwill of their fellow man is sucked from their bones, and on at least one occasion when they realize that the original game did an update to self-destruct and now they can’t play it I have seen someone there literally post “There is no God,” and yet I know that because I believed in free software and tried for so long, I win, and I can play a game.

But just as soon as I win, I have also lost, because my choice of language for my work was wrong, and so many other things were tainted (shouldn’t it all have been GNU C++?), and maybe I haven’t the time or inspiration to rewrite/port it all again.

So I know and acknowledge that some of the things I wrote here are just silly, and maybe I was being over-dramatic to try to express a feeling, but it seems possible that I might be both some kind of psyop Purism wanna-be who isn’t pure, but also that humanly I appreciate that I should kill off the Big Tech in my life.

And I was wondering about others. Do you tell your Android or iOS devices to “tell you that they are powered down,” or do you trash them completely and live with only a Librem 5 to be morally and ethically consistent? What do you do when you want the awesome power of a $1700 nVidia card but you know it’s incompatible with nouveau?

Maybe I’m polling for moral support on decisions that are actually easy to identify but difficult to execute, but I’m curious about the opinions of others. This message has gotten too long so I totally get it if you reply without having read it all. But how can we obliterate the feeling that we have to cling to our nonfree stuff?

Anyway, I’m off to go play a strategy game I wrote that isn’t quite Warcraft, where I expect I shall see a perfect 60 FPS unlike when I ran my code on my stupid $2700 Microsoft Surface, because Microsoft sucks and their tablet laptop with an nvidia card inside can’t hold a candle to the performance I get running the same code on a Librem 14 despite it having no GPU for some reason I don’t know, because Microsoft is stupid and their proprietary stupid code is out of control.


I read your entire post (twice).

I do not have either anyone; only the Librem 5 USA and Librem 14 are left.

I cannot justify it due to compatibility and security reasons with Qubes OS. If I did, I would have to physically isolate it so that it does not affect the rest of my setup.

I have thought about acquiring separate System76 products with a discrete GPU many times before, but I have greater priorities now and a tighter budget for them.

You replace it with a healthier relationship, where your decision to voluntarily leave it is respected at all times.

Also, I flagged your post you mentioned earlier about our conversation so that it can be split into a different thread, but it looks like it has not been done yet.

If you are serious about achieving freedom, but for real, explicitly select a target to eliminate first, then we can formulate steps to seizing your power back. I suggest choosing either your Windows computer or this Google fiasco, whichever one feels most abusive/crippling/debilitating.

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It turns out I was wrong about nouveau. Seems like after I got used to thinking it didn’t work on my hardware, somebody fixed it. I popped a spare drive that had PureOS installed into the tower and booted and it got to the desktop just fine.

With that in mind, on the surface level the Windows thing seems much easier to fix than the Google thing, since me having a working phone number for all the crazy systems in the world that want 2factor auth depends on other people’s systems and services, and breaking it might affect my job in a way that the big PC doesn’t anymore now that I can’t even use it for work.

But on a deeper level, I have 10-12 GB of disorganized personal data created under Windows, and it is littered with temptations to go back to proprietary software. But it at least offfers the illusion of control, because I control which system it boots into. I suppose, yet again, the “for real” issue relates to the idea that it would be better for me to destroy the current Windows install than to have a dual boot system, because otherwise I would always want to boot back to if I have a problem with some system not working.


If you are willing and able to have a landline, some places that “require” SMS 2FA can also make a voice robocall to supply the code. And for voice conversations, they are willing to call you back at the number they have on record. Since you just called them and got their name and you recognize the voice, you know it is them even though they called you.


That is why I have a PureOS image on a USB drive as a rescue disk. It is a major benefit to using Linux, as you get to try out all sorts of distributions.

Sort your files out, place them on a spare USB drive, DAS, or microSD card, wipe Windows, then transfer your files to your Librem 14, or alternatively, Librem 5 Liberty. You can also just keep it on the storage media.

Just for comparison, whenever I go through a purge cleanup, I always keep my KeypassXC database, and rarely keep anything else. I follow a simple rule: if it is easily replaceable, delete it.

Sorry, I said 10-12GB but I meant 10-12 TB. Honestly might be like 15 TB. (If I sum all the drives.)

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Follow my simple rule and it will quickly shrink; you will learn what is important or not.

Wait, which simple rule?

Speaking of freedom, it seems my Librem 14 is calling home to when it boots before I personally run any software.

If this is really freedom, how do I turn that off, assuming I don’t care what features I kill off, and I just don’t feel like informing Amazon when my laptop is running?

Well, there are many approaches to dealing with something like that, but I would keep the hardware kill switches active until I need to use the Internet; this is how I use Qubes OS.

If you want more ideas, consider a Pi-Hole, OpenSnitch, and/or administrating your own DNS recursive resolver.

Hmm, sorry that I did not see your simple rule the first time there. Seems a bit hypocritical of me that I was able to pass over it. I might go sleep on it.

Anyway, regarding the issues I was facing with automatic Amazon connections, it seemed like the issue was geoclue but I tried to uninstall libgeoclue along with geoclue and I’m writing this from the browser but I think I just uninstalled a lot of packages including gdm and pureos-gnome automatically, because I got in the habit of entering Y on apt before carefully reading and all of those depended on libgeoclue, so this might be the end of what I can do on my Librem 14 for a while.

Maybe I’ll go use gentoo for a while or something. Last time it took me a month to install, but its controls were fairly free.

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Sure, your liberation is dictated by your own pace.

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Is there a link somewhere to which FSF-endorsed distros would use a package manager that only installs by having the user compile their own components, so that the end result would be like better gentoo that didn’t recommend or suggest proprietary software?

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Perhaps this one:

My hunch is that this is what you are looking for:

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That would appear to be Mozilla Location Services (MLS).

It may be sufficient to reconfigure geoclue to disable use of WiFi i.e. in /etc/geoclue/geoclue.conf whereas deinstalling geoclue may be overkill (as well as potentially breaking something).

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Correct, and as mentioned in other threads, Mozilla feels no qualms using Amazon or Google servers for their (backend) services, to the shock and dismay of privacy-conscientious users; even the LibreWolf team do not consider it to be a big deal.

Cool. I was using the default Epiphany on my Librem 14 and did not install Firefox yet, but I guess Mozilla feels like that shouldn’t matter either.

It seems like my device is running after uninstalling geoclue the service, as long as I reinstalled libgeoclue. I tried to uninstall geoclue but it seems it is installed again, so I guess I didn’t solve my issue yet. Need to do some more traffic captures.

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I use + xmpp clients, which is awesome for freedom, relative to a number through a phone company, but, tragically, I cannot recommend it for reliability/functionality.

The best GNU/Linux xmpp client, dino, does not perform calls reliably. Frustratingly enough, the only xmpp client that does calls reliably–and, in fact, does calls beautifully well–is Conversations, which runs on Android :man_facepalming: :man_facepalming: :man_facepalming: :angry: :angry: :sob: :sob: :sob: Some day, perhaps Purism will solve this with gnome-calls, by implementing xmpp functionality in a way that works well, but I have not seen this yet.

Guix is, by far, my favorite GNU/Linux distro that I have used, and I have used a fair number of them. The unique ability of Guix to roll back any system/package-installation change effortlessly is an absolutely killer feature. Say goodbye to the fear of bricking your system by making basic config changes–you can always roll them back. Additionally, being a fully-free OS is amazing, as is having no systemd!

However, Guix is not for everyone. Because of Guix’s lack of systemd and unique configuration paradigm (all your configuration goes in a single Lisp file! Amazing!), Some packages ported from other systems will not work correctly, because they do not correctly interact with system libraries, expected config file locations, lack of systemd, or all of the above.

Additionally, Guix is a rolling distro, like Arch, which is great for having the latest software, but expect stuff to break regularly. This is not as big of a deal in Guix, because changes can always be safely rolled-back, but it can be a nuisance. At some point, I hope Guix will be easy to install on Arm64 devices, so I can try it on the Librem 5, but that is not the case for now.


Dear weirdnerd you what is Good!

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Here is what I know about your concept of freedom so far:

  • You want control of all installed applications and packages.
  • You do not want to be tracked by Amazon under the facilitation of Mozilla.

In this case, you may not want to use FSF recommended distributions, because one of their requirements is to reject non-free software on every users behalf. However, other distributions may not necessarily treat your privacy as sacred. Another idea is to send feedback to Purism about hosting their own location services for PureOS instead of using Mozilla Location Services, or alternatively, you formulate a solution yourself.

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I’m confused about what you’re trying to say in your latest post here. Do you mean that if someone only uses FSF-endorsed technology, as a result they cannot escape Amazon tracking or cannot control what software runs on their computer?

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