How to use Free Software

12th February 2017

Free Software is software that gives it's users the rights to study, modify and redistribute. It is important for society so that we can audit and maintain the software we use, and be in control of our computers.

Step 1: Engage with the Free Software community

You need a community to be part of. Here are some examples:

I also recommend you read some of the philosophical essays on the GNU website, as this gives you a basic education in Free Software.

And check out LWN and Tux Machines for a glimpse of how the Free Software community works.

Step 2: Get compatible hardware

Hardware vendors are usually apathetic towards Free Software, and some hardware supports Free Software better than others. It's wise to take advice from someone when buying a computer for Free Software, but here I give a few tips to get you started:

Step 3: Install a Free Software operating system

The Free Software foundation provides a list of Free Software operating systems. My favourite, Debian, is not listed there due to some political squabbling.

I hesitate to provide a recommendation but I can comment on some that I know:

You will need to use the instructions provided by the Operating System you've chosen. Once it's installed, expect a big learning curve, because getting used to a new operating system takes time.

Step 4: Get Free Apps

You need to get out of the Windows mindset of downloading programs from random websites. You will get most of your software from vetted repositories of Free Software.

For example Debian provides a repository of 43000 software packages. This repository is part of the Debian project and the OS has built-in functionality to download, install and update these packages. Furthermore Debian promises to maintain them if the original author neglects to do so.

For phones you will use F-Droid, as an alternative to the Google Play store.

If you want to download software from anywhere other than a repository, you can check it's Free Software by seeing if it's licensed under one of the FSF's list of approved licences, or looking at the Free Software directory.

Step 5: Pay for your Free Software

If you have the money, donate to any Free Software projects that are important to you. For example I donate to Mozilla and F-Droid.

You also might consider membership of the FSF or FSFE.

I subscribe to LWN too.

Use Free Software and have fun!