Tech corporations are taking over the field of education by pushing their proprietary products into educational institutions of all levels. Proprietary applications loaded with malicious functionalities such as surveillance and collection of sensitive personal data—among many others—are being imposed on schools’ staff, teachers, students, and even parents. With the rapid expansion of online teaching, these proprietary educational technologies not only spread dramatically across schools, but they went from the classroom to the home.

This is not to say that educational technology is a bad approach per se. The problem arises when the software used in EdTech is nonfree, meaning it denies students the rights that free software grants all users.

Nonfree EdTech fails to assist the learning process by forbidding students to study the programs they are required to use, thus opposing the very nature and purpose of education. It does not allow school administrators and teachers to safeguard students’ rights by forbidding them to inspect the source code of the programs they run. It does not enable parents to make sure their children are protected from surveillance, data collection, and other mistreatment by the owner of the proprietary program.

Proprietary video conferencing software, as well as other nonfree programs, are tethered to online dis-services that collect large amounts of personal data. The school may have to agree to the company’s unjust terms of dis-service. The school, in turn, will typically force students to create an account on the dis-service, which includes agreeing to the terms.

EdTech companies are already developing great power over the students in the schools where they operate, and it will get worse. They use their surveillance power to manipulate students by customizing learning materials in the same way they customize ads and pieces of news. This way, they direct students into tracks towards various levels of knowledge, power and prestige.

These companies also structure their terms and conditions so that they are never held responsible for the consequences.

This article argues that these companies should get licenses to operate. That wouldn’t hurt, but it doesn’t address the root of the problem. All data acquired in a school about any student, teacher, or employee, must not leave the school’s control: whatever computers store the data must belong to the school and run free software. That way the school district and/or parents can control what it does with those data.

Join us in the fight against the use of nonfree software in schools.


This writing is copyrighted to GNU Education Team and GNU.org web site, licensed under CC BY-SA.

Many publishers often refer to copying they don’t approve of as “piracy.” In this way, they imply that it is ethically equivalent to attacking ships on the high seas, kidnapping and murdering the people on them. Based on such propaganda, they have procured laws in most of the world to forbid copying in most (or sometimes all) circumstances. (They are still pressuring to make these prohibitions more complete.)

The supporters of a too-strict, repressive form of copyright often use words like “stolen” and “theft” to refer to copyright infringement. This is spin, but they would like you to take it for objective truth.

Unauthorized copying is forbidden by copyright law in many circumstances (not all!), but being forbidden doesn’t make it wrong. In general, laws don’t define right and wrong. Laws, at their best, attempt to implement justice. If the laws (the implementation) don’t fit our ideas of right and wrong (the spec), the laws are what should change.

People should have right to copy and share what they own. When you purchase something you should be able to do whatever you want with it and that means you should be able to copy it, share it, keep it secret, use it as you wish, burn or destroy it, or even throw it away without using it. If it’s yours, it should work as you wish, not as someone else says.

Many refer to copying as piracy or theft to manipulate you so you think you’re doing something ethically wrong but copying is not theft. In theft, you take something from somewhere or someone but with copying you’re just creating a new piece of that thing.

Imagine your car gets stolen but it’s still there!

If you don’t believe that copying not approved by the publisher is just like kidnapping and murder, you might prefer not to use the word “piracy” to describe it. Neutral terms such as “unauthorized copying” (or “prohibited copying” for the situation where it is illegal) are available for use instead. Some of us might even prefer to use a positive term such as “sharing information with your neighbor.”

A US judge, presiding over a trial for copyright infringement, recognized that “piracy” and “theft” are smear-words.


Part of this post is taken from GNU.org web site.

Swartz in 2012 protesting against the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) (licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0)

November 8 is Aaron Swartz’s birthday. He was involved in the development of the web feed format RSS, the Markdown publishing format, and the organization Creative Commons. He is also a co-founder of Reddit.

Born in 1986, his work focused on civic awareness and activism. He helped launch the Progressive Change Campaign Committee in 2009 to learn more about effective online activism.

Sadly, he was charged with two counts of wire fraud and eleven violations of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, carrying a cumulative maximum penalty of 1 million dollars in fines, 35 years in prison, asset forfeiture, restitution, and supervised release. Swartz declined a plea bargain under which he would have served six months in federal prison. Two days after the prosecution rejected a counter-offer by Swartz, he was found dead by suicide in his Brooklyn apartment. In 2013, Swartz was inducted posthumously into the Internet Hall of Fame.

I suggest watching “The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz” documentary video. It features interviews with his family and friends as well as the internet luminaries who worked with him. The film tells his story up to his eventual suicide after a legal battle, and explores the questions of access to information and civil liberties that drove his work.


Part of this post is taken from Wikipedia’s article “Aaron Swartz“.

Charles R. Garry, left, Black Panther attorney, accused San Francisco Mayor Joseph Alioto of provoking incidents that led to disorders in the Black Fillmore district in San Francisco, Monday, April 29, 1969. Garry, in a wheel chair at Mt. Zion Hospital where he will undergo surgery, is shown at press conference with Black Panther Bobby Seale, minister of information, and Kathleen Cleaver. (AP Photo/Ernest Bennett)
Charles R. Garry, left, Black Panther attorney, accused San Francisco Mayor Joseph Alioto of provoking incidents that led to disorders in the Black Fillmore district in San Francisco, Monday, April 29, 1969. Garry, in a wheel chair at Mt. Zion Hospital where he will undergo surgery, is shown at press conference with Black Panther Bobby Seale, minister of information, and Kathleen Cleaver. (AP Photo/Ernest Bennett)

October 22 is Robert George Seale (aka Bobby Seale) birthday. He is a political activist and author famously known for co-founding the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense, which its main practice was monitoring police activities and challenging police brutality in Black communities, first in Oakland, California, and later in cities throughout the United States.

Seale was one of the Chicago Eight charged by the US federal government with conspiracy charges related to anti-Vietnam War protests in Chicago, Illinois, during the 1968 Democratic National Convention. In that trial, Seale was infamously ordered by the judge, Julius Hoffman, to appear in court bound and gagged.

He is a hero to all black people, dedicating his life to free black people from systemic injustice and discrimination. The Black Panther Party, which he founded with fellow Huey P. Newton, instituted the Free Breakfast for Children Programs to address food injustice, and community health clinics for education and treatment of diseases including sickle cell anemia, tuberculosis, and later HIV/AIDS. It advocated for class struggle, with the party representing the proletarian vanguard.

Scholars have characterized the Black Panther Party as the most influential black movement organization of the late 1960s, and “the strongest link between the domestic Black Liberation Struggle and global opponents of American imperialism”.

Since 2013, Seale has been seeking to produce a screenplay he wrote based on his autobiography, Seize the Time: The Eighth Defendant. Seale co-authored Power to the People: The World of the Black Panthers, a 2016 book with photographer Stephen Shames.

In 2020, Seale was portrayed by Yahya Abdul-Mateen II in Aaron Sorkin’s film, The Trial of the Chicago 7. In 2021, Seale is mentioned in the movie Judas and the Black Messiah by a policeman commenting on a drawing of him tied up at the trial.

Happy birthday Bobby. May we reach the goals you’re fighting for.

Today is the first Global Encryption Day. On this day, we ask people to Make the Switch to encrypted services like Tor. Encryption is our most vital and important tool against surveillance and privacy/security-violating services and programs.

Our digital life is secured and private because of encryption. Encryption allows us to survive the dangerous time we’re living in. When our data is collected in every way possible, encryption makes us able to fight; to fight for our lives, fight for our privacy, fight for our security, fight for our freedoms, and fight for our rights.

When governments and organizations/corporations are trying hard to profile us in any way possible, encryption makes us able to resist. When everybody is trying to violate our privacy, or jeopardize our basic human rights, encryption makes us able to resist.

On Global Encryption Day we ask people to switch to encrypted services and programs:

  • For instant messaging, I use XMPP which is encrypted by OMEMO,
  • For voice/video calls, I use Jitsi, which has end-to-end encryption,
  • I only use web sites that encrypt my connection using TLS (HTTPS),
  • I use GNU+Linux operating system which lets me encrypt my computers’ hard drive,
  • I use LUKS/LVM to encrypt my portable hard drives,
  • I use GPG/PGP to encrypt my emails,
  • I use KeePassXC which encrypts my password vault,
  • I use Nextcloud which encrypts my files on the cloud,
  • and I use many more services and programs use encryption to make sure I’m private and secure.

In honor of this inaugural Global Encryption Day, the Tor Project, along with 148 other organizations and businesses have signed the Global Encryption Day Statement, calling on governments and businesses to reject efforts to undermine encryption and instead pursue policies that enhance, strengthen, and promote use of strong encryption to protect people everywhere.

As an individual, you can get involved with Global Encryption Day by:

Picture of two kids. The left one didn't receive the smallpox vaccine and has smallpox all over him, the right one has received the vaccine and is not infected.
The right kid received the smallpox vaccine, the left one hasn’t.

This is a genuine photograph that was taken in the early 1900s by Dr. Allan Warner of the Isolation Hospital at Leicester in the UK. Warner photographed a number of smallpox patients in order to study the disease.

The two photographed boys were the same age and both had smallpox. The only difference is that one of them was vaccinated and the other was not. The smallpox vaccine was one of the oldest man-made vaccines that many people refused to inject due to fear and superstition, and as a result the disease was not completely eradicated.

Dr. Warner believed that the best way to challenge fear and misinformation about vaccination was to show the horror of the disease and the clear evidence of vaccination in the workplace through photography. Smallpox was eradicated worldwide after widespread vaccination in the 1960s and 1970s in the early 1980s.

The Internet Archive has digitized the atlas of clinical medicine, surgery, and pathology. From page 426, you can see various pictures that anti-vaxxers probably don’t want you to see.

Vaccination has helped us to survive, and it’ll do the same in future.

Pavel Durov, founder and CEO of Telegram messenger, say that they shut down three Telegram channels that incited violence against doctors and health officials.

There’s a sentence at the end of his note, he said “It’s OK to fight for your rights. It’s not OK to harm other people.”

Censorship restricts us from actually knowing what was the target, what it meant to do, and how would it impact people’s lives. Censorship restricts us from knowing what was the intention and was it good or bad. Another problem with censorship is that it doesn’t actually change the world outside.

Those who say we should harm a doctor who says we should lock up unvaccinated people, will do it eventually in a way. Censoring their belief won’t change them, it even can’t stop spreading such ideas. Nobody, absolutely nobody, will think that “maybe I’m wrong” after being censored.

None of their audience won’t think “maybe I shouldn’t listen to that person” after censoring that person. We don’t (and won’t) see such thing in real world.

Censorship is usually a form of surrender to power, which is understandable, but some people like Durov want to justify their surrender with a moral view. They want to hide behind one moral issue in order to hide another immorality. Like, if I didn’t do it, something would’ve happened to people; wrong Pavel, you just censored a channel, you didn’t change any view.

One would argue that censoring such channels would stop spreading such ideas. I would argue that one who wants to spread this kind of ideas would find its ways. They won’t be restricted or limited to one Telegram channel and Telegram is not the only place for them, it’s not even the safest.

Do you really think censoring people will stop their belief and ideas from spreading? Have you learned nothing from history?

Often when we tell someone that what one is referring to an specific ideology is not correct, they argue that whenever they criticize our ideology, we tell them the same thing: This is not real [ideology]!

That is because we can’t control people. People are free and because of that freedom, they do stuff. One is to talk freely and a consequence of that is that they ca claim they’re followers of an ideology. When the number of those people grow, people naturally see those people as a mirror of what that ideology is.

For example, many people see Stalin and some other dictators as how communism works. Or see crazy anti-men people as feminists, or see nerdy insecure people as computer programmers.

An ideology has specific set of principles and rules. Everyone can claim they’re followers of an ideology but unless you follow those specific principles, you’re not truly that ideologist.

When people tell you they’re follower of an ideology, or when you want to judge an ideology based on those who claim to be its followers, you have to first understand the principles of that ideology and judge whether those people are following those principles.

Yes. Most of the times what you see is not the real and correct implementation of that ideology, simply because the principles of that ideology are ignored. Be smart about this.

The last two years were difficult for everybody. Well not everybody, many capitalists got richer because of the situation and many lived an easy life because of their wealth. But it was pretty hard for rest of us. The crisis is still ongoing and many still are in danger or face restrictions.

Honestly, my life hasn’t been much changed much. I spend most of my time alone and I don’t have much to do with people. Socializing is not my thing and I have a very small circle of friends. I’ve traveled during this time and I have spent some time with my family, like I always did. So not much changes here.

I appreciate being alive and I appreciate every big and small thing happened in my life which formed the current me. However, I’ve been thinking about how I’m here where I am and found out that every small thing happened in my life were as effective as every major one. Every small thing changed me a little and directed me to where I’m standing.

In fact, if it wasn’t for those small things, I wouldn’t be here. I appreciate small joys of my life. I appreciate them as much as I appreciate every other small major happiness or sadness I experienced or am going to experience.

For example, since 2012 when I got familiar with free software, I admired what Richard Stallman does and now I get the chance of working with him in GNU Project, directly. Or since about a year ago, Alexandre Oliva follows me on a social network I’m in.

I love the happiness I feel when I buy new clothes. I love the happiness I feel when I but a new accessory for myself. I feel alive when I eat a new food. I feel joy when someone thanks me for what I did for them. Like, every week, I get few messages from people who are new in free software movement and they tell me they’re contributing to the movement because my work inspired them; that makes me feel I’m the coolest person alive.

I enjoy my life with these little things. Small things that may not matter for anybody else. I enjoy being alive exactly for these little stuff. I know the day I don’t get happy for these small stupid stuff, I’m not alive any more.

I’m very happy that I can write a blog. I’m very happy that I can talk to people I love. I’m very happy to have few very good friends. I’m very happy I own my own business and I work with people I like.

I’m very happy because I can go to beach. I’m very happy because I give love to people. I’m very happy because I help those in need. I’m very happy because I have no regrets, I know I did what I could, maybe I could do better, maybe not, but I have no regrets.

I’m happy, I’m hopeful, and I’m alive.

I always encourage people to use RSS or Atom feeds to subscribe to people’s blogs but many people need an introduction and explanation about RSS and Atom.

Let’s talk about RSS, as it’s not much different with Atom. RSS is basically a web feed that is readable by computers. A web feed is a data format used for providing users with frequently updated content. It means that whenever the blog or news feed gets updated, the user can receive the update in user’s feed aggregator.

Writers or so-called content distributors syndicate a web feed, thereby allowing users to subscribe a channel to it by adding the feed address to a feed aggregator client (also called a feed reader or a news reader).

The information could be blog entries, news headlines, or audio or video files. RSS documents usually contain complete or summarized text, metadata, and author and publishing information.

There are some distinct advantages to using RSS. Instead of visiting the individual websites, RSS feeds can help provide users with updates and information from different sites in one convenient place. For example, instead of visiting 30 websites every day, I just open my feed aggregator and hit the update button, and I get the latest published writings or media from those blogs or news sites I’m subscribed to.

With RSS, subscribing doesn’t need email! You won’t be asked to give away your email address to any blog or site, and that site won’t be able to sell your data to anyone. RSS just simply visits or opens the blog’s RSS file and checks for new writings or media, and will show it to you in a human-readable way.

Just like how you read this blog post on your web browser, but RSS gives you ability to read everything on your own computer without being forced to open my blog.

Sample of a feed aggregator program (Liferea), featuring Chris Wiegman‘s blog post.

So what is Atom?

“The Atom Syndication Format is an XML language used for web feeds, while the Atom Publishing Protocol (AtomPub or APP) is a simple HTTP-based protocol for creating and updating web resources.” That was Wikipedia. In human terms, Atom is basically RSS with extra steps.

I personally prefer Atom feeds over RSS ones because Atom benefits from on-going innovation and is a standard. The Atom Syndication Format was published as an IETF proposed standard in RFC 4287 in December 2005, and the Atom Publishing Protocol was published as RFC 5023 two years later, in October 2007.

While the RSS vocabulary has a mechanism to indicate a human language for the feed, there is no way to specify a language for individual items or text elements. Atom, on the other hand, uses the standard xml:lang attribute to make it possible to specify a language context for every piece of human-readable content in the feed.

Also, the Atom working group chose to use timestamps formatted according to the rules specified by RFC 3339 (which is a subset of ISO 8601, my favorite time format).

How to use it really?

Subscribing to blog feeds may be the easiest thing you can do with your computer. First thing you need is a feed aggregator program. I use Liferea, which is a free (libre) program. There are a lot of other programs you can install. Thunderbird and Evolution email clients come with a built-in feed aggregator. If you use Nextcloud, the Nextcloud News app is super cool. Another suggestion is Akregator which is developed by KDE.

Second, you need to go to blogs or news sites you like and grab their RSS or Atom feed URLs. They usually provide their URLs somewhere in their site, possibly using the “subscribe” or similar phrases. An easy way to detect feed URLs is using web browser add-ons. I use Feed Indicator add-on on my Firefox-based browser. You can search similar terms to find more add-ons.

Third, you should copy the link of the RSS or Atom feed and paste it in your feed aggregator program new subscription form, and hit subscribe or OK or whatever it is. You’ll find out.

That’s it. You can now ask your program to update the feeds to get latest published writings or media on your favorite blogs or sites.