Monthly Archives: February 2019

Free software activities (February, 2019)

First and foremost I worked on planning LibrePlanet, the FSF’s annual conference and member’s meeting. Beyond that, I got to have a month that sounds very exciting. It was, in truth, quite exhausting but still a lot of fun! In spite of some setbacks (see below), things went well overall.

A small stuffed gnu sitting on a teal box of Neuhaus chocolates.

February activities (personal)

February activities (professional)

  • I attended FOSDEM! I listed this twice because, while the talk I gave was related to my Debian work, I also carried out FSF activities and meetings.
  • I attended and keynoted Copyleft Conf.
  • I wrote about dating as a free software issue.
  • I put a lot of time into planning LibrePlanet.

Dating

I recently wrote a post for the FSF on dating as a free software issue. It’s also something I talked about at SFScon back in November. I wanted to write a bit about it for my own blog, to reflect my own ideas and not just those of the FSF, as well as provide a bit of a summary from my talk. My slides from SFScon are available on Gitlab. The talk is only 15 minutes long, so I recommend checking it out if you want to listen.

I wanted to have some fun when talking about software freedom. I feel like when we talk about the rights of users we have a tendency to focus on the extreme cases of freedom: dissidents, whistleblowers, and revolutionaries. We think about people whose lives literally depend on their technology. In doing so, we tend to ignore the less showy ways people’s lives depend on their technology — I talked about my own experiences of life-saving technology at SeaGL.

We also have a tendency to forget about the fun stuff — the ways technology touches nearly every aspect of our lives and the little ways. Some of these are joyful, and some of them are more serious, or serious in ways we might not think about.

One of the things I talked about is the opacity of algorithms. Algorithms have been shown to be racist and sexist. Tinder likes to occasionally show men to lesbians. This is one way we choose to interact with technology — and therefore is a user freedom issue, as everytime we act with proprietary technology we’re looking at a question of user freedom. The practical side to this is the question of what algorithms we’re choosing to trust. When it comes to partnering up, whether for the night or for life, we’re placing this trust into the hands of something unknown that may not have our best interests in mind.

I also talked about Internet stalking. Internet stalking doesn’t have to be a bad thing, or at least an actively negative thing. I define internet stalking as covertly looking at the life or available information of an individual. This can be creepy, of course, but it can also be harmless: watching someone with whom you went to university getting married and having children; seeing a distant family member develop their career; or checking in on an ex and their new relationships. Okay, that last one might be unhealthy, unless you’re just hoping they’re happy.

Internet stalking allows you to learn about potential partners. It gives you the opportunity to delve into their pasts quickly, which might be eyeopening and show things like their history of racism, sexism, or abuse and violence — something you would otherwise take lots of time to discover if you can find out about it at all.

There are also issues like computer mediated communication (trusting our communications to email, texting, and video chat). These filter our communications through digital mediums we frequently have little control over. If you want to trust the security and privacy of a chat app, it needs to be free and open, because otherwise there is little to no accountability in both the code and the practices of the company designing it.

The ways we spend time together in ways focused around technology: we send each other streaming videos laden with DRM on proprietary web services; we use sites like Amazon to send presents down the street and across the world; we make playlists that serve as inspiration and declarations of feelings.

These are some of the ways technology interacts with our quest and the development of love in our lives. As I stated earlier every time we interact with a computer we’re interacting with software. When this happens, we need to ask ourselves what is being given up by using that particular piece of technology.

pancakes

My father and Fanny Farmer taught me how to make pancakes. Fanny Farmer provided a basic recipe, and Peter de Blanc filled in the details and the important things she missed — the texture of the batter, how you know when it’s time to flip them, the repeatedly emphasized importance of butter.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cup flour
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3 tablespoons sweetener (optional, see note below)
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg (slightly beaten)
  • 2 cups milk
  • 3 tablespoons butter (melted)

Why is the sweetener optional? I think if you sweeten the pancake recipe, it’s enough that you don’t want to cover it in maple syrup, jam, etc, etc. So, I usually go without sugar or honey or putting the maple right in, unless I’m making these to eat on the go. ALSO! If you don’t use sugar, you can make them savory.

A glass bowl containing flour, salt, and baking powder.

Make the batter

  1. Mix all the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, salt, and sweetener if you’re using sugar).
  2. Add most of the wet ingredients (egg, milk, and sweetener if you’re using honey or maple syrup).
  3. Mix together.
  4. Melt the butter in your pan, so the pan gets full of butter. Yum.
  5. While stirring your batter, add in the melted butter slowly.

Cooking the pancakes

A pancake cooking, the top has small bubbles in it.
Bubbles slowly forming

Okay, this is the hardest part for me because it requires lots of patience, which I don’t have enough of.

A  few tips:

  • Shamelessly use lots of butter to keep your pancakes from sticking. It will also help them taste delicious.
  • After  you put the pancakes in the pan, they need to cook at a medium temperature for a fairly long time. You want them to be full of little holes and mostly solid before you flip them over. (See photos.)
  • I recommend listening to music and taking dancing breaks.

How to cook pancakes:

A pancake that has not been flipped yet cooking.
Almost ready to flip!
  1. Over a medium heat, use your nice, hot, buttery pan.
  2. Use a quarter cup of batter for each pancake. Based on the size of your pan, you should make three – four pancakes per batch.
  3. Let cook for a while. As mentioned above, they should be mostly cooked on the top as well. There ought to be a ring of crispy pancake around the outside (see pictures), but if there’s not it’s still okay!
  4. Flip the pancakes!
  5. Let cook a little bit longer, until the bottom has that pretty golden brown color to match the top.

And that’s it. Eat your pancakes however you’d like. The day I wrote this recipe I heated some maple syrup with vanilla, bourbon, and cinnamon. Yummmmm.

A delicious golden brown pancake, ready to be enjoyed.

P.S. I tagged this post “free software” so it would show up in Planet Debian because I was asked to include a baking post there. This isn’t quite baking, but it’s still pretty good.

Free software activities (January, 2019)

January was another quiet month for free software. This isn’t to say I wasn’t busy, but merely that there were fewer things going on, with those things being more demanding of my attention. I’m including some more banal activities both to pad out the list, but to also draw some attention to the labor that goes into free software participation.

A photo of two mugs of eggnog, sprinkled with nutmeg and cinnamon. The mugs feature a winter scene of characters from the Moomin books.

January activities (personal)

  • Debian Anti-harassment covered several incidents. These have not yet been detailed in an email to the Debian Project mailing list. I won’t get into details here, due to the sensitive nature of some of the conversations.
  • We began planning for Debian involvement in Google Summer of Code and Outreachy.
  • I put together a slide deck and prepared for FOSDEM. More details about FOSDEM next month! In the mean time, check out my talk description.

January activities (professional)

  • We wrapped up the end of the year fundraiser.
  • We’re planning LibrePlanet 2019! I hope to see you there.
  • I put together a slide deck for CopyLeft Conf, which I’ll detail more in February. I had drew and scanned in my slides, which is a time consuming process.